BUTTE–It’s been a long time since an Anacondan won a state amateur golf title–so long that Caleb Stetzner had thought it had never been done.
“I honestly didn’t know anybody won from Anaconda,” he said. “So it was kinda cool figuring out that I was the first one from Anaconda since–I think they said–1929.”
That was the last time somebody from the Smelter City had won a State Am title. But after 88 years, Caleb Stetzner delivered, and did so under heavy pressure.
“I tried not to think about [the pressure] too much,” he said. “It crept back in but, I don’t know–I just tried to star patient and just think positive.”
Stetzner, a golfer at MSU-Billings, led Billings natives Joey Moore and Sean Benson by just one stroke as he teed off with two holes to play on Championship Saturday, just one mistake from letting the trophy slip away.
“It was kinda tough because I was hitting greens,” Stetzner explained. “But I wasn’t hitting it like that close and, then, Joey was–13, he birdied–and then, 14 and 15 he put [the ball] to probably inside 10 feet [of the hole] both times, and he had the chance to tie or take the lead. So, I was getting a little nervous right there.”
But the nerves didn’t show. Instead, Moore would find the water on 17, leaving Stetzner one stroke up on Benson as he took the box on 18. He took care of business with a title-clinching birdie on the final hole–a surprising display of mental toughness from a kid who is only going to be a sophomore in Billings this fall.
“Probably, my patience [won me the title],” he said. “I never really got ahead of myself at any point in time during the week.”
Stetzner was the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year in the 2016-17 season, but is only getting better. Right now, he believes he is playing the best golf of his life.
“Right now, [my game] is probably at it’s peak,” he said. “Because I haven’t shot over par in a while, but we’ll just see how it ends up.”
Stetzner was unable to qualify for the U.S. Amateur tournament this week, but is entering his second collegiate season with a quiet confidence that rivals his accolades.