ANACONDA – Tight races were the order of the day as the Southwest Montana Junior Golf Tour wrapped up its 10th season, Monday at Old Works Golf Course.
Two Butte High golfers went into the final tournament tied for the lead in their division, while a couple of rare ties appeared once the golfers came off of the course.
Isaiah Weldon and Will Hoagland each had 8,200 points in the Dustin Johnson Division (boys aged 16-17) and sat atop the leaderboard.
Weldon won the division championship by shooting a 72 on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course. It was the best overall score of the day.
Hoagland finished second in the division, for the day as well as the summer tour.
“I took a quad (quadruple-bogey) on 16 and then I bogeyed 17 and 18,” Hoagland said. “That was kind of half my round there, I guess.
“I was three-over on the front and I was doing good on the back until those three holes.”
Weldon had confidence coming into the final day because of past success at Old Works. He also made sure that the overall tour standings didn’t get into his head.
“I focus on the shot I’m about to hit and that’s all I’m trying to think about,” he said. “You have to hit the fairway to give yourself a chance to hit the green. I hit more fairways (Monday) so that’s probably why I played pretty good.”
One thing is for sure. Hoagland and Weldon will be happy to be teammates instead of competitors when the Butte Bulldogs kick off their 2017 campaign next Monday in Great Falls.
“Will and I like to battle out here,” Weldon said. “He gives me good competition so it’s good prep for high-school golf.”
Both golfers enjoy playing on the tour because it allows them to work on various parts of their games. Despite finishing atop of the season’s leaderboard, they readily admit that there are some parts of their game that still need improvement.
Kielar Jones, who attends Helena Capital High, dominated the Lydia Ko Division – for girls aged 16 and 17 – but settled for runner-up status to Butte’s Sadie Starcevich on Monday.
Jones began last season on the Bruins’ varsity squad but slipped to junior varsity toward the end of the season. She used the nine tournaments this summer to work on her game and thinks the success will pay off.
She was disappointed that her score was above 100 for the first time this summer but is pleased with the progress she made.
“I want to get better for school golf and this really helps me,” the Capital senior said after her second straight year on the tour. “I just wanted to practice during the summer.”
Grace Luoma, of Butte, won a tour championship for the second year in a row by edging out Ella Prigge and MacKenzie Finnegan.
Luoma’s win came in the Lexi Thompson Division (girls 14-15), which featured a tie for second place (Prigge and Finnegan) as well as a tie for fourth (Kendal Petritz and Kendra Fuller).
“This is like practice and we get to know the courses more,” Luoma said. “I’ve been working with all of my clubs, just trying to get back into the swing of things for high school.
“This is one of my favorite courses, actually. I’ve shot a lot better here than at different courses but the greens were very challenging (on Monday). That’s why I shot a little highter. They were cut super-short and they were super, super fast.”
Finnegan was awarded the second-place plaque after beating Prigge in a chip-off.
The Jordan Spieth Division (boys 14-15) also featured a tie for second place. Hamilton’s Tanner Hanson and Helena’s Gabe Witham each finished with 11,600 points but Witham was crowned as the runner-up after the chip-off.
Witham chip-off victory capped an impressive day for Witham, who scored the second-best round of the day. He finished the round with a score of 75.
Butte’s Kaven Noctor won the Rickie Fowler Division despite finishing second to Witham on Monday.
Other tour winners included Kodie Hoagland and Ryder Connor, in the Stacy Lewis and Rickie Fowler divisions, respectively.
Hoagland was challenged by Dakota Trinity Wilson (Townsend) and Kennedy Lean (Butte) throughout the year.
Conner, from Hamilton, got some late-season pressure from Jack Prigge (Butte) but held on to capture the overall crown.