ANACONDA — Manhattan Christian's Caidin Hill is just a freshmen. Even more noteworthy is he first picked up a golf club just three years ago.
It might be tough to believe those facts after glancing at his scorecard.
Hill's 79 on the first day of the State C golf tournament was good enough to propel him into first place in the boys division and help help the Eagles leap to the top of the team standings on a warm, nearly-windless afternoon at Fairmont Hot Springs.
"Those first two years I really fell in and started loving golf so I played a ton and practiced a ton," Hill said. "And here I am."
He noted that his short-game wasn't as sharp as he'd have liked but he still managed to finish five strokes ahead of teammate Cullen Visser who slid into second place with an 84, tied with Park City's Tucker Johnstone and Great Falls Centrals' Nick Scott.
"I got some good shots and had some bad shots but I was happy with how I played," Hill said.
If there were any butterflies heading into his first state tournament, knowing he was being backed up by solid team helped alleviate them.
"Knowing that I had such good teammates and knew they'd be able to shoot low scores, it gave me confidence playing today," Hill said. "I knew if I didn't shoot my very best we'd still have a great team score and would still be in a good spot to win."
The Eagles soared to the top of the girls' division as well, with Jillian Frye — last season's third-place finisher — doing her part to help give Manhattan Christian's girls team a shot at consecutive titles. She shot a round-leading 91 to break a midway tie with Lone Peak's Delaney Pruiett who finished the day tied for second place at 93 with Ennis' Landri Paladichuk and Harlowton's Maddison Wasson.
After starting off the day on the back nine, Frye and Pruiett — playing in the same flight — found themselves bottle-necked at 46 as they turned the corner.
"You've just got to lock in and focus on your shot," Frye said of how she handled the pressure to take the narrow lead. "You've just got to play your game and not let anything affect you."
She said bringing home a consecutive team title would be especially meaningful considering that the Eagle's current success has coincided with a recent resurgence of interest in the sport at Manhattan Christian.
"Golf wasn't really that big of a sport at our school until the past two years," Frye said. "The guys and girls teams have really came out."
The boys' and girls' State C golf tournaments conclude on Thursday. The boys will tee off on the back nine and the girls will begin on the front nine.