Blessed with sunshine, temperatures in the low 60s and nominal wind, Friday's West Region golf opener was tailor-made for scoring.
St. Mary's sophomore Cole Herbel didn't let the opportunity slip by. He carded a one-under-par 71 for medalist honors at the Mandan Invitational Tournament at Prairie West Golf Course.
Herbel wasn't able to lead the Saints to the team title, though. That honor went to Turtle Mountain Community High School, which came in with a four-man 320.
St. Mary's finished second with a 323. Completing the top five in the 10-team field were Century (324), Minot (331) and Bismarck (333).
The teams return to the links at 10:30 today for the CHS-LHS Invitational at Tom O'Leary Golf Course.
Six golfers broke 80 on Friday. Runner-up Jackson Davis of Turtle Mountain shot a 73, followed by Kessler Heilman of Minot (74), Jackson Ward of Century (76), Carter Klein of St. Mary's (76) and Brandon LaFountain of Turtle Mountain (76).
Herbel shot 33 on the front nine and an 38 on the back side. The main culprit on the back nine was the 11th hole, where he slipped to a triple-bogey seven.
"I made a mental error on the tee shot. I hit too much of a draw and it went into a hazard ... and I three-putted," Herbel said.
Over 18 holes and 6,671 yards, however, Herbel said putting was one of his strenghts.
"I really liked how I putted. ... Overall my short game saved me a number of strokes," he said.
Moving across the Missouri River to Tom O'Leary should make for easier pickings. The Bismarck course is over 1,100 yards shorter than Prairie West at 5,535 yards.
"It's a par 69 versus a par 72, so the scores should (drop) a little bit," Herbel observed. "We'll just have to see what happens."
Turtle Mountain's victory in the opening tournament was a pleasant development. But it doesn't mean the Braves are already in midseason form, according to coach Chris Gillis. With Friday's prime conditions, he said the Braves could have done even better.
"We should have shot right around 310 or 315. We left a lot of shots out there," Gillis said. "There's definitely room for improvement."
Turtle Mountain's two non-scorers came in at 93 and 97, but Gillis said he expects all of his golfers -- three seniors and three juniors -- to shave strokes as the season progresses.
"Two of our main four will definitely cut some strokes off," he noted.
Prairie West rewarded experience. The Turtle Mountain and St. Mary's lineups each featured five players who played in the 2016 state Class A tournament. The Saints and Braves placed ninth and 12th, respectively, at state last spring. Minot has four veterans back from its third-place state tournament team.
Klein who placed ninth, is the only returning golfer from the West Region who finished in the top 10 at the state tournament. Kessler Heilman of Minot finished 14th.