BUTTE -- If Whitefish golfer Cameron Kahle never has to play another playoff at a golf tournament, well, let’s just say that’s the goal after the past couple of years have been a little bit stressful, nerve-racking even.
That’s because Kahle, a senior, went three playoff holes deep last fall en route to winning the Class A state golf invitational, and, fast forward to Friday afternoon at the Butte Country Club, how about another playoff, this time against a teammate? And what a thrilling finish it was.
Kahle defeated Billy Smith, a sophomore transfer from Texas, on the first hole of the playoff, earning par on the par-4 16th. Smith carded a bogey for the runner-up finish.
It was an extra hole that neither golfer actually expected to play, but once the scores were tallied each had matching 146s by their names.
“Not a clue. We didn't know that we had to go to a playoff until about 20 minutes after we finished. It was interesting. Being able to get back into this playoff mentality is fun, I don't really like it -- of course you have to compete under pressure, but it's not something I like to do against my teammate," said Kahle. "Billy, it's his first year at Whitefish and he's done an outstanding job. He's upcoming. He's one of the better players I've ever seen. He has a great game, great mind, and if he sticks to it he's going to be a great golfer.”
“We thought we were going to kind of go out as the co-champions and walk out of here, but it was fun," said Smith, who noted the Bulldog duo hoped it could share the title and avoid the playoff, though Montana High School Association rules call for a champion to be crowned. "He had last year going into that playoff, so I knew going into it that it was going to be hard. It wasn’t that bad.”
Experience certainly played a factor for Kahle, who remained calm following an admitted “less than ideal” first shot off the tee box. But he said the playoff mindset is simple.
“You can’t lose. That’s not an option. Whatever I have to do to come out on top, I’m going to do it," he said. "Thankfully enough I had a good lie from the middle of the fairway, some 45 yards, and the short game is something I’ve practiced a little bit, so I was able to stick it close.”
Making the moment more bittersweet was the fact Whitefish golf coach Bill Kahle, Cameron’s father, will step down as coach of the Bulldogs after watching his son win back-to-back titles and Whitefish capture the team trophy.
“This is something that I don’t think you could have written this up. The team camaraderie of both our boys and girls teams this year was something that was really, really special. They fed off each other, they played well," said Bill Kahle. "My seniors, it was a sad deal saying goodbye to everyone (Thursday night), but very, very bright future for all of them. The golf team in Whitefish is going to look great for a long time.”
Next fall will be Smith's to lead, while Cameron Kahle looks to the future, hopefully with the sport still in the forefront.
"I'm excited to see what's next in my life," he said. "I'm going to keep playing golf, hopefully. I've been talking to a couple of schools, still considering my options. Whatever happens, happens. I'll be happy with anything."