Look out for the Whitefish High golf program this fall.
If a display put on by some of Whitefish's younger athletes at last Thursday's Flathead Junior Golf Championships is any indicator, the school should be a strong contender during the upcoming season.
Whitefish participants made a sweep of the upper-age division titles Thursday at Eagle Bend Golf Course. Leading the way was boys 16-17 winner Zac Wooten, who shot a sturdy 1-over 73 to claim top honors. Wooten's score was the lowest overall of the tournament.
In the boys 14-15 division, Derek Denning and Samuel Krause needed three playoff holes to settle the championship. Denning and Krause, both of Whitefish, carded identical scores of 75, but Foust netted the title with a short birdie putt on the third hole.
Wooten and Denning will both be sophomores, while Krause is just a freshman. It appears Whitefish High could be on the verge of a solid golf future.
"We're all going to be on the same team," Krause said.
A Whitefish athlete also won the girls 16-17 championship. Maresa Jenson shot an 81 for the best girls' score of the day.
The Flathead Junior Golf Championships, now in its third year, eclipsed a numbers record by attracting more than 80 participants. There were several out-of-state athletes, including one from as far away as Maryland.
The event included age divisions from 5-7 to 16-17. Younger athletes between the ages of 5 and 10 competed in a nine-hole round staged on the Lakeside Nine.
The boys 16-17 division was comprised of 15 entrants. Wooten, who played a consistent round, birdied the third and fifth holes for a strong front-nine showing.
He sank a short putt for par on the final hole to finish 1-over and win the division by three strokes. Bigfork's best finish came from 16-year-old Nathan Roessman, who shot a 78 to finish fourth. Had it not been for a rough stretch on the front nine, Roessman likely would have been in the title run.
Despite absorbing an eight on the fifth hole and a double bogey the next hole, Roessman rebounded nicely. He birdied the ninth hole and No. 18 for a strong finish.
Roessman, who played with Wooten, said he was impressed with the Whitefish athlete's consistency on Thursday.
"(Zac) was on fire," Roessman said. "His short game was very good and it seemed he didn't miss a putt. He made everything from six feet and in."
Wooten said he didn't have a title on his mind coming in. In fact, he didn't play too well at the same tournament last summer, he said. But on Thursday, all facets of his game were clicking.
"I felt very good about shooting a 73 this year," Wooten noted. "The greens were good."
In the boys 14-15 division, Denning seemed to have a comfortable lead heading into the final hole. However, he three-putted on 18, leaving Krause a way of hope. Krause made the most of it by sinking a putt that equaled him with Foust's 75.
In the playoff, both shot par on the first hole and birdied the second. But on the third playoff hole, Denning's drive landed next to the green and his ensuing chip shot was three feet from the cup. He knocked in a birdie putt and Krause's birdie putt from 15 lipped out to give Denning the title.
"I kind of felt like I had something to prove after three-putting on the 18th hole (and loosing the lead)," he said.
Added Wooten jokingly about Denning coming out on top against the freshman Krause: "It's always feels good beating Sam."
Bigfork's Chance Keller shot an 81 and Chris Richter finished with an 84. Richter played well on the back nine after carding a 45 on the front.
Robert Walters, Bigfork's other 16-17 representative, carded a 90.
In the boys 5-7 division, Bigfork's Jacob Welch won with a nine-hole score of 71. Reed Platke of Whitefish won the boys 8-10 division by shooting a 42.
Complete results from the Flathead Junior Golf Championships follow:
Jacob Welch 71, Andy Mills 76, Andy Russell 76, Jackson Wynne 90.
Taisha Bell 49, Maggie Crippen 69, Sara Keenan 76, Mackenna Gembala 88, Madison Fraley 90.
Reed Platke 42, Derek Golberg 49, Grant Raffel 55, Dillon Schulz 58, Jeff Dark 60, Wyatt Townson 71, Adam Durkee 72, Dillon Fraley 78, Steele Jochim 80, Haakon Sandhe 87.
Jackie Mee 96, Alexa Bell 96, Morgan Lee 100, Natalie Beard 111, Carson Harrison 141, Kelsie Crippen 147.
Clancy Melhoff 82, Ryan Colberg 82, Colin Gunstream 86, Eric Langton 86, Ben Larcombe 88, Alex Brown 96, Brett Corkey 100, Chad Gassaway 101, Kaleb Retz, Charlie Dixon 104, Chase Paylor 104, John Kolendich 105, Henry Dixon 111, Morgon Jellesed 113, Jason Dark 117, Derek Minemyer 125, Ben Sandry 126, Ronny Gallegos 132, Phil Sandry 137, Ryan Gembala 141.
Whitney McLaughlin 101, Chelsea Ray 102, Delbie Wilken 111.
William Foust 75, Samuel Krause 75, Derek Denning 75, Ethan Lee 78, Carter James 77, Logan Ward 77, Matt Larcombe 84, Ricky Langton 84, Jim Mee 86, David Neubauer 89, Casey Moen 91, Matthew Longfield 94, Tyler Hubbard 99, Ben Brown 102, Zach Dockter 102, Matthew Sewell 102, Matt Beard 103.
Maresa Jenson 81.
Zac Wooten 73, Cody Rowe 76, Jacob Richards 76, Nathan Roessman 78, Tyler Kuhn 79, Cody McBride 80, Matthew Krause 80, Chance Keller 81, Chris Richter 84, Brian Pfeifer 85, Ben Hillebroe 87, Robert Walters 90, Andrew Beck 98, Kevin Cravedi 98, Brad Dockter 112.