BILLINGS — Missoula Loyola senior Kylie Esh already had her second consecutive State B golf title in the bag on the back nine on a warm Wednesday at Eaglerock, and coach Mike Trudnowski said Esh was a little too “amped up” coming down the 18th fairway, the final hole of her high school career.
That’s perhaps why Esh hit her approach shot on No. 18 long, closed out the hole with a three-putt and fell just short of setting the all-class state tournament scoring record.
Esh admitted her putting wasn’t up to snuff throughout the tournament. Otherwise, there wasn’t much to complain about.
Esh, who carded a final-round 71 for a brilliant two-day total of 143, walked away with a more-than-comfortable eight-stroke win.
“I wish I wouldn’t have three-putted,” said a smiling Esh, who plans to play golf at the University of Montana. “I wish I wouldn’t have three-putted a lot of holes. I’m just lucky I hit the ball as well as I did.”
Per the Montana High School Association’s record book, Esh’s 143 tied the all-time scoring standard set by Loyola’s Maggie Crippen at the State B tournament at Eaglerock in 2012.
It also helped the Breakers win their first team state championship since 2015.
Esh had a lot of support: Loyola’s Katie Fagg placed second behind Esh with a two-day total of 155. Teammate Isadora Tomazeli also placed in the top 15.
“Kylie finished strong, and Katie was there pushing her in the final group,” Trudnowski said. “They never let up on each other.”
The Breakers won by 43 strokes over second-place Shelby. Three Forks, winners of the previous two team titles, placed third with a total score of 762.
It was a big day all around for Loyola, as Bucky Crippen shot a second-round 69 to pull away to win the boys crown.
Crippen came into the day trailing Manhattan’s Josh Neth by one stroke, but cleaned up his game on Day 2 — he had just one bogey as opposed to five on Tuesday — to win by eight shots.
Crippen did not use his driver in the final round, an adjustment he chose to make Tuesday night. It paid off. Crippen even scored an eagle on No. 5 by making a 25-foot putt.
As a subplot, the victory put Crippen in the same title-winning company as his three older sisters — Kelsie, the aforementioned Maggie and Sadie — who combined to win five individual championships between 2008-15.
“It’s pretty big,” Bucky Crippen said. “Kelsie’s a lot older than me, but I practiced with Sadie and Maggie quite a bit. It’s nice to have people to play with that are just as good. They pushed me pretty good when I was younger.”
“Sure, his goal was to be with his sisters and get that state championship, but that aside, when he goes out on the course he means business, and every single shot he takes care of,” Trudnowski said. “He just took care of business today.”
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Crippen finished with a two-day total of 142. Neth shot a final-round 79 and ultimately placed third with a 151. Colstrip’s Peter Brown shot a 76 on Wednesday to place second, one stroke ahead of Neth.
In the boys team race, Shelby held off Loyola by two strokes to win the program’s first championship since 1988.
Brock Whitted shot a final-round 74 for the Coyotes and finished with a two-round score of 157. Teammates Aaron White and Jarod Anderson also placed in the top 15, each with a total score of 171. T.J. Reynolds carded a 172.
“It just feels good. It gives me goose bumps,” White said of snapping that 30-year drought. “We grinded it out today and had people step up. It was pretty big for us.
“Brock was in it from the start. I had a good day (Tuesday). It’s always a tough field. We’re glad to get it done.”
Thompson Falls’ Dylan Beckman placed fourth on the boys side with a 155. Big Timber’s Blake Finn shot even par on Wednesday and closed the tournament with a 157, good enough to tie Whitted for fifth.
Other girls notables included Columbus’ Olivia Hess (90-85—175) and Bailey Johannes (93-87—180), who placed fourth and sixth, respectively. Abbey Aklestad and Skyler Martin were both in the top five for second-place Shelby.