Locos win first divisional title in 18 years

Locos win first divisional title in 18 years
By: 
CHRIS MCCONNELL
Outlook staff writer
Outlook photo by Chris McConnell. Cash Golden hits punch shots during practice at Laurel Golf Club this week. The Locos won Divisionals for the first time in nearly 20 years, and two players from the girls’ team qualified for State as individuals. The State tournament begins in Sidney tomorrow and concludes Saturday.
Outlook photo by Chris McConnell. Cash Golden hits punch shots during practice at Laurel Golf Club this week. The Locos won Divisionals for the first time in nearly 20 years, and two players from the girls’ team qualified for State as individuals. The State tournament begins in Sidney tomorrow and concludes Saturday.

The Laurel boys’ golf team won Divisionals on a rainy, windy and cold Friday at Fort Custer Golf Course in Hardin, shooting 308 and besting conference rival Billings Central by 19 strokes in the one-round shoot-out.
The soggy day also saw two members of the girls team qualify as individuals.
Elise Shovar took sixth and Keli Hodges took eighth. Lexi Harper missed the top 15 by one stroke, finishing in 16th place. Tierney Messmer of Sidney was medalist for the girls after firing a three-over 75.
Hodges said she had a poor front nine, and admitted “nothing was going right.” She came back with a strong back nine to finish eighth.
Shovar said she was pretty confident she had qualified, but said she was still “scoreboard watching.”
She knew the top 15 qualified and said she was counting all the scores that were better than hers each time the scoreboard was updated. She didn’t have to count past five.
Coach Jim O’Neil is thrilled by the performance of the girls’ team who finished third and came within a stroke of having three of the four players qualify.
“They put themselves in position to be all-state,” he said.
The Laurel boys won their first Divisional title since the 1998-99 season and took 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 15th place, which meant all players would have qualified as individuals if the team happened to finish outside the top two.
Coach O’Neil said, “That was a team goal this season.”
Liam Clancy of Billings Central took first for the boys with a one-under-par 71 and Paul O’Neil, who won the Hardin Invitational on Sept. 1, shot 73 to finish T-2. He fell to third after an arbitrary, but necessary, scorecard playoff.
O’Neil shot a one-under 35 on the front nine and held a one-shot lead over Clancy at the turn.
“I had two birdies and a bogey on the front and was one down on the back when Liam chipped in on 16.”
O’Neil went down two and they matched scores on the final two holes. He said he felt his back nine wasn’t too bad, considering the conditions.
“It was raining for the first few holes and then was cold and windy on the back nine,” he said.
Because O’Neil and Chase Morehouse of Sidney tied at 73, officials used a scorecard playoff format to determine second and third place.
“I had parred 18 and Chase birdied so he got second,” O’Neil said.
Cash Golden had a solid round, breaking 40 on both nines and posting a 77, good for solo fourth. Carson Hackmann and Ryan Kallem both broke 80, shooting 79 to take fifth and sixth, after another scorecard playoff. Kade Ewalt posted a 90 to take 15th.
Laurel hasn’t hoisted a Divisional or State championship trophy since the 1998-1999 season, and they are poised to succeed.
“I have confidence in our players and I feel good about where the team is at. If they play solid I’ll accept what happens,” Coach O’Neil said.
The team left for Sidney yesterday and had the luxury of waking up in Sidney to play their practice round today, rather than having a four or five hour bus ride that starts at 4 or 5 a.m.
Coach O’Neil said he is grateful for the high school’s willingness to help the team.
“The school has been very supportive in giving us the best chance to win. They asked ‘how can we help you succeed,’” he said.
Laurel is certainly a favorite to win state as a team for the first time since the 1998-99 season, and their Divisionals score was more than a dozen strokes lower than any team in the Western, Central or Eastern A.
Sidney Country Club is an par-72 that plays 6,901 yards from the men’s championship tees and has three par-three’s over 180 yards, with the longest playing 216 yards.
Coach O’Neil said the course isn’t tricky.
“Good shots are rewarded,” he said, adding “There is talk about setting it up difficult because of Ryggs,” but he doesn’t think that will happen.
O’Neil and Central’s Clancy are contenders for the individual title, but the frontrunner is certainly future Arizona State University Sun Devil, Ryggs Johnston. The Libby junior has been posting record-breaking scores since he was in junior high, and as a sophomore he was one of the most highly recruited golfers in the nation. Johnston won Class B State by a mile his freshman and sophomore years, shooting 68-63 at Pryor Creek, then 61-67 at Marias Valley in Shelby last year. He shot a nine-under-par 63 at Hamilton Golf Club last week to claim Western A Divisionals by 11 shots.
The State A tournament begins tomorrow morning and concludes on Saturday.

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