GREAT FALLS — Carrie Carpenter entered Tuesday’s second and final round of the State AA Golf Championships with a four-stroke lead, and she couldn’t help but think of last year’s state tournament.

Carpenter also led by four strokes going into the final round at Butte Country Club last September. She lost by a stroke to Bozeman then-senior Annika Danenhauer.

Not even a snowstorm could deny Carpenter this time. The Billings West senior carded her second straight 3-over 75 to win her first state girls individual title by 13 strokes Tuesday at Meadow Lark Country Club.

“It’s crazy that it’s over. I’ll never go out and play in a high school tournament again and represent West,” Carpenter told 406mtsports.com. “But this was a good way to go out.”

Carpenter was the lone State AA champion from a school other than Bozeman. The Hawks won the boys and girls team titles, while sophomore Justus Verge finished even-par for the tournament (71-73-144) to claim boys medalist honors.

Carpenter played the final four holes in a snowstorm that grew progressively larger. By the 18th hole, she could barely see her white ball, and players used towels on the last couple greens to clear paths for their putts. Carpenter and her group members even ran from shot to shot, she said, so they could finish the round before the course became unplayable.

“There were times where I couldn’t really feel my fingers or toes,” she said. “It was a fun day. It was definitely unforgettable.”

With such a large lead, Carpenter could have stumbled her way into the clubhouse on the final few holes. But she didn’t know her score or the size of her lead, she said, so she treated every shot as if she was in danger of losing again.

Carpenter finished her round with a par thanks to what she said is one of the best punch-out shots she’s ever hit.

The 2018 state tournament finish was painful but instructive for Carpenter.

“It was all mental. Last year, I think I was trying to not lose instead of trying to win,” she said. “(This week), I just tried to stay in the moment, control what I was doing.”

That mindset paired with her ability and some extra practice led to a dominant 2019. She placed first at the MSGA State Junior Championship in June and won every tournament she played in this fall.

At state, Carpenter finished 14th as a freshman and fourth as a sophomore. She of course wishes last year’s tournament ended differently, but she’ll graduate West with a state title.

“Everything I did all season just paid off today,” she said. “It’s gratifying.”

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