BOZEMAN – The class AA 2021 golf tournaments ended with three first-time champions. The fourth title ended a dynastic streak.
Billings West won his ninth championship on the girls’ team and runner-up Bella Johnson from West took her first individual title on Friday at Cottonwood Hills Golf Course. So did the boys ‘medalist Jordan Verge, who helped Bozeman Gallatin lead the boys’ team race for the first time in his two-year history. It is Gallatin’s first team title in any sport.
This is the first time since 2015 that a team other than Bozeman has won a State AA Girls Team title. The Golden Bears not only ended the Hawks’ streak, they won their first state title since 2014 and crowned an unbeaten season.
“None of us tried to win for ourselves. We tried to win as a team, ”said Johnson. “Having the ride through the whole team was like, ‘Okay, we have a really good chance this year so we’re trying to bring it home.'”
Billings West student Bella Johnson shares her state AA golf title and friendship with senior teammate Kadence Fischer following the final of the State AA tournament on Friday October 1, 2021 at Cottonwood Hills Golf Club in Bozeman.
Before Johnson, Hayden Flohr was the last individual winner of the Bears in 2015.
Johnson fired a 2-under 71 on Thursday. That same score on Friday would have broken Missoula Loyola’s Maggie Crippen’s 2012 high of 143 for girls in the state.
Johnson carded a 77 on Friday to finish the tournament 2 over 148, which is tied for the sixth highest score in State AA history.
Johnson admitted she was aiming for the record. Her chances looked good after a birdie on the first hole, but she hit # 4 and # 10 and double bogeye # 6, 8 and 11.
Johnson started crying when she realized that both records she was chasing were realistically out of reach.
“It was a little frustrating for me to know that, ‘You can’t screw this up,'” she said. “‘You could have a record here.'”
Their lead had also shrunk to five strokes after the 11th. Buttes Kodie Hoagland was in Round 1-down and she was in Johnson’s group so Johnson could see her advantage wane right in front of her. Johnson said to himself, “pull yourself together” and “you are better than that”.
Johnson, soon to be operated on for a ruptured labrum in her left hip, shot 1-under on the last seven holes, finishing seven strokes from Hoagland.
“The day didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but guess what, I’m not going to complain because I won. It’s very exciting, ”said Johnson. “I don’t know how to react right now. I am grateful to everyone who did this to me, especially my trainer and my parents. “
Billings West’s Bella Johnson is congratulated by her father Tyler Johnson (left), mother Sara Mains and trainer Marcus Drange after Johnson won the State AA Girls Golf singles title Friday at Cottonwood Hills Golf Club in Bozeman.
She also thought of good friend Kadence Fischer, a senior at West who played in Johnson’s final group. On the 18th hole, Johnson told Fischer that she couldn’t look at her because she would cry. Fischer was the first person Johnson to hug after the title-winning putt, and Johnson’s tear ducts opened.
“The last hole hit and I thought, ‘I understand that as an individual I am bringing home a state title, but one of my really good friends, with whom I have competed for 10 years, is leaving me.’ “Said Johnson.” I have to cry a little. I’m sad that she’s going. However, it was something special. I really don’t have the words for that. “
Johnson’s teammate Hayden Trost and Seniors Kenzie Walsh finished third with 20 over 166.
The Golden Bears took a team score of 317 or less on Friday to break the State AA girls’ team record of 638 set by Bozeman last year. They ended with a final of 341 and a total score of 81 to 661.
West finished second behind Bozeman in each of the last four State AA tournaments.
“That motivated them, especially before the season,” said West coach Marcus Drange, referring to his players. “I felt that this season was an opportunity for us to get over the hump … and we were leading the table. To see that is damn cool. “
Billings West’s Bella Johnson hugs her trainer Marcus Drange while her mother Sara Mains watches after Johnson won the State AA Golf Girls singles title on Friday at Cottonwood Hills Golf Club in Bozeman.
Like Johnson, Drange got emotional after the tournament ended when he realized his team had secured first place.
“We had high expectations all season and it’s just cool to see how it happens,” said Drange as his eyes started to open. “You worked so hard. It is great.”
Billings Senior finished second (706) on the girls’ teams, while Bozeman finished third (710) and Gallatin finished fourth (712).
Bozeman Gallatin’s Jordan Verge hits a bunker shot during the final round of the AA state golf tournament on Friday at Cottonwood Hills Golf Club.
