ANACONDA — A tried-and-true idea in competitive golf is the concept that being in contention is more important than being in the lead.
After the first day of the Butte-Anaconda Golf Tournament, Butte High senior Kaven Noctor finds himself tied for second, and just four strokes back of Bozeman’s Justus and Jordan Verge after firing an opening day 79.
So, Noctor finds himself in the ideal spot: contention. Is Noctor pleased with his round?
“Actually, everything felt pretty off today,” Noctor said. “My putting was okay, I saved a few pars, scrambled well sometimes. But I had a pretty rough end of the round.”
A tough day for Noctor was representative of the whole tournament. The damp, chilly atmosphere at Old Works Golf Course made for a difficult contest for all involved, with opening day leaders Bozeman finishing at 312, 24 strokes-over-par.
Performing well relative to the competition is not something that matters to Noctor, who instead is focused on improving for the second day of the tournament. Head coach Eric Mankins applauded Noctor’s performance and his mindset.
“[Noctor] has come leaps and bounds from the time he was a freshman,” Mankins said. “He’s better than one bad hole. It doesn’t define how good he really is. He is a such a good player… What I always say is that you don’t have to be great today, you don’t have to be great tomorrow. We can wait for that to happen in October.”
Noctor knows a thing or two about being great at the right time. The senior won the Montana State Junior Championship for 16-17-year-olds this past summer, but with the high school state championships on the horizon, Noctor and the Bulldogs still have plenty of work to do.
Butte’s 351 has the Bulldogs sitting in sixth place ahead of the second day. While the 39-stroke deficit is likely out of reach for Butte, Mankins’ statement about the need to be great during the state championships rather than in early September rings true.
The coach also stressed the importance of being mentally strong after difficult rounds, like what the field saw today.
“We talk about our mentality more than anything,” Mankins said. “I know with golf, shot to shot, you can be a hero or a zero. Human nature is that we focus more on the zero than the hero. We try to constantly communicate that you have to focus on the good rather than the bad.”
With the Bulldogs returning to their home course of Butte Country Club, the Bulldogs have reason to be optimistic and to move on from a dreary day in Anaconda. Noctor is personally looking forward to it, and will be aggressive in attacking the second day of the tournament.
“I’m feeling very confident about going to Butte Country Club,” Noctor said. “It’s our home course, I don’t think it’s as hard as a course as Old Works. Mostly going to be irons off the tee for me, and I’m going to try and shoot something low.”
Girls finish second, in striking distance
On the other side of the tournament, the Bulldogs trail tournament leaders Bozeman by 22 strokes, but are in reach of an upset ahead of the team's return to Butte Country Club.
“They hung in there,” Mankins said. “Our top two (Kodie Hoagland and Ella Prigge) are sitting at 88 and 87 and that was good. It was an all-around performance, but they also know that they are better. Right now, we just have to continue to improve.”
The Bulldogs were rounded out by scores from Grace Luoma and MacKenzie Finnegan, who shot an 89 and 98 respectively. Butte's team total for Wednesday was 362.
Both the boys and girls will tee off at 9 a.m. at Butte Country Club on Thursday.