Butte prep golfers open strong

With their first tournaments out of the way, it appears the 2012 season could be one to remember for Mining City high school golfers.

Butte High’s girls’ team, which had a year to remember by finish second at state last year, is primed to make another run at some state tournament hardware this year.

The Bulldogs’ top three girl golfers are as solid as can be.

Junior Hailey Hoagland and sophomore Shealyn Hafer were All-State performers a year ago. Hoagland placed fourth at state, while Hafer took sixth. The teammates tied for fourth place at the season-opening Billings Invitational Monday and Tuesday.

Sophomore Hailey Ogolin was right in the mix, finishing 10th as Butte High placed third, losing only to Billings teams playing on their home course.

Butte’s top three golfers were solid all summer in the South West Montana Junior Golf Tour. Hafer also won the Montana Junior State Amateur in Helena.

“They’re really solid,” Butte High coach Eric Mankins said. “They’re doing quite well.”

Juniors Megan Ingersoll and McKenzie O’Neill, out for golf for her first time, round out Butte’s five varsity spots.

“That will probably be our varsity team all year,” Mankins said.

On the boys side, David Starcevich had an eye-opening tournament in Billings shooting a 72 and a 74 to tie for third.

On his home course last year at state, Starcevich tied for 13th place.

Mankins wasn’t surprised by his No. 1 golfer’s performance, pointing out that he shot 71 and 75 in team tryouts at the Butte Country Club and Fairmont Hot Springs.

“He’s mentally stronger,” Mankins said of Stercevich’s improvement. “He just knows what to do on the course.”

Senior Michael Jankovich brings back state tournament experience for the Bulldogs, while senior Ty Murphy got some valuable varsity time last year.

Freshman Trey Hoagland has Mankins excited.

“He’s a stud,” the coach said. “He’s going to be a good one.”

Fellow freshman Will Kilmer is also looking strong on the varsity team. Freshman Tucker Thatcher and junior Marcus Yerkich will compete for a spot on the varsity roster, Mankins said. Senior Tyler Myers also has a shot at some varsity time.

Butte Central’s boys’ team, which will play its second tournament of the season Friday in Livingston, brings a solid mix of experience and youth for coach Chad Petersen.

Senior Derek Ralph, who went to state a year ago, and freshman Cal Hollow led the Maroons at Monday’s opener in Anaconda with respectable showings at the Old Works.

Senior Jack Gallagher brings varsity experience back to the Maroons, while senior Jim Joyce and sophomore Bryce Noctor played on BC’s divisional team a year ago.

Junior Tryston Frey and sophomore Seth Powers are vying for varsity time.

Peterson said freshman Zach Luebeck, Jake McPherson and Kyler Kump have loads of potential but need to develop their games before they see some varsity tournaments. For the time being, they’ll get plenty of play at the junior varsity level.

Butte Central has one girl player this year, and she’s a talented one.

Freshman Regan Weldon showed promise during a strong summer on the South West Montana Junior Golf Tour. Weldon will miss the first two tournaments because she’s at a camp.

She’ll make her prep debut when the Maroons host the BC Invitational Monday at 9 a.m. at the Highland View Golf Course.

Mankins and Peterson both praised the South West Montana Junior Golf Tour, which is run by Bob Wengel.

Free lessons given by Highland View Golf Club Pro John DeWitt has helped increase the number of young golfers over the year. Then, Wengel’s seven-stop summer tour gives the players valuable tournament experience that pays off in the form of success in the high school season.

“He gives these kids competition instead of just going out and playing,” said Mankins, who is assisted by Curtis Smith. “That has helped the Butte kids improve so much.”

“It’s amazing what Bob Wengle has done,” Petersen said.