Bulldog golfers head to state

Butte High’s golfers will be looking for a little magic in the Electric City Friday and Saturday.

The Class AA State golf tournament starts Friday morning at the Meadow Lark Country Club. Saturday’s round will be at the Eagle Falls Golf Course.

Tee times begin at 9 a.m. both days, with the low golfers teeing off first.

The Bulldogs have trophy aspirations on both sides.

The Butte High girls won the second-place trophy at last year’s state tournament at the Butte Country Club. That was the schools best finish in a generation.

This year, the Bulldogs are hoping to do at least as good.

The Bulldogs played these same courses in the Great Falls Invitational five weeks ago. Both teams placed sixth.

“They’re comfortable here,” Butte High coach Eric Mankins said. “They shoot good scores here and they’re confident.”

Three players are back from last year’s runner-up squad — Hailey Hoagland, Shealyn Hafer and Hailey Ogolin.

Hoagland and Hafer have been tearing up the course in 2012. The duo has had big-time success inside and out of the state.

Hoagland won the Butte Invitational two weeks ago and was the first-day leader at the Bozeman Invitational last week. Hafer’s last round was a 75 at Bozeman’s Bridger Creek Golf Course as she stormed back to tie Hoagland for third last week.

Mankins says he likes the chances of his top two golfers.

“They have numbers to hit,” the coach said. “If they hit those numbers they’ll compete for the top spot.”

Defending state champion Kortney McNeil of Billings Senior is the player to beat. Hafer placed sixth at state after leading the first day last year. Hoagland took fourth. She just missed All-State honors as a freshman.

Ogolin has also put up some low numbers for the Bulldogs, routinely shooting in the 80s.

Butte High also sent junior McKenzee O’Neill and senior Megan Ingersoll to State.

The No. 4 and No. 5 golfers don’t have the tournament experience of the top three, but both have shown improvement and potential during the season. They could also be the key to the team’s success.

Only the top four scores count toward team standings. If O’Neill or Ingersoll can get hot, the Bulldogs have a shot at knocking off favorites like Billings Senior, Billings West, Kalispell Glacier and defending champion Bozeman.

On the boys’ side, the Bulldogs have two players back from last year’s eighth place team. Back are seniors David Starcevich and Mike Jankovich — two golfers who have improved greatly over the past season.

Starcevich, who placed in the top 15 at state last year, is one of four Butte High golfers who have proven they have the ability to compete with the top guys in the state.

Jankovich, senior Ty Murphy and freshman Trey Hoagland have been shooting in the 70s pretty much all season.

Senior Tyler Myers has also shown the ability to put up a score that will count for the Bulldogs.

As far as scores go, this is one solid Butte High team.

“I don’t think we’ve had boys shoot like this … maybe ever,” Mankins said.

The problem for the Bulldogs is that the scores for boys’ golf around the state have been unreal. A team score of even par — or better — will likely be needed to win the title.

Mankins, though, said his team has a shot to be in trophy contention if the boys put it all together. Glacier and the schools from Billings are the favorites.

Billings West is the defending champion. There will be a new individual champion because West’s Brandon McIver, who won the last three titles, took his game to the University of Oregon.

The Bulldogs traveled to Great Falls on Thursday. They played a practice round at the Anaconda Hills Golf Course.