GREAT FALLS – Montana is an afterthought as far as high-level junior golf is concerned in the U.S., but there’s no denying the Treasure State features some high-level young talent.
The problem is, the odds are stacked against high school golfers who want to make it to the next level.
Former Great Falls CMR star Duncan Hollar knows it firsthand. The bona fides are there. Hollar finished second individually at the State AA tournament last fall behind only future San Diego State golfer Joey Moore. The Rustlers won their first AA team titles in 15 years, thanks in large part to Hollar’s effort and consistent play.
But college coaches didn’t come calling. A longstanding rule put in place by member schools of the Montana High School Association limits spectator viewing areas and prohibits non-players from being on the course during high school tournaments. That includes parents and college coaches. As a result, many college coaches and recruiters stay away from Montana, so Hollar had to take matters into his own hands.
“The college process is certainly a lot more difficult and a lot different than I thought it would be,” he said. “It’s tough coming from Montana where we only get to play for a couple months out of the year, and it’s hard for coaches to come watch us, so it’s more of, you got to reach out or you have to travel and send video and results. Playing collegiate golf has been a dream of mine since probably about seventh grade since I really started golfing.”
Despite the uphill climb, Hollar achieved his dream. He committed to NCAA Division I Utah State in April and will join the Aggies golf team this fall. But Hollar is one of the fortunate junior golfers in Montana. There are many others that have the talent, but lack the time and initiative to chase their dreams of playing college golf.
That’s why he hopes the MHSA rule is overturned someday to give more young golfers better opportunities for advancing in the sport.
“I certainly hope it changes someday, I would have liked to see it before I started high school obviously,” Hollar said. “With that rule, they’re missing such a big market. Golf courses have such a limited range of people that go there, but with all of those people coming to watch your kids, whether or not they golf, there’s money being circulated into the golf course, so it helps out, not only the people who play there and the golf course itself, it just helps for exposure and growing the game, which is really important.”
Recently the American Junior Golf Association scheduled its first-ever event in Montana over Labor Day weekend in Big Sky. It’s a direct response to the 40-year-old rule on the MHSA books and will serve as a showcase for young Montana talent where spectators and college coaches are encouraged to come watch.
Connor Mora is a senior at Great Falls High who dreams of playing golf in college, as well, and plans to play at the AJGA tournament later this summer. He also hopes the MHSA rule changes someday so that his exposure to college coaches will not be limited to the summer and will extend to the fall high school season.
“I think that it should be changed,” he said. “My parents don’t get to watch me go out and play golf, and from a recruiting perspective, if coaches got to go out and see you play during a tournament, it would be a lot different and it should be changed.”