Turmoil and uncertainty surrounded the final day of each state golf meet in 2016. Low temperatures and pouring rain forced final-round cancellations in the Class 3A and 2A championships, while the Class 4A meet nearly suffered from the same fate until the golfers and officials decided to soldier forth.
Those results forced the Wyoming High School Activities Association to discuss a contingency plan for the state meet in order to ensure 36 holes would be played instead of having to shorten some to 18 again in the future.
This year all state golf meets will take place September 15-16 spread through Evanston (Class 4A), Douglas (Class 3A) and Sheridan (Class 2A).
With less than a month before the championships, there is little time to solve some of the biggest questions and storylines facing golfers this season.
Whose crown in 4A?
The Riverton boys team, which won four straight state championships, lost their three top golfers from 2016, including four-time individual champion and current North Carolina State golfer Easton Paxton. This has opened up a massive void for the 2017 season.
Presumptive individual favorite Kirby Coe-Kirkham from Sheridan finished five strokes behind Paxton at state and won the Broncs’ first meet this season. Then there’s Logan Hensley of Kelly Walsh, who didn’t participate at state last season but won the Cheyenne Invite to start 2017.
Hensley leads the Trojans, who finished second at state, into a new season that began with a second-place finish in Cheyenne.
Back for a senior season is Lander’s Macy Jacobson, the two-time defending 3A state champion who won by seven strokes after the second round was cancelled. She is the front-runner for a three-peat while her Tigers teammates could win repeat as state champs in the process.
Jacobson’s curtain call has gone well so far after winning the Riverton Invite by eight strokes. The Tigers, however, struggled as a team despite getting a third-place finish from Rachel Stoinski in that meet. Jacobson won the Terry Berg Invite to open the year and Stoinski finished second.
If Jacobson can keep the momentum going that carried her over the summer, she might be able to win her third state title.
Essert and the Blazers
If there were any questions about Caleigh Essert’s talents before the season they were put to sleep right away. Torrington’s leader won the Wheatland Invite and powered the Trailblazers to the top finish, ahead of all Cheyenne teams.
In fact, her 149 in that meet would have given her a fourth-place finish among boys’ scores.
She finished eight strokes and two spots behind Jacobson at state in 2016 and she looks to surpass those results this year.
3A up for grabs?
Reigning boys team champion Wheatland has struggled so far this year with the departure of Chase Cochran, who finished second last season. The Bulldogs have not finished better than sixth in either of their opening two meets of the season.
This has opened the door for Star Valley, which finished second last year, to possibly win its first state title since 2004. The Braves were second at the Terry Berg Invite to start the season but fell to fifth at the Riverton Invite.
Inconsistency elsewhere could allow the Lander boys to sneak their way to the top. Jaren Calkins and Dominic Yates finished first and second, respectively, at the Terry Berg Invite and went on to place third and fourth, respectively, at the Riverton Invite.
Just keep Roling
Hudson Roling finished third in Class 2A as a sophomore before Thermopolis moved up into Class 3A. That proved to be no problem as he won the state title by two strokes as a junior.
Now, the Bobcats standout returns for a repeat campaign. Roling finished second at the Powell Invite just behind Coe-Kirkham and above all five Kelly Walsh golfers, proving that he can compete regardless of classification.
The competition in 3A didn’t drop off, however, and he will be tested up until the final day.
Ladies of 2A
The races for both individual and team championships in girls 2A are both wide open.
Kylee Knobloch won the gold as an individual by 10 strokes and led Tongue River to the team title, but her departure for Black Hills State leaves opportunity at the top for everyone else.
So far this season Lusk’s Mackenzie Lyons has impressed, but so has Wright’s Cierra Nelson and Jacque Van Vleet. Those two, in addition to Vicky Van Vleet, have Wright looking like the best in 2A so far.