With just a few practices under their collective visors, the Powell High School golf teams will swing into regular-season action this week, with a Cody/Powell invitational at the Olive Glenn Golf Course in Cody today (Thursday) and at the Powell Golf Club on Friday.
Coming off a solid spring season, head coach Troy Hildebrand said he’s optimistic about his returning players, as well as some promising up-and-comers.
On the boys’ side, seniors Reece Hackenberg, Rob Sessions and Bennett Walker all have at least three seasons of varsity experience, and junior Crandell Sanders has played the most tournament golf of any of the returning players, according to Hildebrand. Sessions will play as the number one player on the boys’ side this week.
“At the top end of the boys’ side we have those four guys returning who have a lot of experience, and they expect to do well,” Hildebrand said. “I would hope that they have a good season.”
For the Lady Panthers, Hildebrand has three experienced juniors returning this season in Mycah Wainscott, Bailey Kennedy and Cat Wilson. Wainscott returns with the most tournament experience of the three, and had a solid spring season.
“Mycah Wainscott put in quite a bit of time on the course this summer, as well,” Hildebrand said. “She’s looking very good and has done a lot of positive things over the year-and-a-half that she’s played. She’s made great improvements and done a lot with her game.”
Kennedy and Wilson were able to log some tournament time this spring.
“They’re both going to get their feet wet again this fall. Experience is just kind of a big thing for them to get on the course,” Hildebrand said. “They have a little bit less tournament experience, but they’ve made nice strides with their game.”
As for the younger players, Hildebrand said George Higgins, a home-schooled student from Deaver, has been a pleasant surprise with an unparalleled work ethic.
“He [Higgins] had never played golf before last fall; he’d never even swung a club,” Hildebrand said. “As of this summer, he was able to break 90 a couple of times. He played nearly every day this summer, really committed himself to improving and just learning the game. He’s just done some great things with his own improvement and the strides that he’s made, starting from ground zero to where he is now.”
Junior Kason Cannon and sophomore Yogi Sullivan will round out the players Hildebrand has competing this week.
“Those guys [Cannon and Sullivan] have been to a couple of tournaments off and on,” Hildebrand said. “They’ll have a chance here to get a little bit more experience.”
Beyond that, Hildebrand has around five players that are new to the game, and he’ll work to get them some tournament experience this season.
“We’ll see if we can get them some more fundamentals and things, possibly some tournament experience as we move into the spring, if they stick with it and are able to make some growth,” he said.
Going into the season, Hildebrand said some of the more experienced kids have played quite a bit of golf this summer, though the routine trappings of the season — jobs, vacations and the like — will always prevent some of the players from getting out as much as they’d like. This week’s tournament, especially the round in Powell, will be a good barometer for how the rest of the season will unfold. The Powell Invite will feature 13 schools, including both schools from Casper and Gillette, as well as Riverton, Lander and Sheridan.
“We’ll kind of feel things out a little bit, see how it goes,” Hildebrand said. “We’re the big school that’s hosting a tournament this week: Anybody that’s in the top 15 at this tournament has really played well and done a good job. Hopefully we can have a couple of players in that range. As a team we want to come out and set a standard for this year, see where we’re at, what are our strengths and where do we need to get a little bit better.”