By Bill Foley
Tricia Joyce is listed at 5-foot-2 on the basketball roster.
Still, Butte Central High School Principal J.P. Williams knows his star pupil is a really big deal.
That’s why Williams called down the entire student body of Butte Central to the school’s rotunda Thursday afternoon to watch Joyce sign a National Letter of Intent to play golf at the University of Montana.
“Today is a really fantastic day for all of us,” Williams told the BC students. “Tricia probably doesn’t like the limelight, but that’s OK. You get few of these moments in life, and you need to celebrate it. We’re going to celebrate it.”
Joyce signed while sitting between her parents, Bill and Helena.
The signing comes a little more than two months after Joyce completed the “Tricia Slam” by winning the Class A State tournament in Hamilton. Joyce won every tournament she played in during the 2018 high school season, and that included tournaments with the top golfers in the Class AA.
Joyce, a veteran of the South West Montana Junior Golf Tour, also placed second, third and fourth at State in her four seasons playing for the Maroons. She won the Western A Divisional title four times.
Playing against some of the top current and former collegiate players in the state, Joyce tied for third at the Montana Women’s Amateur in Missoula in late July.
She picked the Grizzlies over a couple of other schools in the state.
“Getting the opportunity to play on one of the bigger stages was my goal,” Joyce said. “I want to compete.”
Joyce has been playing golf for just about as long as she can remember.
“I had like plastic clubs,” she said. “I got a little Nike set when I was like 4 or 5 and started whacking away.”
Her golf career — and her life — took a serious turn when she was diagnosed with an illness.
“I got sick when I was like 11. It’s called Dermatomyositis,” Joyce said of the autoimmune disease that attacked her muscles, joints and skin.
The disease made playing sports that she loved most become too difficult.
“I used to play basketball and run more and stuff,” Joyce said. “I danced, too, but I couldn’t do that as well. So, I started golfing because it was easier on me. I guess it’s what I was supposed to do.”
That was about the time the legend of a little girl working so incredibly hard at her craft at the Butte Country Club was born.
“I played (golf) before, but I’d rather run or play basketball,” Joyce said. “Then I started to realize, ‘Hey, I’m pretty good at this. Maybe I should dedicate a little more time to it.’
“I guess you can find something good out of bad.”
The disease went into remission about four years ago, and Joyce has had a stellar career with the Maroons in three sports. She competed at the Class A State tennis tournament, and has part of Butte Central’s Class A state basketball championship.
She starts at guard for the Maroon basketball team, which opens the season Friday in Missoula.
Joyce said signing with the Grizzlies before basketball starts is a load off her mind.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “All the girls are great, and coach (Kris) Nord is awesome. I think it will an overall great experience.”
At UM, Joyce will follow in the footsteps of Butte High graduate Hailey Hoagland, who wrapped up her college career this past spring.
She is also the second Butte Central senior to sign with a college team this week. Clay Fisher signed with Montana Tech’s football team on Tuesday.
While she clearly enjoys playing basketball and tennis for Butte Central, Joyce said she looks forward to being able to focus solely on the sport she loves the most.
“I’m kind of excited to fully commit a year to golf, instead of playing basketball and tennis,” Joyce said. “I think I can tap into a little more potential.”
When she does, you better believe her fans at Butte Central and throughout the Mining City will be watching with a prideful eye.
“She’s the model,” Williams told the Central students. “She’s worked hard for several years. She’s set some lofty goals, and it’s paid off.”