BOZEMAN – The Class AA state golf tournament begins on Thursday at the Butte Country Club and all eyes are on the Bozeman Hawks. The girls team has dominated the past two team titles, winning in 2016 by 106 strokes and 89 strokes in 2017. This year they aren’t just shooting for a three-peat.
“Everyone is relying on my score again because we have to beat the state record this time. Like, that’s the other competition,” said Annika Danenhauer, a senior on Bozeman’s girls golf team.
That record is 641 total strokes set by the Hawks two years ago. But this girls team is stacked. They bring back defending state champion Laurel Ward and also Danenhauer, who has finished as the runner-up the past two seasons.
“We have some depth and so our team is always able to come out strong, even though there are other girls who might place in between us,” said Danenhauer. “But when you look at the top 15, we are there.”
That depth is rounded out by Cora Rosanova, who finished third in her most recent tournament, Maya Priebe and Sami Yates. But the biggest thing Bozeman needs to worry about is walking in and thinking it has the state title already wrapped up.
“I think we are competitive with each other enough that I know I can’t come out and be complacent, because there are a couple of girls on my team who are (gunning) for my spot,” said Danenhauer.
For the boys it’s been a different story. While the girls have won the past two state crowns, the boys have only won two in their entire history — in 1985 and 1997.
“It’s been a while. Last year it was definitely in our minds and kind of unfortunate to come up kind of short, but this year we have been putting in the work, and it’s been showing in all our tournaments,” said Hawks junior J.R. Small.
The boys placed fourth at state last year but are cruising with momentum, winning the Bozeman Invite last week. And this is a young, talented group, with Small, Jack Thorsen and the freshman-phenom Verge twins, Justus and Jordan.
“It’s awesome. I think it gives the state a little bit of who Bozeman really is and we are really fortunate to have those three on our team,” said Small. “It’s really cool, even for the next three years. Even when I’m gone they are still going to be in contention, and it’s not going to be easy for other teams to compete.”
At the Bozeman Invite Jordan Verge and Small topped the field tied for first with a combined score of 140 each. Justus Verge took fifth and Thorsen placed sixth.
But that competition doesn’t stop with ending the title drought for the first time in 21 years. The Bozeman boys’ biggest competition might be their counterparts, their girls team, which they hope motivates them to bring home their third state title.
“They’re stacked and they have a really good team, for sure, and they all work hard and it just shows. Yeah, there’s a little rivalry between the two of us. But we are going to go out and just try our best,” said Small.
The Class AA state tournament runs Thursday and Friday at the Butte Country Club.