SWMJGT called off for summer of 2020

SWMJGT called off for summer of 2020
Butte golfer Kennedy Lean tees off on hole No. 6 during the Fairmont Invitational June 24, 2019 at Fairmont Hot Springs. (Butte Sports file photo)

By Bill Foley

For the first time in more than a decade, the Southwest Montana Junior Golf Tour will not be played.

Bob Wengel, the chairman and founder of the tour, confirmed this weekend that the tour has called off because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The season would have kicked off this week with the Lee LaBreche Kick-Off Classic at the Highland View Golf Course.

Wengel, who founded then Tour in 2008, said there was just no way to hold the tournaments and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“Our Tour was simply not prepared to oversee 50 to 60 junior golfers attending tournaments and following all the rules,” Wengel said. “Golf professionals had major concerns, as they are required to restrict the number of people in their pro shops, and they obviously could not oversee large groups of kids.

“In addition, we simple don’t have the staff to ensure the safety of our junior golfers and we would have faced significant contingent liabilities had we proceeded during these unstable times,” Wengel added. “Canceling the Tour was really our only option.”

The tour has been successful in helping develop young golfers.

All five of Butte High’s girls’ varsity players — Kodie Hoagland, Ella Prigge, Grace Luoma, Kennedy Lean and MacKenzie Finnegan — have been Tour regulars. Last October, the Bulldogs captured the third-place trophy at the Class AA State tournament for the second consecutive year. Hoagland, Prigge and Luoma earned All-State honors.

Also, Kaven Noctor, who won the 2019 Tour title in the oldest boys’ division, signed to play golf at Montana Tech. There, Noctor will join former SWMJGT members Emily Kelly, Isaiah Weldon and Trey Hoagland.

Noctor, a recent Butte High graduate, placed sixth at state last fall.

Former SWJGT champion Tricia Joyce is currently a member of the University of Montana golf team. Joyce, of course, won the Class A State title while playing for Butte Central in 2018.

Other former Tour players recently concluded successful college golf careers, including Hailey Hoagland at Montana and Shealyn Hafer and Caleb Stetzner of MSU-Billings. Stetzner, of Anaconda, won the 2017 Men’s Montana State Amateur title.

Wengel, who runs the tour from Las Vegas, said he is hopeful the cancelation will just be for this summer.

“We sincerely hope that we can resume our Tour next year,” he said.

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