SIDNEY – Hand signals work best.
It would be difficult, if not downright rude, to yell across adjoining fairways.
And celebrating or commiserating around the putting green is pretty much verboten.
So when members of the Sidney girls’ golf team want to share with each other how they are playing, its show of the hand.
A thumbs up means things are going well.
Thumbs down explains itself.
A flat hand with a small shake translates into, “So-so.”
It’s been a lot of thumbs up for the Eagles the past few seasons.
Sidney is the reigning Class A state champion and will have the advantage in a few weeks of defending its title at the Sidney Country Club, the Eagles home course.
“I know we have a lot people expecting us to do it again,” said senior Tierney Messmer of winning another state championship.
“There is more pressure,” senior Kaelyn Volk added. “That pressure drives us. We expect us to do well on our own course.”
Messmer and Volk are two of three seniors back from last year’s team. They are joined by senior Torey Dahl. Sophomore Emma Torgerson rounds out the quartet.
Each of the seniors brings something different to the course. Messmer, the tallest of the three, is the longest hitter. Volk, the shortest, relies on consistency.
“I’m not a long hitter. I’m all over the place,” jokes Dahl before a practice at the future site of the state tournament. She had recently added some Sidney maroon to her hair.
A year ago in Hamilton, the Eagles won its first girls golf title since 1994 by 21 strokes over perennial Class A power Whitefish.
“That was one of our goals,” Messmer said.
Messmer and Volk tied for fifth place, while Dahl was 15th. All three earned all-state honors.
“I knew we would have to do some improving if we wanted to win it,” said Volk.
The three were part of a Sidney team that placed second in 2015.
“I think we knew from the beginning we had a chance,” Dahl continued.
All three started playing golf at a young age, the age of four was the consensus, and have been part of the Sidney golf community for a long time.
“They’re competitive,” said first-year head coach Ben Berg, who is also an assistant coach with the boys’ basketball program at Sidney. “They want to get better every day. They come here (the golf course) to work every day.”
The three seniors have all been putting extra focus in their short games this season. They’ve also been fine-tuning all aspects in preparation for the state tournament. While the Hamilton layout played relatively flat, according to the group, the home course will offer a different challenge.
“We know the breaks,” said Volk. “There are a lot of hazards out there … water, coulees. Knowing the course, that should really help.”
“We know where to place the ball,” Messmer said.
And while on-course communication might be challenging at times, finding the players is not.
The Eagles wear distinctive skorts with alternating white and maroon diamonds as their fashion statement.
“We got them our sophomore year,” explained Dahl. “They were different from what everybody else had. We get a lot of compliments. People like them.”
“We’re kind of hard not to notice,” Volk said.
And while sharing the same goal, the three prepare with different superstitions.
Dahl has her father Richard cleans her clubs before she plays, while Messmer carries two customized Titleist golf balls she found that have Berg’s nicknames on them. Volk is more liquid in her approach.
“I do drink a lot of coffee,” she said.
Sidney has dominated on its side of the state this fall, winning last week’s Hardin Invitational by 42 strokes. Messmer and Volk placed 1-2.
“The three returning all want to improve on their positions from last year,” said Berg. “And two (Messmer and Volk) feel they’ve got a chance to be a state champion.
“They know what they need to do.”
And unlike last year when traveling to Hamilton was a 10 hour bus ride – one way – the Eagles can make the short commute to the state tournament from home.
“It’s exciting,” said Messmer.
“And a little bittersweet,” Dahl said.