Tradition in the Tee Box

By Beacon Staff

WHITEFISH — Senior year of high school naturally flies by, but especially when you’re a golfer.

Whitefish’s Arthur Doorn, Erin Tabish and other local competitors in Class A and AA are already approaching the final two weeks of their seven-week seasons.

The Northwestern A divisional golf tournament is on the first day of the annual Flatfish Invitational, Sept. 26 at Whitefish Lake Golf Club. Then the teams will hit the road to Polson for the state finale, Oct. 4-5.

Glacier and Flathead will compete at the two-day Flatfish event before traveling to Missoula for the state tournament at the Country Club and Canyon River, Oct. 1-2.

As tradition would have it, Whitefish is once again loaded with high-performance players on both the boys and girls team. The powerhouse programs have not skipped a beat since Tim Olson, a former Bulldog golfer from the Class of ’87 and the head pro at the Whitefish course, took over last season for longtime coach Terry Nelson.

Nelson, a member of the National High School Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame, retired after 28 years. The Whitefish girls won 15 state team titles and the boys claimed eight under Nelson.

Overall, the girls program has won 16 state titles since 1981 and the boys have claimed 12 since 1968, including five in six years between 2004-2009.

“It’s a tradition that keeps on going and it’s going to continue into the future,” Olson said. “To have the opportunity to carry on the winning tradition that I grew up with and have watched over the years, it’s really unique to be a part of and I’m really proud to be coaching it.”

Olson has relied on the talented leadership of Doorn in keeping the legacy intact. With an athletic build that stands 6-foot-4, Doorn is the team’s lone senior and a captain who’s emerged in the past two seasons as one of Montana best prep golfers. He’s one of three players back from last fall’s second-place squad, alongside junior Cody Olson and sophomore Cooper Donahue.

Last year, the Bulldogs carded a 358 after two rounds in Anaconda, finishing 11 strokes behind state champion Belgrade. Doorn tied for second place for individual honors, one stroke back from the state champion, Sidney’s Bobby Frank.

Whitefish High School golfer Erin Tabish puts on the practice green at Whitefish Lake Golf Club during a recent practice. – Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

Doorn, who grew up in Whitefish and was drawn to the sport at 13, is back for one final prep season with his sights squarely set on individual and team trophies at state. The last time Whitefish had a team or individual state champion was in 2009 when Reed Platke won top honors and the Bulldogs cruised to their second straight crown.

“We’ve come up short a few times but we’re still right there,” Doorn said. “I’m focused on getting my team to win and getting an individual state championship.”

The multi-sport athlete has placed near the top of the leaderboard at every competition this fall, including the competitive Butte/Anaconda Invitational earlier this month. At that event, which featured golfers from both AA and A, Doorn staged an impressive comeback, battling back from five shots behind the leader to take a one-stroke lead. But an errant shot on the 18th hole went out of bounds and Doorn had to settle for second-place.

“Coming down the stretch, we’re just trying to eliminate all those little mistakes that cost two or three strokes because that’s what it comes down to. One or two strokes,” he said. “I’ve been working with our younger players a lot, just trying to make sure they stay on track and just make sure they don’t make silly mistakes.”

Doorn’s definitely had an impact. At the Butte tournament, the Bulldogs achieved their best round of the year as a team, 310.

“That’s a good score. That should be able to compete at the state tournament really well,” Olson said.

The boys are also very familiar with the course they’re going to face in Polson. Doorn won the divisional crown at Polson his sophomore year, unseating Platke, who was pursuing a four-peat.

“I’m feeling good about going in there,” Doorn said. “I have good memories with that course.”

The girls team will also vie for a title in Polson, but has the tough task of unseating the hometown champs.

Polson, the two-time defending team champs, are loaded once again. The Lady Pirates return three all-state players from last year’s team: Jaylin Kenney, who placed third at state; Nicole Clairmont, who earned sixth; and Peyton Anderson, who was eighth.

Joey Walp, Mitch Young, Cody Olson and Cooper Donahue, left to right, watch as Arthur Doorn drives down the first fairway on the Whitefish Lake Golf Club’s south course during a rainy Whitefish High School golf practice. – Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

Yet the Lady Bulldogs are even more experienced, with six members of last year’s third-place team back, including state runner-up finisher Erin Tabish. Tabish, a senior who has placed in the top three at state every year, nearly claimed her first state championship last fall but fell in a playoff by one stroke.

No doubt, she’s ready for another shot. She carded her best tournament score ever in Great Falls recently, hitting three consecutive birdies during one stretch and finishing with a 77.

“The goal is definitely to win divisionals and win state,” Tabish said. “We have an awesome chance at that. It’s really exciting.”

The reigning individual state champ is back, too: Christal Tokash from Livingston.

In the Class AA ranks, Glacier’s Teigan Avery will vie for top honors in Missoula. The sophomore has shined again this fall, placing in the top three in every tournament so far. Avery placed second individually at the 2012 state tournament in Great Falls and Glacier earned runner-up as a team, its best finish in the program’s history.

The Glacier boys, who won their first outright state championship last year, are ready to defend its title. Tommy Mann, Cody Sherrill and Scott Larson have led the Wolfpack and recently earned second place as a team at the Butte tournament.