BILLINGS — The quest to chase down a state golf championship begins Monday and will end the first days of October in Bozeman (for Class AA) and in Polson (for Class A).

The Class AA girls medalist and Class A boys medalist spots are open as the respective champions graduated. And the defending champions, Missoula Sentinel's Kade McDonough and Corvallis' Macee Greenwood, have some eager competitors nipping at their heels.

Here's a quick look at how the 2021 Class AA and Class A golf seasons shape up:

Class AA

2020 boys medalist: Kade McDonough, Missoula Sentinel 

2020 boys team champion: Missoula Sentinel

2020 girls medalist: Sami Yates, Bozeman

2020 girls team champion: Bozeman

Storylines

• McDonough fired 70-70-140 to win state last season as a freshman, becoming the Spartans’ first medalist since 2005. Bozeman Gallatin brothers Jordan and Justus Verge, who finished second and third, return, as does Great Falls CMR’s Eli Groshelle, who tied with Justus Verge (the 2018 and 2019 state champ) for third. It should be quite a race to the medalist podium with the top four golfers returning.

• Though McDonough returns for a chance at a second-straight individual title as does Joe Opitz, who placed fifth, the Spartans graduated their next top finishers. With the Verge brothers and seventh-place finisher Stevie Voight returning, the Raptors should be a favorite for the team title.

• Unlike the boys field, the top three girls finishers from last year all graduated. And among the returning underclassmen, they were all tightly bunched on the leaderboard, so picking a favorite for a titlist this fall is anybody’s guess. Leading the way is Billings Senior’s Kenzie Walsh, who finished in a tie for third with a 160. But Gallatin’s Halle Vandersloot (161), Butte’s Kodie Hoagland (162) and Billings West’s Kadence Fischer (162) were right behind.

• Bozeman placed three girls in the top five, but Sami Yates (1), Cooper Knarr (2) and Franchi Ceartin (5) have all moved on. The Hawks’ run of five state titles might be in jeopardy with Billings West (2nd a year ago), Billings Senior (3rd) and Butte (4th) all returning key contributors.

Class A

2020 boys medalist: Cameron Kahle, Whitefish

2020 boys team champion: Whitefish

2020 girls medalist: Macee Greenwood, Corvallis

2020 girls team champion: Laurel

Storylines

• Kahle won the state title in a playoff for the second year in a row, this time over teammate Billy Smith. But Kahle, who accepted an appointment to the Air Force Academy, graduated, as did every other top-5 finisher aside from Smith.

• Even without Kahle, the Bulldogs are a known quantity with three returning top-10 finishers. But Billings Central, with Conor Walsh and Reese Jensen, is right behind. Several other programs, like Laurel, Livingston and Polson, have some up-and-coming young golfers, though they might be a bit unproven yet on the varsity level.

• It’s finally the end of the line for a trio of female golfers who will close out amazing careers this season. Corvallis’ Greenwood, last year’s champion, finished second as a sophomore in 2019 and second as a freshman in 2018. Laurel’s Adams twins have been impressive, as well. Hannah finished third in 2020, was state champ in 2019 and finished fourth in ’18. Sister Haylee has had finishes of fourth, third and fifth in her career.

• Laurel’s prospects of a fourth consecutive state title may have taken a hit when freshman Alivia Webinger suffered a serious knee injury during basketball season. Webinger finished second at state last fall, and her absence means the Locomotives will have to make up some lost ground. But with the Adams sisters and fellow senior Breana Jensen, who finished eighth last season, Laurel still has plenty of low-scoring ability. And the Locomotives did win by nearly 100 strokes at last year’s state tournament.

Email Mike Scherting at mike.scherting@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsSchert

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