By DAVID LESNICK
The Daily Inter Lake
This could finally be the year it happens.
“I think it’s absolutely (a possibility),” Flathead coach Kyle Dunfee said of his girls golf team winning a trophy.
“It’s definitely within their capabilities. It will come down to a couple teams and they are one of those teams.”
Flathead has not won a trophy at the Class AA state golf tournament since 2002-03. The girls were third that year.
The Bravettes were also third in 1995-96 and 1994-95.
They placed second in 1989-90 and won it in 1990-91, the school’s lone state championship in golf, for five pieces of hardware in the school’s trophy case.
The favorites — Bozeman and Billings West. Butte, playing on its home course, will have an advantage.
Helena High, Missoula Sentinel and perhaps Glacier will join Flathead in the hunt for a third place trophy, or possibly higher.
“Last three weeks have been great,” Dunfee said of the regular season.
“Each week has been better ... third place, second place, first place (at tournaments). That’s encouraging. It comes down Jillian (Wynne) and Marcella (Mercer). They are playing good golf, our 1-2 punch. The other three (seniors Cassidy Lavin, Sierra Dilworth and Tess Huckeba) are holding their own.”
Mercer, a sophomore, finished eighth last year at state, which was held at Buffalo Hill Golf Club, with 190 for 36 holes. She shot 98 and 92.
The top 15 placers earn all-state honors.
Lavin was on the Bravettes state team last year. She shot 94 one day, but struggled on the second day.
Wynne, a freshman, will be competing in her first state tournament.
“About 40 strokes the last three weeks,” Dunfee said the girls have knocked off their team total.
“That’s huge, eight to 10 strokes a girls.”
And reason for optimism.
Mercer has been a top 10 finisher at every meet this fall. She was the medalist at the last two.
Glacier is also hoping for the best with its senior crew.
Senior Kate Trunkle will be playing in her third state event. She was an alternate as a freshman.
Trunkle last year shot 101-99—200. She missed out on the top 15 by seven strokes.
Junior Hailey Iverson and senior Avery Andersen also were members of the Wolfpack state squad a year ago.
“All the girls are starting to play a little better the last two weeks,” Glacier coach Jim Schaible said.
“We’re working on a lot of stuff to get their scores down ... approach shots to the green 50 yards and in.”
Schaible said Trunkle is poised to go out on a high note.
“She’s hoping to be in the top 15, knows what the competition is out there. Realistically, she has a good chance. She will have to play some of her best golf to get there.”
Glacier and Flathead finished 10th and 11th at state last year. Bozeman, Billings West and Billings Skyview were 1-2-3.
Flathead and Glacier will both have young boys squads at state.
The Braves have one senior — Spencer Christy — with the rest freshmen and sophomores.
Glacier is the same way with senior Caden Willis and the remainder sophomores and freshmen.
“It’s the young guns, so they say,” Schaible said of his boys.
“I talked with the boys about the inexperience and shooting one good round (in a two-day tournament). I’m hoping this is their time to put two rounds together. If they put two together, they won’t be super contenders, but respectful contenders.”
Freshman Keaton Cassidy has played in every regular-season tournament this fall for Glacier while the rest have missed one or two.
Willis was on last year’s state team as was sophomore Ethan Purdy. Willis struggled the first day with a 99, but improved on the final 18 with an 89. He was the team’s third best scorer at state. Purdy opened with a 98 and struggled on the second game. He was the team’s No. 4 scorer at state.
Flathead has been led by Ezra Epperly, a sophomore, and Joston Cripe, a freshman.
Epperly and Christy both were at state last year. Epperly shot 90-85—175. He was 14 shots away from a top 15 finish.
Christy opened with a 92, but struggled on the second day.
“A young crew,” Dunfee said of his boys.
“I told them if anything, go down there and play your best golf of the year. That would be a win in itself — going down there and shooting the best team score of the year.”
Bozeman, Billings West and Great Falls High are the three favorites. Great Falls CMR is the defending champions with West and Great Falls tying for second last year. Bozeman was fourth.
Glacier placed ninth while Flathead was 12th.
Play starts today and Friday at 10 a.m. at the Butte Country Club.
“It’s set up for kids well, a position golf course,” Dunfee said of the state course.
“You have to hit good shots, position the ball well for that second shot. It doesn’t set up for a long hitter.”
Schaible said the course reminds him of the Cameron 9 at Buffalo Hill Golf Club.
“Old style push-up greens, small greens,” he said.
“Lot of trees, a creek runs through the middle. Drive in the right place because it’s a tight course. The fairways border each other. It’s not long enough to worry about hitting drives a lot, but play smart, get in the fairway and on the greens.”
Marcella Mercer, so.; Jillian Wynne, fr,; Cassidy Lavin, sr.; Sierra Dilworth, sr.; Tess Huckeba, sr.; Alternate — Sheridan Stroop, sr.
Ezra Epperly, so.; Joston Cripe, fr.; Drew Lowry, fr.; Spencer Christy, sr.; Sam Huckeba, so.; No alternate
Kate Trunkle, sr.; Hailey Iverson, jr.; Avery Andersen, sr.; Abi Manger, jr.; Hannah Nikunen, jr.; Alternate — Stella Claridge, fr.
Keaton Cassidy, fr.; Will Salonen, fr.; Sam Manaker, so.; Ethan Purdy, so.; Caden Willis, sr.; Alternate — Coby Kunda fr;