By Bill Foley
Last Monday, Brett Badovinac lost his title as city champion with a loss to Mike Hitchcock in the championship match of the City Tournament.
It was a title the 44-year-old Butte player held for five straight years.
On Sunday, Badovinac picked up a new title, and it’s safe to say it is a major upgrade. Badovinac is now a state champion.
Badovinac beat Missoula’s Moe Johnson 21-9, 21-7 Sunday to win the Open Division title of the Montana State Handball Tournament at the Butte Elks courts.
It is a crown Badovinac said might not be possible if it wasn’t for Monday’s loss, which he said was a wakeup call.
“I had more focus,” Badovinac said. “I think if I didn’t lose that city title I wouldn’t have won this title. It got me thinking, ‘You have got to work hard to win.’ I worked hard.”
By winning the title match, Badovinac gave the Mining City its first Open Division champion of the 21st Century. The last Butte player to win the Open Division was in 1998 when Butch Starin claimed the title.
Butte native Bill Peoples, who was living in Missoula at the time, won his 15th title a year later. A long Butte Open title draught started the following year when Ryan Spotorno of Helena claimed the crown at the Elks.
Badovinac used a big run in each game to take down Johnson. He closed the first game with an 11-0 run. He went on a 9-0 run to break a 4-all tie and take command in the second game.
Johnson said Badovinac was hurting him with a hopping serve.
“He’s too good right now,” Johnson said of Badovinac. “He doesn’t make mistakes. When you don’t make mistakes, it’s a pretty big deal.”
Badovinac beat Sean Sandau of Missoula 21-12, 21-7 in the semifinals on Saturday. Johnson beat Don Foley of Butte 20-21, 21-10, 11-9 in the other semifinal.
Foley battled back to beat Sandau 21-14 and 21-16 for third place.
The title was actually a two-for-one deal for Badovinac because the Open Division and the 40-plus Masters Division were combined. That marks the fourth straight Masters title for Badovinac, who played in the Open championship match for the third time.
He lost to Chance Wachholz of Kalispell in the chipper two years ago in Butte. Badovinac also fell to Missoula’s Andy Tucknott in 2010 in Butte.
With a strong group of younger players coming up, Badovinac said he knew the clock was ticking on his championship window.
“I knew this was probably my last chance to probably win the Open,” he said.
Badovinac’s victory capped a strong tournament overall for Butte players.
Hitchcock, who will hold the city champion designation for at least the next year, won the 50-plus Golden Masters Division title. He beat Dave Montelius of Missoula 21-16, 21-12 in the championship match.
Hitchcock also reached the semifinals of the 60-plus Super Golden Masters division. He won third place by forfeit.
Cole Salo of Butte won the Open consolation title, while his brother Conner, who now lives in Glendive, took third place in the A Division. Scott Salo won the Super Golden Masters A consolation crown.
Butte’s Tom Madrazo placed third in that division.
Other Butte players to find success were Kale Guldseth, who won the C Division; Marcus Madrazo, who claimed third in the B; and Skylar Criscuolo, who took third in the C.
Former Butte resident Tom Morris, who now lives in Billings, reached the finals in the 70-plus Diamond Masters Division. There, Morris fell to long-time rival Dan Scilley of Luther, 21-18, 21-6.
Morris and Scilley both have numerous state titles under their belt. Their battle Sunday was the first time the two met as former national champions.
In all, 46 players competed in the tournament.
It is a tournament that Badovinac will long remember.
“I’m not going to play any better than that,” he said after joining the exclusive state Open championship club. “That’s as good as I can play.”
Nate Guza, Missoula, def. John Winston; Cole Salo, Butte, def. Dylan Urbani, Bozeman; Jared Wierson, Missoula, def. Maleki McKell, Billings; Sky Peters, Missoula, def. Connor Salo, Glendive 21-8, 21-7
Brett Badovinac, Butte, def. Guza; Sean Sandau, Missoula, def. Salo; Don Foley, Butte, def. Wierson; Moe Johnson, Missoula, def. Peters
Badovniac def Sandau 21-12, 21-7; Johnson def. Foley 20-21, 21-10, 11-9.
Foley def. Sandau 21-14, 21-16
Badovinac def. Johnson 21-9, 21-6
Urbani def. Winston; McKell def. Salo
Cole Salo def. Winston by forfeit
McKell def. Urbani (injury default)
Connor Salo def. Guza; Weirson def. Peters
Salo def. Weirson 21-10, 21-18
Mike Hitchcock, Butte, def. Nick White, Bozeman; Jeff Armstrong, Billings, def. Steve Maier, Missoula; Kirk Johnson, Missoula, def. Don Schmidt, Missoula 18-21, 21-16, 11-3; Dave Montelius, Missoula, def. Todd Timboe, Seeley Lake
Hitchcock def. Armstrong 21-12, 21-16; Montelius def. Schmidt 21-13, 9-21, 11-1
Armstrong def. Schmidt 21-17, 13-21, 11-6
Hitchcock def. Montelius 21-16, 21-12
Golden Masters Consolation
White def. Maier (Injury default); Timboe def. Johnson (Injury default)
White def. Timboe 21-16, 16-21, 11-4
Super Golden Masters
Tom Madrazo, Butte, def. Randy Jolliffe, Lolo; Frank Cikan, Bozeman, def. Robin Peters, Missoula; Scott Salo, Butte, def. Steve Birrell, Bozeman; Garth Kallevig, Sidney, def. Rick Harrington, Missoula
Jay Spooner, Fargo, N.D., def. Madrazo; Mike Hitchcock, Butte, def. Cikan; John Larson, East Helena, def. Salo; Kallevig def. Mike Meyer, Billings
Spooner def. Hitchcock 21-20, 21-12; Larson def. Kallevig 21-6, 21-8
Hitchcock def. Kallevig by forfeit
Spooner def. Larson 17-21, 21-12, 11-5
Super Golden Masters A Consolation
Cikan def. Madrazo by forfeit; Salo def. Meyer (injury default)
Madrazo def. Meyer (injury default)
Salo def. Cikan
Super Golden Masters B Consolation
Jolliffe def. Peters: Harrington def. Birrell
Birrell def. Peters
Harrington def. Jolliffe
Paul Polzin, Missoula, def. Joe Urbani, Bozeman, 21-5, 21-17; Tom Morris, Billings, def. Sandy Gagnon, Bozeman; Dan Scilley, Luther, def. Wally Page, Florence, 21-6, 21-8; Jim Lambert, Bigfork, def. Russ Whitten, Red Lodge
Morris def. Polzin; Scilley def. Lambert
Polzin def. Lambert (injury default)
Scilley def. Morris 21-18, 21-6
Diamond Golden Masters Consolation
Gagnon def. Urbani; Page def. Whitten
Whitten def. Urbani
Gagnon def. Page
Dylan Urbani, Bozeman, def. Andy Zdinak, Butte; Vinny Chinikaylo, Missoula, def. Kale Guldseth, Butte; Eric Schmide, Missoula, def. Skyler Criscuolo, Butte, 21-11, 21-12; Marcus Madrazo, Butte, def. Andrej Kiriehenko, Missoula
Urbani def. Chinikaylo 21-11, 21-12; Schmidt def. Madrazo 21-15, 17-21, 11-4
Madrazo def. Chinikaylo by forfeit
Urbani def. Schmidt 21-17, 12-21, 11-4
Guldseth def. Zdinak; Kiriehenko def. Criscuolo
Criscuolo def. Zdinak 21-7, 21-10
Guldseth def. Kiriehenko by forfeit