The 2021 Class AA state golf tournaments are halfway done, and an exciting final round looks possible, especially on the boys side. Multiple records might be broken, too, when the tournament ends Friday at Cottonwood Hills Golf Course.
Twin brothers Jordan and Justus Verge are narrowly tied for individual boys lead, and they led Bozeman Gallatin to an eight-stroke team advantage on the first day.
There’s more distance between the leaders and second place on the girls leaderboard. Billings West is up by 35 strokes in the team race, and West’s Bella Johnson has an 11-shot individual lead.
Johnson shot a 2-under 71 on Thursday (Cottonwood Hills’ par for this tournament is 72 for the boys and 73 for the girls). The sophomore was the only State AA girl to break par or break 82, and she has a chance to break at least one Montana state individual girls record.
Missoula Loyola’s Maggie Crippen set the all-class girls record in 2012 with a two-round stroke total of 143. Three years later, Billings West’s Hayden Flohr shot a 144 to break the State AA girls mark. Another 71 from Johnson would break both records.
“It’s comfortable, but at the same time, I know that I’m not safe,” Johnson told 406mtsports.com. “I could play a bad round, someone could play the best round of their life, so it’s kind of just, ‘Play your game, shoot a good score again and don’t be comfortable.’ I can never be comfortable in this game because anyone can take my spot.”
Johnson led West to a team total of 28-over 320 on Thursday. An identical score on Friday would give the Golden Bears the state team record, which is currently 641, posted by Bozeman in 2016.
That 2016 State AA title was the first of five straight for the Hawks, who will need a strong Friday to win their sixth in a row. They are in third place and 37 strokes back of West through one round.
“I’ve only seen Bozeman win,” said Marcus Drange, who’s in his sixth year as West’s coach. “We’ve taken second place to them a lot. We’ve been close. It’s been tough. They have had what I would consider a dynasty.”
Gallatin is second in the girls team race at 63-over 355, and Billings Senior is three strokes behind the Raptors in fourth place.
The Verge twins, both seniors, each shot 1-under 71 on Thursday. A win from Justus on Friday would be his third state title, while Jordan is still searching for his first.
“We’ve got tomorrow left, so it’s good to be tied right now, but that’s not the biggest priority,” Justus told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “We’re focused on the team right now.”
There’s a chance neither Verge will win. One stroke behind them is Butte junior Jack Prigge and Helena Capital junior Joe McGreevey. Missoula Big Sky’s Hayden Ellis is fifth at 1-over, Kalispell Glacier’s Will Salonen is sixth at 2-over and four boys are tied for seventh at 3-over: Glacier’s Trey Engellant, Gallatin’s Ramey Lloyd, Missoula Sentinel’s Kade McDonough and Capital’s Dutch Teders.
As a team, the Gallatin boys shot a 6-over 294, with Glacier in second at 302, Capital third at 311 and Sentinel fourth at 314.
“As a team, we really have a chance to take this home,” Jordan Verge told the Chronicle. “It would be a huge accomplishment. The coaches have definitely earned it for sure. They’ve pushed us hard. To have that as a part of the high school would be amazing.”
Gallatin would need an 8-under 280 on Friday to break the all-class state boys team record, set by Bozeman in 2018. The Verge twins were on that Hawks team. They moved over to Gallatin when it opened last year.
Bozeman’s Elly Atkins, West’s Kadence Fischer, Butte’s Kodie Hoagland and Kalispell Glacier’s Chloe Tanner all shot 9-over 82s to finish the first round tied for second in the girls individual field.
Team scores: Bozeman Gallatin 294, Kalispell Glacier 302, Helena Capital 311, Missoula Sentinel 314, Billings Senior 325, Billings Skyview 327, Bozeman 337, Missoula Big Sky 339, Billings West 343, Kalispell Flathead 361.
Top 25 individuals: Jordan Verge, Gallatin, 71; Justus Verge, Gallatin, 71; Jack Prigge, Butte, 72; Joe McGreevey, Capital, 72; Hayden Ellis, Big Sky, 73; Will Salonen, Glacier, 74; Ramey Lloyd, Gallatin, 75; Trey Engellant, Glacier, 75; Dutch Teders, Capital, 75; Kade McDonough, Sentinel, 75.
Eli Groshelle, CMR, 76; Tyler Avery, Glacier, 76; Tye Boone, Skyview, 77; Cale Hines, Capital, 77; Gavin Klein, Gallatin, 77; Sam Engellant, Glacier, 77; Reece Mayala, Senior, 77; Trey Mattson, Hellgate, 77; Logan Connolly, Skyview, 78.
Colin McCarthy, Sentinel, 79; Stevie Voigt, Gallatin, 79; Joe Opitz, Sentinel, 80; Clay Godwin, Sentinel, 80; Nate Pailthorpe, Bozeman, 80; Cade Wagner, Senior, 81; Drew Lowry, Flathead, 81.
Team scores: Billings West 320, Bozeman Gallatin 355, Bozeman 357, Billings Senior 358, Helena Capital 387, Kalispell Glacier 393, Belgrade 442, Kalispell Flathead 445, Missoula Sentinel 454, Butte 457.
Top 25: Bella Johnson, West, 71; Elly Atkins, Bozeman, 82; Kodie Hoagland, Butte, 82; Kadence Fischer, West, 82; Chloe Tanner, Glacier, 82; Annika Brocklebank, West, 83; Lauren Mayala, Senior, 84; Hayden Trost, West, 84; Ella Torsleff, Gallatin, 85; Kenzie Walsh, Senior, 85;
Stella Claridge, Glacier, 85; Megan Voegele, West, 85; Addiley Lloyd, Gallatin, 86; Jillian Wynne, Flathead, 87; Zoe Ceartin, Gallatin, 89; Becca Washington, Senior, 90; Sara Priebe, Bozeman, 91; Olivia Yochim, Bozeman, 91; Sarah Halferty, Helena, 92; Paige O’Mara, Capital, 92;Ava Couture, Bozeman, 93; Averi Bertram, Bozeman, 94; Addison Bleile, Gallatin, 95; Bella Anderson, Belgrade, 96; Olivia McGreevey, Capital, 96.
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