St. Mary’s had been a co-op partner with Bismarck High and Century in girls golf for nearly three decades before going it alone in 2016.
Good move. These Saints have been doing just fine on their own.
St. Mary’s heads into today’s West Region postseason tournament at Mandan’s Prairie West Golf Course as one of the favorites to win the team championship. The Saints averaged 343 strokes per 18-hole tournament during the regular season, a mark that put them second behind Minot’s 340.7. St. Mary’s finished second - behind Minot - in each of the last five regular season tournaments, three of which were decided by six strokes or less.
St. Mary’s coach Andy Schmitz, who guided Bismarck High to the West Region and Class A state titles in 2014 and second place in the region in 2015, said the Saints hope to follow up a solid regular season with a memorable postseason.
“We think we could have played better at times, but overall we’ve had a good year. We’re feeling confident heading into the postseason,” Schmitz said. “You want to peak at tournament time and that’s what we’re hoping to do the next couple of weeks. We have a solid group of girls here, girls who have been through it before. They’re ready to get started.”
St. Mary’s was new to West Region girls golf this season, but its roster is stocked with postseason veterans. Taylor Miller, Tonya Dvorak, Gabby Easton and Cameron Easton were members of a Bismarck High team that took second in the West Region tournament last season. Miller and Dvorak also contributed to Bismarck’s 2014 state championship campaign. Sydney Smith helped lead Century to a third-place region finish in 2015. Individually, Miller finished in a tie for fourth place in last season’s region tournament, while Smith tied for eighth.
“It’s not like we had to start from scratch. We knew going in that we would have a lot of good players … players we felt would make us contenders in the region and state tournaments right away,” Schmitz said. “Taylor, Tonya, Gabby and Cameron were part of a team last year that had the lowest scoring average in the state, and Sydney was the No. 1 golfer at Century, so expectations were pretty high. The girls know what they’re capable of and they believe they can accomplish their goals if they play their best.”
The Saints will send a well-balanced team into today’s tournament. Four golfers are averaging 89.4 strokes or better – Smith 84.2, Gabby Easton 86, Miller 87.1, and Dvorak 89.4. All four finished among the top 10 in the region in scoring average. In addition, Abby Schmidt averages 93.8 strokes and Cameron Easton 94.1.
Smith has scored under 90 strokes eight times in nine 18-hole events. Miller has been under 90 seven times, Gabby Easton six, Dvorak five, and Cameron Easton two. Smith twice has earned medalist honors and has six top-10 finishes, as do Miller and Gabby Easton. Dvorak has five.
“I’ve been coaching for five years and I’ve never before had four girls finish in the top 10 (in average),” Schmitz said. “Our fifth and sixth girls have been pretty steady, and in some tournaments they’ve been among our top four scorers. It’s good knowing that we have that kind of balance. If someone struggles, someone else can be there to pick us up.”
However, Schmitz said the Saints have had some trouble putting four good scores together lately.
“There were tournaments where we had three good scores, but our fourth wasn't so good,” he said. “It was the difference between winning a tournament and placing second. Minot has played well, but if we had a good fourth score, it might have put us over the top. Hopefully we can put it all together at West Region and state.”
Schmitz said Minot will be difficult to overtake today. The Majettes have averaged 332.4 strokes in their five-tournament winning streak, and Minot golfers have won medalist honors four times in that span – Paige Argent three times, and Becca Tschetter once. Argent averaged 78.3 strokes over the last four tournaments and leads all region golfers with an 83.2 mark.
“Minot will be tough to beat. They have a solid team and they’ve been very consistent the last five tournaments,” Schmitz said. “For us to win on Monday, all six of our girls will have to step up and play well."
The last time the West Region teams played at Prairie West (Aug. 22), Minot edged St. Mary’s 341-342 for team honors. Tschetter, normally Minot’s No. 6 golfer, was the medalist that day, shooting a season-best 81.
“Golf is so unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen or who’s going to step up,” Schmitz said. “At Mandan, Minot's No. 6 golfer shoots an 81 and they end up winning by a stroke. Everybody needs to focus on playing their best and try to make every shot count."
Schmitz also expects Mandan to be in the mix today. Mandan, which won two regular-season tournaments, is third in the region in team average with a 353.1. The Braves are led by KayCee Schulz, who sports an 85.9 average.
Williston and Century are fourth (363.7) and fifth (369.2), respectively, in team average. Century’s top scorer is Amber Domres with an 89.
The tournament begins at 10 a.m.