Verge shared the fourth best individual ranking of the State AA Boys thanks to a final round 6-under 66 on Friday. It gave the Gallatin senior a two-round total of 7 under 137, four ahead of his teammate and twin brother Justus, who won the AA Boys’ singles titles in 2018 and 2019.
The identical twins shot identical 1-under-71s on Thursday, and Jupiter was in the lead through 10 holes with one punch. Justus played well on his last nine and finished with 2 under 70, the second best result of the entire tournament. His brother made it look like a pedestrian.
Jordan scored a 6-under-30 on his last nine holes (the first nine at Cottonwood Hills) thanks to a professional ball-hit demonstration.
He kept his approach shot on No. 3 (his 12th hole) to about 1.50 meters and sank the birdie putt. On the next hole, a par 3, Jordan hit his tee shot from the tip of his club face, but it was almost a hole-in-one. He gave a small punch after lowering the short birdie putt to get two strokes up.
Gallatin’s Jordan Verge almost hits a hole-in-one on 4th place at Cottonwood Hills Golf Club (his 13th hole). His birdie gives him a two-stroke lead over his brother Justus. #MTscores pic.twitter.com/gjBNJU34ku
– Victor Flores (@ VictorFlores406) October 1, 2021
Jupiter started the next hole for birdie, while Jordan just missed his birdie putt and the lead was reduced to one. But no swing was turned.
Jordan hit his wedge in 6th place at two feet. This time Jupiter missed his birdie putt and Jordan went back by two.
More backlash from the @ GallatinRaptors twins. Jordan keeps his approach on two feet and does birdie. Justus also makes a good start, but is content with par.
Jordan, now up at two, is the one at the beginning and the end of the video. #MTscores pic.twitter.com/WyNCTgKxqx
– Victor Flores (@ VictorFlores406) October 1, 2021
Jordan effectively finished the individual race one hole later. His second stroke on the par 5 came from 165 yards and the ball was over his feet. Jordan pulled a 7-iron and hit his shot pin high on the right side of the twisting green. The ball stopped about three feet from the pin and he made the eagle putt to extend his lead to four strokes.
“When I did that (chip on # 4), I was one less than Jordan. Then he went off to play birdie eagle on the next two holes, so that sort of took care of me, ”Jupiter said with a laugh. “He played great golf so he definitely deserved the win.”
Bozeman Gallatin Sr. Jordan Verge speaks about his AA boys state title in golf by defeating his twin brother Jupiter and the Eagle, which he won on his 16th hole of the final round at Cottonwood Hills Golf Club on Friday October 1, 2021 made in Bozeman.
A double bogey or better on the last hole would have been enough for Jordan for the state title. He went with better, chipping off the left side of the green for the final stroke of his high school career.
“When I saw it go to the trophy, I was pretty excited,” said Jordan. “It can’t get any better to end it like this.”
Jordan finished second in both the 2018 and 2019 state tournaments, as he did last year behind Missoula Sentinel’s Kade McDonough. Jordan landed four punches behind Justus and McDonough two years ago last fall.
Both Verges wore Air Jordan golf shoes in the finals, as did one of their playing partners, Joe McGreevey of Helena Capital, whose Jordans were the same color and style as the Jordans.
“Everything clicked today,” said Jordan. “I don’t know what it was, to be honest. It was only one of those days when everything went right. “
After the round, Jupiter said he and Jordan had pledged to play college golf at Palm Beach Atlantic, a private Christian Division II school in Florida.
“We’re both cheering each other on,” said Jordan. “Justus has played better than me in the last few months. It was great for me to climax at the right time. “
Going from left are Joe McGreevey of Helena Capital, Justus Verge of Bozeman Gallatin and Justus’ twin brother Jordan Verge during the final of the AA state golf tournament on Friday at Cottonwood Hills Golf Club in Bozeman.
McDonough, now in his sophomore year, finished 10th this week with 8 over 152. Butte Junior Jack Prigge finished third (straight par 144) and McGreevey tied Will Salonen of Kalispell Glacier in fourth (2-over 146).
Gallatin’s winning team of 5 over 581 was 25 better than runner-up Glacier. Capital took third place (615) and Sentinel fourth (623).
That score of 581 is six strokes less than the State AA boy record set by Bozeman in 2018. Both Verge twins and his senior colleague Ramey Lloyd were on that team. All three switched to Gallatin when it opened last year.
“The team is the most important thing in these tournaments,” said Jordan. “To win for me and the team is incredible.”