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CMR, GFH golfers head to state tournament

The C.M. Russell High and Great Falls High boys’ golf units have been neck and neck all season.

The top prize is still up for grabs, however, as the Rustlers and Bison travel to Kalispell for the season’s final 36 holes at the Class AA state tournament in Kalispell at Buffalo Hills Golf Course Tuesday and Wednesday. Sessions tee off at 10 a.m. both days.

The Rustler boys are winners of three tournaments this season, picking up team victories at the Great Falls, Butte and Helena meets, but the Bison haven’t been too far in the rearview recording four second-place showings. GFH bested CMR once this season at the Billings Invitational, earning a runner-up finish to the Rustlers’ third.

At the team’s last tournament in Kalispell, CMR led the Bison by only two strokes through 18 holes before the remainder of the meet was canceled due to threats made toward schools in the Flathead area.

With such a tight battle between the boys’ squads all year long, another close race to the top is likely in store. CMR senior Ben Kaul, who took medalist honors in one tournament this season in Butte, said the healthy competition between the teams has paid dividends for both sides this season.

“We travel together and we’re all pretty close,” Kaul said. “We all kind of push each other with our games. With GFH having a good team, it kind of pushes us a little more to beat them.”

GFH head coach Lance Olson agreed.

“Obviously, CMR has got our number a little bit,” he said. “We got them in Billings and they got us the rest of the season. But I’ll take our second places…It’s a rivalry but it’s a friendly rivalry. We obviously want both teams to do well. They root for each other and congratulate each other when everybody does well.”

The Rustlers are led by two-time All-State performer Duncan Hollar, who has earned four Top 5 finishes this season including a second-place showing in Helena, as well as Kaul, who took fourth in Helena and seventh at the Great Falls Invite on top of his tournament win in Butte.

Senior Tucker Thomas, an All-State finisher his sophomore year, has also been quite solid for the Rustlers with a third and fourth-place finish to his credit, as has No. 4 Tucker Pietrykowski. The junior finished tied for seventh in Helena and was tied for fourth after one round in Kalispell two weeks ago.

“Tucker Pietrykowski has been great for us,” CMR mentor Brian Halverson said. “(It seems) even when he’s not having a great day, he can just grind to that middle 70s number. My other seniors have really matured and taken turns having really low days. For everything to come together has been really nice.”

Leading GFH is junior Connor Mora, who took second individually at the Great Falls Invite and fourth in Billings this season, while Keaton Sunchild has put together a fine season as well. The senior tied with Kaul for the lead at the Butte Invitational but finished second in the scorecard tiebreaker while also earning second in Billings and a Top 3 showing to kick off the year.

Seniors Rylan Periman and Thain Johnson have also fared quite well, regularly finishing in the Top 5-7 slots.

“We would have liked to come away with a couple of first-place finishes earlier in the year but we’ll take the one this week over the rest of them,” Sunchild said. “We feel confident in how we can play and what we can do and we’ll just go out for one more and see what happens.”

Kaul said the Rustlers have also gained a confidence throughout the season.

“I didn’t think we could expect to be where we are this year,” Kaul said. “It’s pretty cool to see where it’s all going and I really ask for a better senior year of golf.”

The stiffest competition on the boys’ side figures to come from four-time defending champion Billings West and superstar senior Joey Moore. Moore set the AA record at the state tourney last season finishing 10-under over two rounds. This season, Moore shot a 16-under 61-66 at the Billings Invite.

“Joey Moore has Jace Rhodes to help him out, but he’s a team unto himself,” Olson laughed. “He’ll keep them in the hunt. I think you’re looking at the Rustlers as the favorite but we’ve got a shot.”

The GFH girls are a young squad with three freshman in Kelly Jones, Morgan Sunchild and Hannah Fehres on top of two seniors in Katrina Adkins and Presley Bird Rattler.

“I’ve been really impressed with those three freshman and we’ve got two seniors to back them up,” Olson said. “I haven’t really put any pressure on them this season and just want them to get some experience and some competitive rounds in them.”

The CMR girls will not be able to register a team score as they enter only three varsity players in senior Blair Hebnes, sophomore Bailey Potratz and junior Morgan Zuidema.

“I think they’re a neat group of kids and I’m kind of disappointed we couldn’t get a fourth and fifth out there to get them a team score but they’re all going to go out there and try to play their best round of the year,” Halverson said.

The defending champion Bozeman girls are strong again this season and are led by All-Stater Kameryn Basye.

“Bozeman already has the trophy engraved and ready to take home,” Olson said. “They’re going to run away with it.”

Article source: http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/sports/2017/09/25/cmr-gfh-golfers-head-state-tournament/106001022/

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