Tracking Our Local Golfers

This summer I am keeping my eye on a couple of local golfers

By Jeff Epperly

As we approach the end of June, the tournament golf season begins to heat up around the valley. The big event that kicks it all off is the Fourth of July tournament in Whitefish. Without question, this has one of the deepest fields in amateur golf in the state of Montana. This year the tournament runs from Thursday, June 30, through Saturday, July 2, with the practice round on Wednesday, June 29.

Prior to this monster of a tournament, the Lake City Open was played in early May at the Polson Bay Club in Polson (Locals: Ryggs Johnston, 2nd; Shawn Tucker, 3rd; Logan Lindholm, 5th; Brad Grattan, 6th) and then later in May the Barnett Memorial Tournament took place at the Missoula Country Club in Missoula (Locals: Ryan Porch, 2nd; Kyle Mossfeldt, 8th; Joseph Potkonjak, 9th; Scott Larsen, 16th; Shawn Tucker, 19th; Logan Iverson, 20th; Ryan Keenan, 25th). Besides these big stroke play tournaments there have been a bunch of scramble tournaments and best ball events around the Valley including the conclusion of the high school season in Class B and C. By the way, congrats to Bigfork for winning the Class B team title, and Ryggs Johnston of Libby for winning the individual state championship in record fashion and Joseph Potkonjak for his third place finish for Bigfork.

In addition to the Fourth of July tourney, there is the State Amateur Championship (July 21-23) in Laurel, the State Senior Amateur (August 2-4) in Bozeman, and the State Mid-Amateur (August 11-13) in Polson. Finally, the International Labor Day Golf Tournament rounds out the year September 3-5 in Kalispell. Then high school golf returns in the fall with the AA and A schools regular season and state tournaments running into the month of October.

So it is a great time of year for the competitive golfer! Living in Montana our golf season is limited to about six months of the year with the prime of the season running from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

This summer I am keeping my eye on a couple of local golfers who are going to make their presence known in big tournaments. Ryggs Johnston of Libby might be the best young talent under the age of 18 in the state of Montana. He is simply terrific. Yes, he has very good athletic ability (also a talented basketball player) but it is his golfing mind and competitive nature that separates him from the rest of his competitors. Ryggs just completed his freshman year of high school by winning the Class B title by shooting rounds of 68 and 63 and setting a record with his 11 under the card total. He also won at the tail end of last year, capturing the Labor Day Tournament at Buffalo Hill Golf Club. Early last summer, he qualified and played in the US Amateur at Olympia Fields outside of Chicago. Look for this young man to excel at the highest level in the biggest tournaments.

Speaking of competing at the highest level, Ryan Porch is another one to keep an eye on as he just completed his junior season at the University of Idaho. Ryan had an outstanding year as he finished in 12th place in the NCAA Kohler Regionals in Wisconsin and was second in the Big Sky Championships. Ryan has also been runner-up in numerous tournaments within the state of Montana as he was twice a runner-up in the State Amateur. Look for him to break through this year and win a couple of big ones.

There is nothing like competitive golf. To play it well takes a deep understanding of the game, a razor-sharp mind, and a competitive spirit that allows one to be consistent enough to win tournaments. As many of you know, golf can be a difficult game to play! Let’s track our local golfers this summer who play this game at a high level to see if they can bring home a few titles and make us proud.

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