Thompson Fall’s golf coach Michael Bates knows how the turbulent nature of golf can be and that is why he follows the old sports cliché to never look ahead at his team’s schedule.
Bates has two undisputed No. 1 players on both the girls and boys side in Dylan Beckham and Else Brown, who will compete at Class B Divisional Tuesday afternoon at Eagle Bend Golf Club in Bigfork for the right to extend their high school careers and secure a State berth. Bates has led the way for yet another successful boys and girls regular season at Thompson Falls.
“For us, Divisional looks pretty good because it’s a chance to qualify for state and it’s a one day and one-shot deal,” Bates said. “It’s always tougher at this level and I always say once you get to State, anything can and will happen. However, Else Brown,who is the No. 1 golfer on the Lady Hawks team, looks to improve on her top-10 finish from last year’s MHSA Class C state appearance.
“She plays well enough to get a scholarship in golf and is a very bright young lady,” Bates said. “She is co-valedictorian this year with a 4.0 plus GPA and playing a sport. That is very well-rounded and she will succeed in whatever field she gets into.”
After Brown’s high school career is finished, whether it happens at Divisional or at State, Bates is assured she will continue to play the game throughout the course of her life.
“She enjoys the game too much and will probably never give it up completely,” Bates said. “I am sure somewhere down the road she’ll end up in a competitive tournament, wherever she ends up.”
Brown’s teammate, sophomore Megan Baxter, is balancing track and golf. A feat Bates said showcases her character and future leadership acumen as a member of T-Falls.
“She’s been doing track and it’s a little bit tougher on an athlete,” Bates said. “She’s had a really nice push the last three weeks. Megan has probably taken 25 strokes off her game in the last three weeks. At the start of the season, she was shooting between 148-150 in her first two tournaments. The last three weeks, she’s been working hard and she shot a 113. I think she has a really good shot to qualify for state.”
Ever since Thompson Falls’ Dylan Beckman was a freshman, he has been in the top three on the Bluehawks’ golf team.
Beckman, then a freshman, was a key part of Thompson Falls capturing the 2015 Montana State High School Activities Association State golf title, according to Bates.
“He was with us in 2015 when we won State and shot a 79 on the last eight holes,” Bates said. “That really helped us get over the top. He was the No. 2 or No. 3 golfer, even as a freshman. He is just a really solid kid and spends a lot of time out there in practice. It really pays off for him.”
Bates expects a good final couple of outings from Beckman.
“Dylan has really come along strong and it was a good showing for him on Tuesday,” Bates said. “He’s a well-rounded kid on and off the court, and comes from a really good family.”
Bates said it will be bittersweet when Brown and Beckman both graduate.
“I’ll be happy for them graduating and that they are moving on but sad that I am losing them because they been such good kids and great role models for other kids,” Bates said. “They’ve helped our team out pretty good and their solid leadership that both of them have shown has really helped our team out.”
Other players on a Bluehawk’s team that aspires to go to state include Else Brown’s older brother Ethan, who is a sophomore that has really developed in the last two tournaments, according to Bates.
“He’s been shooting the in low 80s and has the potential to go lower,” Bates said. “I am looking forward to him playing really solid on Tuesday also.”
Cade Pardee, the No. 3 player on the Bluehawk’s team, will also be looking to qualify for state.
“He’s been solid for us all year and shooting in the mid to low 80s,” Bates said. “He’s solid for a freshman and we will see what happens (moving into the postseason).”
Michael Johnson, the No. 4 golfer, is another player that looks to make an impact in the postseason.
“He’s been playing really solid all year, shooting in the 90s to mid-80s and has the potential to go lower,” Bates said.
As Bates predicted early in the year, the battle for the No. 5 spot on the team would be fierce and it has remained that way. Nate Oswald will be the No. 5 golfer that will represent T-Falls at Divisionals.
“He is going to be very solid in the next couple of years and that will really help us out in Divisonals. He has the potential to go lower.”