Bucky Crippen

Bucky Crippen of Loyola watches his putt during the Loyola Spring Swing tournament at Larchmont Golf Course on Tuesday. Crippen finished first with a score of 69.

MISSOULA — Loyola golfer Katie Fagg finished as the State B runner-up last year but was open to making a major change by overhauling her swing during the winter.

Now five tournaments into her senior season with a new swing, the Carroll College signee finished atop the leaderboard for the fifth time when she carded a six-stroke victory at the Loyola Spring Swing on Tuesday at Larchmont Golf Course.

“I always like the swing that I’m playing with just because I wouldn’t know that I needed to change it,” said Fagg, who made it a Loyola sweep with Bucky Crippen winning the boys title. “That’s where I’d give credit to my swing coach, Ed Bezanson. He’s always had a path of where he’s wanted to take my swing.”

Fagg and Bezanson made changes to shorten her swing, which meant altering the swing path and correcting the timing to make the swing tight and compact. They worked on it at least three days a week starting in late December, practiced it nearly every weekday as the season drew near and had it ready a few weeks before the season opener on April 11.

“I think it’s definitely made me more confident,” Fagg said. “I’m not as hesitant. Definitely a little bit more aggressive, which is a lot nicer. I’d rather play that way.”

Fagg's hard work in another area had paid off as well. While trying to find the most appropriate way of approaching every hole and situation, she’s gained more confidence to play with all the clubs in her bag.

“In the past, she had favorite clubs,” Loyola head coach Mike Trudnowski said. “By broadening the clubs she uses, she’s been able to hit better shots and crisper shots. She’s just been hitting the ball more consistently.”

Fagg has the results to prove the changes are working. She’s won each of Loyola’s contests in Hamilton, Plains, Bigfork and Eureka.

In Missoula, Fagg finished with a seven-over 79 on the par-72 course to beat out Shelby’s Skyler Martin, who had an 85. Despite tallying seven bogeys and no birdies, she felt she consistently drove balls where she wanted in her final warmup before divisionals.

“It’s just a lot easier if you know you can use every club in your bag and not have doubt in your mind,” Fagg said. “It's definitely helped my game, especially on longer holes where you can get to things that you couldn't have before. It just makes for a lot lower scores. I’m definitely more confident.”

Loyola took second as a team with a 403, finishing 25 strokes behind Shelby’s 378. Isadora Tomazeli also had a top-10 finish for the Breakers, placing third with an 86.

Loyola’s Crippen wins boys title

Crippen has focused heavily on his putting heading into every season. Tuesday, he felt he had his best putting and chipping performance this year, and that helped him overcome a slow start to capture the boys individual title.

“My putting and chipping was pretty good today,” Crippen said. “Overall for the year, it's been about the same as last season, but today was really good on the greens. It’s just a lot of confidence and mental stuff right in your head. I think just getting that first birdie really helps your confidence. That loosened me up and propelled me for the rest of the day.”

Crippen started to turn things around with a birdie on the par-5 fourth hole, his first of seven birdies compared to four bogeys. He carded a three-under 69 to finish two strokes clear of Conrad’s Jarek Shepard and win his fifth tournament in five tries this season.

“It was a little shaky,” Crippen said of his day. “The end number was good, but it was cold in the morning and just hard to get around on the ball and hit it straight. It just kills your confidence, but I got it figured out.”

Crippen, who won the State B title last year, has been able to work through challenges in the past. But Trudnowski has seen an improved Crippen who’s made strides with his maturity, consistency and patience since his junior season.

“When you play more, like he has, you learn when to go for a shot and how to approach it,” Trudnowski said. “He’s more consistent, too, which is just part of playing the game. He even seems more patient and can recognize it’s a whole season. It’s all a maturity phase of knowing what do I need to do to have success.”

Loyola won the team title, shooting a 314 to finish 25 strokes ahead of Conrad’s 339. In addition to Crippen, four other Rams finished in the top 10: Sam Miland was fourth (75), Reed Noyd was fifth (84) and Joseph Kendrick was 10th (86).

Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at Frank.Gogola@406mtsports.com.

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