Glacier Wolfpack Eye Repeat

By Beacon Staff

Like everything else at Glacier High School, the boys golf program is still in its infancy. Nonetheless, the defending Class AA state champion – which tied with Billings West in 2007 – is poised to make a run at another state title behind senior star Larry Iverson III.

Iverson, the 6-foot-2 defending Class AA state champion, kicked off this season by defending his individual title at the Great Falls Invitational in late August, firing a final round 69 to come from behind and hold on for a one-shot lead. The Wolfpack team, which was the runner-up at the invitational last year, scored a 603, 13 strokes better than Billings West to take the team title.

Iverson’s two-day total was 141. Glacier’s Graham Schmaltz placed third and teammate Tre Griffith finished 10th. Schmaltz placed ninth at state last year. Meanwhile, this year’s girls golf team is anchored by returning fifth-place state finisher Karli Aurich. The girls placed 11th at the Great Falls Invitational and sixth last year at state.

Although Glacier, especially Iverson, is the most compelling story on the links this fall, other area golfers also have state aspirations.

The Whitefish girls golf team is the two-time defending state champion in Class A, and returns four of its five top golfers, including senior Quinn Micklewright who edged senior Chelsea Ray by two shots for third at state last year. Also returning for the Bulldogs is sixth-place state finisher Breanna Cameron, divisional winner Kiley McConnell, Ellen Scheffer and Danielle McCully.

On the boys’ side, Whitefish, which was the state champion from 2004-2006, is perhaps even stronger than it was a year ago, despite losing 2006 state medalist and 2007 fourth-place finisher Sam Krause and eighth-place finisher Andre Groschupf. Daniel Markus, Zach Maassen, Joel Mallams, Dylan Parr and the long-hitting Ryan Zalucky round out the Bulldogs lineup.

The Whitefish girls took fourth and the boys were fifth in Great Falls. Impressive, considering their competition was nearly all AA.

Even more concerning for the rest of Class A is Whitefish freshman Reed Platke, who has already shot a round under 70 in high school competition, and was the top placer for Whitefish at Great Falls. He also made the cut at the Junior World Championships this summer.

“He is an impressive player,” Whitefish head coach Terry Nelson said. “We’re as good, if not better.”

The Bulldogs head to Ronan on Thursday where the girls won last year and the boys tied with eventual state champion Hamilton. Whitefish narrowly lost to Hamilton at the state tournament at Old Works Golf Course in Anaconda.

The Flathead Braves and Bravettes failed to place at state as a team or individually a year ago – partly because of the Flathead and Glacier High split – but the girls return four key seniors, including Sarah Cunningham and Julia Bechtold, who will battle for the No. 1 Bravettes spot. Beth Mcnutt, Michelle Tanberg and sophomore Calli Toth, who hit a hole-in-one at state last year, round out Flathead’s top five.

On the boys side, the Braves will be led by sophomore Ian Gillespie, who is the godson of NBA coaching great Phil Jackson, and junior Ian Hineman. Forty-three golfers turned out this season for Flathead.

Columbia Falls lacks state experience but returns 15 players who spent time on varsity. For the boys junior Tanner Lineberry is expected to lead the way while veteran Kelsey DeWitt returns for her third season on the girls side.

Bigfork returns sophomores Kyle Parker and Steven Schuster. Schuster went to state in 2007 but did not place. Standout freshman Sarah Keenan will be accompanied by seniors Carson Harris and Amy Gembala, who both went to state last year but did not place.

“They were just tickled pink to get there,” Bigfork coach Steve Hullet said.

Iverson, though, is the golfer to watch this year.

He placed third in the state as a freshman, fourth as a sophomore and was the winner – by a record eight strokes – as a junior. This summer at the 2008 Junior Boys’ America’s Cup, Iverson helped his team to a 14th-place finish, firing a final round 69 – 18 strokes better than his closest teammate, Ty Wengel of Butte.

Next up for both Flathead and Glacier is the Helena Invitational where the state AA golf tournament will be held and where Iverson is the defending champion.

“It will be a good chance to get a look early on before state,” FHS coach Kim Elliot said.