BHS Golf Gallatin Valley Invitational (copy)

Bozeman's Justus Verge lines up a shot during the Gallatin Valley Invitational earlier this season at Valley View Golf Club.

As Jordan Verge was finishing his round, a large tree snapped and fell down in front of the green.

His brother, Justus Verge, compared Monday’s winds to a tropical storm in his old home state of Florida.

Bozeman head coach Matt Clark said scores at the first day of the Class AA tournament reflected the winds he estimated to be 35-45 mph winds with gusts even higher. But the Verge brothers still found ways to excel.

Justus led the Class AA boys field at 1-under 71 and Jordan was second with 3-over 74 after the first day of the state tournament at Meadowlark Country Club in Great Falls. They paced first-place Bozeman to 309 strokes, 37 ahead of Missoula Sentinel in second.

Cooper Knarr leads the Hawks girls in fourth with 85. Bozeman’s 362 strokes puts the team in second, six strokes behind Butte and four ahead of Helena.

“The conditions were unbelievable,” Clark said. “In all my years of coaching golf, I’ve never experienced wind like I did today.”

At times, golfers had to turn away from the wind because dirt and other debris hit them in the face. At other times, they had to back away from shots and wait for the wind to calm down.

The end of the day, Clark said, was the worst. It became tougher to gauge distances. He tells his players to pick one club higher than they normally would for each 10 mph of wind.

Facing 50 mph gusts, 150 yards seemingly became 200.

BHS Golf Gallatin Valley Invitational (copy)

Bozeman’s Justus Verge plays a shot during the Gallatin Valley Invitational earlier this season at Valley View Golf Club.

But as Clark reminded the Hawks, everyone was dealing with these conditions. Clark emphasized persistence as he has all season.

“You’re going to have some bad holes when the conditions are that challenging,” Clark said. “Just continue to grind and be patient. Don’t ever quit.”

Justus, the returning state champion, said he practices in high winds for moments like this. While trying to hit low shots to stay out of the wind, he was happy with the number of fairways he hit on what he called the hardest course in Montana.

“It was insane,” Justus said. “In conditions like today, you were going to miss a lot of greens. We really worked on our chipping and putting knowing it’ll come through when you need it most. But our iron game and putting and chipping was a big part today.”

Bozeman’s J.R. Small and Ramey Lloyd were tied for fifth with 82s while Daniel Loomis was tied for 19th with 87. Blake Brock led Belgrade while tied for 10th at 85 as the Panthers boys were tied for sixth with 362.

Some players didn’t handle the conditions well, Justus noticed. That’s why he wants his teammates and himself to remain focused in their pursuit of a state title repeat because they could just as easily struggle during the second and final day Tuesday.

“The Hawks have a lot of mental toughness,” Justus said. “We’ve just got to go out and play our games. We’re ready for whatever weather that comes our way. We’re just trying to keep the big numbers off the scorecard.”

Knarr said her round wasn’t affected too much until the last five holes. On No. 12, a roughly 150-yard par 3 that was one of her last holes of the day, Knarr normally would’ve hit a 7 iron. She hit a 7 wood, her 190-yard club, instead. To her it seemed “unfathomable” it wouldn’t go over the green.

She hit the shot too high, it caught in a gust of wind, and it finished 50 yards short of the green. Then trying to make sure she didn’t hit too short, she chipped over the green. After putting three times, she finished with triple bogey.

“Once the wind picked up, it was crazy,” Knarr said. “I’ve never had to play in anything like that, but it was a good challenge.”

BHS Golf Gallatin Valley Invitational (copy)

Bozeman junior Cooper Knarr hits a shot during the Gallatin Valley Invitational earlier this season at Valley View Golf Club.

Bozeman’s Sami Yates is tied for eighth with 89. Cora Rosanova, with 90, is tied for 11th. Franchi Ceartin is in a tie for 20th with 98. And Halle Vandersloot is tied for 23rd with 99.

As the Bozeman girls go for their fourth straight state championship, Knarr remained confident in her team. She said the Hawks, who won all of their tournaments during the regular season, will analyze what they need to improve on and will feel more comfortable.

More favorable weather would help too.

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Bozeman’s Cooper Knarr swings during the Bozeman Invitational earlier this season at Valley View Golf Club.

Clark cited multiple times when the Hawks fell behind after the first day of a tournament and then won it. He’s confident going into Tuesday because of their experience in these situations.

Bozeman’s standard is to play better after the first day, no matter how that initial round went. And the Hawks usually rise to that challenge, Clark said.

“It’s going to be a super competitive day tomorrow,” Clark said. “They’re super resilient. I don’t know what it is about Day 2, but they focus up and put up good numbers. So I’m extremely confident in the position we’re at.”

Colton Pool can be reached at or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.