When it comes to State AA boys golf this fall, it might be tough to beat the three Billings schools.
Billings West will be looking to defend its state championship, but city rivals Senior and Skyview also pose a serious threat to the Golden Bears’ reign.
“I think Senior is going to be really good, and Skyview, too,” West coach Lance Edward said. “Their top three are pretty solid, so Billings is going to be well represented this year. I think Bozeman could be pretty good … state will be played in Bozeman and they’ve got some players.”
So does Kalispell Glacier and Great Falls CMR, he added.
Skyview, which was third at state last year in a tight race, returns juniors Payton Stott and Gage Passon, for starters, from last year’s state team.
Senior, which placed one stroke behind Skyview in fourth, will counter with seniors Sean Benson, Austin Walter and Adam Henneberry returning.
West lost state medalist Austin Berg and two other seniors, but returns junior Garrett Woodin and sophomore Riley Kaercher off last year’s state title team.
“We’re really young, but incredibly deep,” Edward said. “One through 12, they are kids that can play.”
Entering the mix will be freshman Joey Moore, who — at age 14 — was the lowest scoring junior player at the Montana State Men’s Amateur this summer in Whitefish.
“He’s certainly going to add something to the program,” Edward said.
In Class A, last year’s champion Sidney lost four of its five players, including its top three scorers.
Billings Central placed fourth at state last fall and will return Dylan Neutgens, Kaiden Caraveau and Jackson Boos.
In looking to repeat as AA champs, the Golden Bears will be counting on their closeness to carry them through again.
West returns its top three finishers from state: junior Hayden Flohr, along with seniors Hannah Zwemke and Mike’la Atkinson.
The Bears have placed among the top three teams at state the past three seasons.
“They’ve just had a lot of fun,” Edward said of his girls. “They’ve kind of grown up together. They push each other and they compete with each other, but they definitely pull for each other. That helps a lot.”
State medalist Teigan Avery will be back for Glacier, along with senior Kortney McNeil of Billings Senior, who was the runner-up. McNeil captured state titles as a freshman and sophomore.
Helena Capital’s Coral Schulz was third last year — and will also be returning.
“I think there’s definitely some competition out there,” Edward said.
That includes last year’s runner-up Butte, which returns Shealyn Hafer, who placed fifth individually last fall.
Great Falls High, sixth a year ago, will also contend with twins Casey and Catrina Babinecz.
In the Class A ranks, Polson’s girls have captured the past three state championships.
Laurel, which advanced to state last year, returns juniors Morgan O’Neil and Madi Tucker, who placed fifth and 11th overall, along with Kallie Linse and April Wheeler.
Central will have Sophia Mascarena and Chloe Michaelson back for another season.
The State AA tournament for boys and girls will be played at Bridger Creek Golf Course in Bozeman on Oct. 2-3.
The State A tournament for boys and girls will take place at the Hamilton Golf Club on Oct. 3-4.