SHERIDAN — Each day the Tongue River High School golf team drives about 45 minutes to arrive at either Kendrick Municipal Golf Course or The Powder Horn Golf Club, put in two hours of practice and turn around for a return 45-minute drive home. Head coach Robert Griffin said he does not know of any other team that has an hour and a half drive just for practice.
This extra time is used for mental repetitions by discussing different situations players may encounter and may give Tongue River the edge they need to reach the goal of bringing home two state titles following the state golf tournament in Lusk Sept. 20-21 at the Niobrara County Club.
The teams have Monday through Wednesday to practice.
During that time, Tongue River is going to focus on fine-tuning the game plan and their skills, focusing on the tournament ahead, Nick Summers said. The player are hoping to turn in career lows on their way to state titles.
Tongue River has just returned from playing at Lusk, where the Lady Eagles won the tournament by four strokes and the Eagles finished in fourth place.
While he is always looking for the teams to earn the win, Griffin said this past tournament was used to take notes on the course and better know the terrain.
Griffin said he encouraged players to take shots they might normally avoid, helping the players gauge how well they hit on the course and where they need to aim.
From this past weekend, the Eagles and Lady Eagles developed a plan on how they want to approach each hole, knowing a few strokes can mean a state title or another second-place finish.
Out of bounds and a river passing through the course adds strokes to a player’s score. Griffin said a few misplaced shots can determine the winner. The goal for the team in the contest is to have no shots land out of bounds. If Tongue River succeeds in doing this, then the team puts itself in great position.
Summers said the greens were well taken care of by Niobrara Country Club, leaving them in better conditions then many of the greens Tongue River has played on so far this year. They will be faster than other greens they previously played on.
Griffin said he knows players will face rough patches during the day. Tongue River needs to keep moving forward and not let a bad hole determine the entire day.
Sadie Koltiska is coming off a third-place finish in Lusk, a result she knows she can improve with practice. Koltiska said she usually becomes nervous before tournaments and can easily psych herself out. Griffin is usually the one calming her down before players hit the course.
While out on the course, Koltiska said things will go wrong and players will need to fight through adversity. If any Tongue River golfer sees a teammate having a rough hole or about to have a breakdown, a teammate talks to the player, helping them refocus and move past the mistakes, focusing on the next shot.
With a competitive field at the state tournament, even the lowest score can mean the difference for a team.
Griffin said the state tournament in Wyoming is known to be played in bad weather. When Tongue River encountered wind earlier in the year, the teams did not score as well as Griffin hoped.
Part of the reason why people live in Sheridan is to avoid the wind, Griffin said. Now that Tongue River has some experience in the wind, Griffin is hopeful the team can overcome that piece of adversity. Tuesday and Wednesday can possibly provide Tongue River the option to practice in the elements.