Golf is supposed to be a quiet sport.
This year's Moffat County High School girls golf team is an exception.
"We like to sing a lot," junior Amber Nicholson said. "We have a lot of songs on our list, like 'I Will Survive,' 'Doctor Doctor' and 'Since You've Been Gone.' Most of them are older songs because we only have tape players in the vans."
Noise was a welcome addition this year for sophomore Meghan Innes, especially during this week's preparations for the state tournament.
"Last year, I was all by myself for two weeks," she said. "It was just me and (coach) Ann Marie (Hamilton), and it was pretty quiet."
Now she has company and a singing partner.
At practice Thursday, Innes and Nicholson talked and occasionally sang in between chips while Hamilton and teammate Amy Coulter watched.
"This year it's a lot louder," Innes said. "It's also a lot more fun."
Nicholson and Innes qualified for the state tournament by placing in the top 10 at the regional tournament Tuesday at Jack Nicklaus' Aspen Glen Golf Club in Carbondale. Nicholson's 93 was good for third place, and Innes' 94 was the fifth-best score.
It wasn't their best performance of the year, and they attributed it to nerves.
"We wanted to do so well for our team," Nicholson said. "I was shaking at the first tee."
Hamilton could see the nerves on the van trip to the course.
"I looked over, and (senior) Chelsey (Herod) was white in the face," she said. "They eventually got some singing going, but it wasn't the same."
The carefree and loose attitude that had led the girls to a second-place ranking in Class 4A and favorite status going into the regional was gone.
"This year we were a lot more comfortable being ourselves as a team," Nicholson said. "We would goof around a lot, but when it came to the regionals we were a bit tight."
The goal of making it to state as a team didn't happen, but the two qualifiers didn't have much time to be disappointed. Unlike last year's two-week layoff, the state tournament is six days after the regional. Every year, 5A and 4A rotate to have one or two weeks off after the regional.
The girls left today so they wouldn't have to drive seven hours the day of their practice round Sunday.
Different kind of nerves
The state tournament is the big show.
At the first tee, the players' names are announced, the media follows the front groups throughout the day, and there is a gallery of spectators.
"There will be more pressure," Nicholson said. "It will be the biggest tournament of my life."
And it is a different pressure. Because the team didn't make it, the pressure is all on an individual basis.
"They are playing only for themselves," Hamilton said. "They can't disappoint anybody but themselves."
The two golfers grew close in the summer when they traveled together to summer tournaments. They are each other's biggest fans. Because of that, they hope that they have similar success.
"We want to both be really happy or crying together," Nicholson said. "If one of us does well and the other doesn't, it will be tough because we don't want to make the other feel bad."
Top 10 expectations
Both golfers have a season stroke average that ranks in the top 20 in Class 4A. Last year, Innes finished in 47th (check).
Hamilton said she thought they were both capable of finishing in the top 10.
"Meghan is playing a lot better this year," Hamilton said. "Amber has been more consistent, as well."
They worked on their short game this week because of an observation Hamilton had at the regional.
Regularly, the girls were shorter off the drive, but they made up for it on their second shots. The approach to the green was the difference maker.
"They don't have to be right with them off the first shot," Hamilton said. "It's when they get close to the green they need to play with the competition the best they can."
The Elmwood Golf Course in Pueblo is an unknown to the golfers and Hamilton. They'll get a feel Sunday before the first round Monday. The tournament is a two-day, two-round affair.
Look for the Bulldogs to be singing and swinging their way through both days.
"We made it fun and exciting to come to practice this year," Innes said.
"We'll try to have some sing-a-longs next week to keep up the theme."