Rocky women win on home turf

2013-09-30T17:15:00Z 2013-10-01T00:26:04Z Rocky women win on home turfBy BILL BIGHAUS bbighaus@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Monday afternoon’s sudden windstorm didn’t knock the wind out of Rocky Mountain College’s perfect start in Frontier Conference women’s golf.

Despite being buffeted by strong wind gusts, the Battlin’ Bears made it two-for-two in conference tournament victories this fall by winning their own Rocky Mountain College Invitational at Peter Yegen.

Led by the second-place finishes of senior Katy Peterson and sophomore Kyla Clancy, Rocky wound up winning the two-day event by seven strokes over reigning league champion Lewis-Clark State.

Clancy shot a 5-over 76 and Peterson came through with a 7-over 78 during the final round, where the wind, gusting to near 50 mph, came up late and was enough to bend flag sticks and move balls on the greens.

“Oh, man, the wind was crazy,” Peterson said. “It makes not only your golf game harder, but even setting your golf bag down or marking your golf ball ... I mean even walking sometimes was harder in the wind.”

Peterson and Clancy finished tied for second overall out of 51 players with 54-hole totals of 226, two strokes behind medalist Heather Bruce of Idaho’s L-C State.

Bruce, who is the conference’s reigning player of the year, closed with a 74 to catch Peterson, who topped the leader board by two strokes after the tournament’s first two rounds.

Rocky’s women led wire-to-wire in winning the eight-team standings at 923, followed by L-C State at 930 and Montana State Billings at 948.

“We’ve just been playing really consistent and with a lot of confidence over the past couple of weeks,” Rocky coach Aaron Pohle said.

“Beating L-C State is a big win for us,” Clancy said. “It lets us know what we’re made of, especially in this type of weather. We know we can come out and shoot some pretty good numbers.”

Senior Margo Salsbery also helped the Rocky cause with a final-round 76, while sophomore McKenzie Webinger chipped in with a 79.

“What I like about the team are my teammates,” Peterson said of the Bears’ unbeaten start against league foes. “We have the greatest time together. Even out there being miserable in the wind, we’re still all smiling and laughing and just having a great time.

“As far as golf goes, I know if I play bad I can count on my teammates to come around with a really good score. I think we’re a real solid team. We have the potential to do great things.”

On the men’s side, Rocky junior Daniel Thompsett closed with a two-under 69 to finish at 5-under 208 to claim individual honors in the 65-golfer field.

“It definitely helps coming from Scotland and knowing how to adjust to the wind,” Thompsett said afterward.

Montana State Billings Brad Harrelson finished second — four shots back — at one-under 212 after posting a final-round 73.

Thompsett and Harrelson started Monday tied for the lead.

Utah’s Westminster College also led from start to finish in ruling over the 11-school men’s field at 863. MSUB was second at 868, followed by Rocky at 874.

Thompsett, who qualified for the NAIA national tournament last spring, was sitting at 3-under after 12 holes. He said the wind really picked up when he was on the 13th tee.

“I bogeyed 13, and then just parred in,” he said.

Thompsett said he had some close misses on a few birdie putts down the stretch, but also had “two incredible up-and-downs on 15 and 16.”

His scorecard included birdies on Nos. 1, 6, 7, and 11. He bogeyed No. 8.

“I’m playing good,” Thompsett said. “My short game is the best it’s been. At the end of the day, the short game is the most important thing.”

Rocky’s women and men will head into the spring golf season sitting atop the Frontier standings. The women lead L-C State by 23 strokes, while the Bears are up by 32 over Westminster for the men.

Rocky’s women have qualified for the national tournament 13 times in the past 15 years, but missed last season.

“I really think this team, especially with the addition of Kyla (a transfer from the University of Montana), has a really good shot of going (to nationals) and placing in the top 10, maybe even lower than that,” Peterson said. “That would be the greatest way to end a golf career here at Rocky.”

Rocky’s men and women will be back on the Peter Yegen course Wednesday and Thursday to play MSUB in Ryder Cup-like matches.

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