Caleb Stetzner’s summer golf tour brought him to Polson, Montana, this week as he played in the Montana State Junior Championship at Polson Bay Golf Course.
Stetzner began his week Tuesday, as he fired off an impressive 5-under round of 67. The score was very low, but not quite low enough to qualify Stetzner for the Callaway World Golf Championships at Torrey Pines. Stetzner caught an unlucky break in the situation, as only the first day matters towards Callaway qualifying.
The player who will represent Montana at the championship, Danny Friez, followed up his qualifying score of 65 with a second-day 81. Stetzner will be an alternate for the event that he participated in last season.
The defending State-A Champion was able to post the low score thanks to some stellar play off the teebox, which boosted his overall confidence.
“If I’m hitting fairways with my driver, that’s what sets my game off,” Stetzner said. “I became really confident with my irons, and I was hitting a lot of greens, which usually gives me confidence in my putter.”
The confidence with the putter translates into makes early in the round, but Stetzner, who used to have a bit of a short temper, showed maturity and poise, knowing that things would quickly turn his way.
“At the start of the round I wasn’t making a lot of putts, so I just tried to stay patient the whole round,” he said. “I had a bogey early in the first round, but stayed calm and just wanted to get back to even before the nine was over.
“I ended up making three really easy birdies on my front nine, and the rest of the first round was really steady. I didn’t force anything at all.”
The first round put him in a good position to win his age group Wednesday, but windy conditions to begin the day made things a little troubling for all the competitors.
“The start of the second round the wind was pretty gusty, but I still birdied my second hole,” Stetzner said. “On the third hole I got a quadruple bogey, but, again, I just told myself to stay patient because I had a lot of holes left. I knew if I could get it back to even par it would be a good score for this course and the conditions.”
Patience is a trait that all good golfers must have if they want to survive poor holes, and Stetzner’s patience paid off, as he would rally back to below his target of 72, finishing the second round with a 1-under 71.
The two-day total of 138 gave Stetzner medalist honors for his age group. It also qualified him for the Junior America’s Cup and the Montana-Alberta Cup, where he will represent the entire state of Montana.
It is the second consecutive year that Stetzner has qualified for the two tournaments, and he says that he enjoys playing the match play style of the Montana-Alberta Cup and that it is an honor to represent his state.
“It means a lot to get the chance to showcase what our state has to offer, even with the short golfing season that we have,” Stetzner said. “That we can go out and compete with other states that can golf year round means a lot.”
Stetzner knows many of his teammates well, and believes that they can accomplish some special things this summer.
“It’s an honor to be a part of Team Montana,” Stetzner said. “It’s great to be a part of the team and we’re hoping to bring back a Junior America’s Cup championship.”