By Bill Foley
The year 2018 included some remarkable individual accomplishments on the Mining City Sports scene.
On the world stage, Butte native Brad Wilson competed in the PyeongChang Olympic Games in February, placing 18th in the moguls.
Wilson won the U.S. National Championship in the moguls and dual moguls in March. He got off to a strong 2018-19 season with strong World Cup showings in December.
Also in December, Stevensville native and Butte resident Bridger Chambers completed his remarkable year by finishing No. 2 in the world at the Wranglers National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Butte High’s Ty Peterson became the greatest pole vaulter in Butte High history, winning the Class AA state title with a vault of 15 feet, 6 inches in Great Falls. That May vault also set the Memorial Stadium record.
Also that weekend, Butte High senior Hailee Regan and Butte Central junior Lindsay McGree captured state championships.
Reagan won the Class AA state shot put title with a personal-best mark of 35-9. Regan placed second the year before. McGree won the Class A long jump title with a leap of 17-3 ¾. That came one year after her sister Rachael McGree, now a Montana State Bobcat, won the even for a final time.
Montana Tech senior receiver Dion Williams finished his climb to the top of all of the school’s career receiving records, even though the injury-riddled Orediggers missed the playoffs.
Butte High’s football team closed out the regular season with three straight wins to qualify for the Class AA playoffs for the first time since 2014. Butte Central’s girls’ basketball advanced to the semifinals of the Class A State tournament in Great Falls in March, and Butte High hosted the first divisional basketball tournaments in decades.
Young Libby star Ryggs Johnston, a name we will likely know for years to come, ran away with the Montana Men’s State Amateur title in July at the Butte Country Club.
Late in the year, Butte High’s wrestling team gave Bulldog fans hopes of good things to come in 2019 with impressive showings at the Mining City Duals and the CMR Holiday Classic in Great Falls.
The Butte Sports Story of the Year, though, was the “Tricia Slam.”
Butte Central senior Tricia Joyce won every high school tournament she played in during the 2018 campaign. She capped that with the Class A state title in Hamilton.
Joyce’s championship followed second-, third- and four-place finishes in her three previous appearances in the state tournament. She won the Western A Divisional title four times.
The 2018 golf season didn’t start how you might think. Joyce actually played less golf than she would have liked because of her job. She was, however, still very much around the game, working at the Rock Creek Cattle Company course for Butte golfing legend Louie Bartoletti.
Bartoletti, who won the 1978 state title while playing for the Maroons, was in Joyce’s corner.
“I think he wanted me to win more than I did,” Joyce joked after winning the state crown Sept. 29 at the Hamilton Golf Club.
Only Butte High’s Ashleigh Ogolin won an individual state crown for a Butte school between Bartoletti and Joyce, putting Joyce in some pretty selective company.
Even without playing as much, Joyce opened some eyes by tying for third place at the Montana Women’s State Amateur Championship July 28 at the Missoula Country Club. She finished behind Libby’s Morgan O’Neil, a Rocky Mountain College player, and Bozeman’s Annika Danenhauer, tying with University of Montana golfer Teigan Avery.
“It was really fun playing against some of those really good players, for sure,” Joyce said on her way home from the tournament. “I’ve looked up to a lot of them, following their scores since I was like 10.”
Grizzly coach Kris Nord took notice of Joyce’s State Am performance
“I really liked her before I even knew who she was,” Nord said as the Grizzlies announced the signing of Joyce earlier this month. “I saw this gal who had great energy and was hitting good golf shots. Her energy on the course was real positive, and she had a spark about her that I love to see. I really liked how she approached competition.”
The 2018 high school campaign began with the Butte Central Invitational Aug. 13 at the Highland View Golf Course. Joyce defended her title in the tournament with a 5-over-par 75. A week later, Joyce shot a 79 to win the Belgrade Invitational at the Riverside Country Club in Bozeman.
Four days after her win in Belgrade, Joyce went to Livingston and shot a 74 to make it 3 for 3 on the season. The second-place finisher was 15 shots behind.
The next week, Joyce ran away with the title at the Butte Invitational at Fairmont Hot Springs. Joyce battled back from a disappointing 80 on the first day to shoot a 73 on Day 2. Her 153 total was eight shots better than second-place Laurel Ward of Bozeman.
It wasn’t the last time Joyce would top all of the Bozeman golfers, and the Hawks went on to win their fourth straight Class AA crown.
“What makes her so good is her expectations,” Butte Central coach Brian Yelenich said after the Fairmont win. “She expects to be good.”
Joyce’s fifth win came Sept. 5-6 at the Old Works in Anaconda. The Maroon shot an 83 and a 75 on the course that Jack Nicklaus built to tie Billings West’s Carrie Carpenter for the top spot, one shot better than Ward.
Joyce took home medalist honors thanks to a scorecard playoff.
Dillon’s tournament turned out to be smaller than planned, so organizers opted for a match-play event. Joyce beat Dillon’s Lindsey Huber 5 and 3. She also teamed to win a best-ball match, staying perfect on the season.
Then, Joyce went to Hamilton to shoot an 80 to win the Hamilton Invitational to make it 7 for 7 on the regular season.
On Sept. 22, Joyce went to Libby and completed her four-peat at the Western A Divisional. Her 1-over-par 73 at the Cabinet View Golf Club was five shots better than runner up Macee Greenwood, a freshman from Corvallis.
Greenwood gave Joyce a run for her money the following week at the Class A State tournament in Hamilton. Joyce, though, held her off, shooting 75 and 77 to best Greenwood by five shots and win the state title that barely eluded her the first three years of high school.
“It feels pretty good,” Joyce said after hoisting the championship trophy. “I got the monkey off my back this weekend.”
The victory wrapped up a 9-for-9 season for Joyce. Not only was it the top story for Butte Sports in 2018, it was a season for the ages.
On Dec. 6, the entire student body of Butte Central gathered in the school’s rotunda to cheer on Joyce as she signed her National Letter of Intent to golf for the Grizzlies.
“She’s the model,” BC Principal J.P. Williams told the Central students. “She’s worked hard for several years. She’s set some lofty goals, and it’s paid off.”
After signing, Joyce gave us a peak into what 2019 and beyond could hold as she gets to concentrate solely on her favorite sport.
“I’m kind of excited to fully commit a year to golf, instead of playing basketball and tennis,” she said. “I think I can tap into a little more potential.”