Montana Tech golf team gets big addition in Small

Montana Tech golf team gets big addition in Small
Bozeman High School senior J.R. Small signs an NAIA National Letter of Intent to play golf at Montana Tech Tuesday afternoon. (Courtesy photo)

By Bill Foley

Don’t let the name fool you, Montana Tech’s golf team got a big-time player Tuesday.

Bozeman High School senior J.R. Small signed an NAIA National Letter of Intent to take his golf talents to Montana Tech. Surrounded by family, friends and teammates, Small signed his letter Tuesday afternoon at the high school.

“I’m pumped,” Montana Tech golf coach Sean Ryan said. “This signing makes us an immediate contender next fall.”

Small is a four-time All-State player who helped lead the Hawks to back-to-back Class AA State titles in 2018 and 2019.

He looked at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and Boise State before deciding to sign with the Orediggers last week. He called Ryan to tell him of his decision last Tuesday.

Small said he just did not want to leave Montana, where he loves to golf and fly fish.

“I think the saying, ‘You don’t really appreciate it until you’re gone’ couldn’t be more true about Montana,” Small said. “I feel like it’s a common mindset that you have to leave the state to go to college. I have a bunch of friends who ended up coming back.

“Staying in Montana and knowing the guys who are already on the (Montana Tech) team is a huge advantage.”

Small is a two-time member of Montana’s team in the Montana-Alberta Ryder Cup and the Junior America’s Cup. He set the course record at the Bridger Creek Golf Course with a 7-under-par 64 at the club championships last August.

Later that month, Small tied with teammate Justin Verge to claim medalist honors at the Great Falls Invitational. Small placed ninth at the Class AA State tournament as a freshman, 12th as a sophomore, fourth as a junior and eighth as a senior.

Only the to 15 golfers earn All-State honors.

Ryan compared the signing to when Tech’s late coach Lee LaBreche signed Sean Benson from Billings Senior. Benson closed his career with a Frontier Conference title last spring.

“He’s got the ability to maybe take us over the hump,” Ryan said of Small. “I’ve really been working on J.R. since last August. All the stars stating to align last week.”

Small said he is still undecided about his major, though he his leaning toward business management.

The Bozeman golfer is the second big signing for the Orediggers in the last week. Kaven Noctor of Butte High signed with Tech last Wednesday.

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