Bozeman Golf Justus Verge

Bozeman’s Justus Verge hits out of a bunker during the Bozeman Invitational on Sept. 26 at Valley View Golf Club.

Justus Verge anticipates he’ll likely choke up a few times at the state tournament.

Throughout the season, he and his brother, Jordan, have tried to ignore what’s coming. But now it’s too imminent to completely block out.

The top two finishers among boys at the Class AA tournament a year ago will play their final rounds for Bozeman on Monday and Tuesday at this year’s state tournament even though they’re only sophomores.

They’re set to move to Gallatin High in Bozeman when it opens next year.

“I’ve ignored it pretty well up until the last week. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit,” Justus said. “It’s going to be sad. I still look forward to it. I still love playing golf.”

Bozeman golf Jordan Verge

Bozeman's Jordan Verge follows through on a shot during the Bozeman Invitational on Sept. 26 at Valley View Golf Club.

Both the Hawks boys and girls won the state title a year ago. Both teams won every tournament they’ve played in this season. The girls are seeking their fourth straight title while the boys are hoping to repeat last season’s triumph.

Both enter this year’s state tournament at Meadowlark Country Club in Great Falls among favorites. In addition to the Verges, Bozeman is led by boys senior captain J.R. Small, who finished fourth at state last year, and girls senior captain Cora Rosanova, who last season came in fifth at state.

In order to develop the success they’ve experienced, head coach Matt Clark has stressed a simple approach. He wants the teams to forget about any outside circumstances. But the situation the Verges are in is among the first ripple effects of the opening of Gallatin High.

BHS Golf Gallatin Valley Invitational

Bozeman High senior Cora Rosanova plays in the No. 1 spot in the girls' tournament during the Gallatin Valley Invitational on Sept. 17 at Valley View Golf Club.

Though Justus said he’ll still play in tournaments with his Bozeman teammates, it won’t be the same playing on different teams.

“I definitely want to end on a good one,” Jordan said, “but all I can expect is just playing my best. That’s what my goal will be.”

Administration previously sent out surveys to coaches asking for their preferences of which school they’d like to coach, but Clark and assistant coach Connor Hausauer agreed it would be best not to reveal that information to the team until after the season. Clark estimates coaches won’t know where they’ll end up for sure until later this month.

Wherever he is, Clark said his coaching style won’t change. That’s what’s worked for Bozeman, and he hopes it will translate into a positive state tournament showing.

“Don’t make it bigger than it is,” Clark said of the team’s approach. “We’re just playing golf. It’s a game they absolutely love. They just love to play golf. We’re just going to really emphasize the process.”

Bozeman Golf J.R. Small

Bozeman’s J.R. Small watches his ball fly during the Bozeman Invitational on Sept. 26 at Valley View Golf Club.

A key reason for the Verge’s success, the coach highlighted, is the time they invest throughout the year to work on their game. They competed in several tournaments during the summer to gear up for the fall season and played often at Valley View Golf Club, their home course.

Throughout the season, regardless of first-place team finish after first-place team finish, the Hawks diligently discussed how they can improve after each tournament and then practiced those areas in the following days. They’ve prioritized peaking at the end of the year, and they’ll find out in Great Falls if they accomplished that.

Now, though, isn’t the time to change anything. The Hawks are more focused on refining their games and savoring their time together with the end of the season nearing.

It’s an opportunity for Rosanova and Small — who Clark said are “individuals that you can build a program around, and we did just that” — to enjoy their last high school tournaments. It’s an opportunity for Justus and Jordan Verge to close out their Bozeman careers victorious.

And it’s an opportunity, before the Bozeman-Gallatin rivalry begins, to cap the year with eight titles for each team in eight tournaments.

“It’s a really tight group,” Clark said. “We want to go out and do the best we can together. Have one more great experience together before the school split.”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.