GREAT FALLS – Montana’s growing golf community will be served by two leaders this year, and both will be needed to oversee the busiest tournament schedule in state history.
Jim Opitz of Helena is completing his 22nd year as executive director of the Montana State Golf Association, an organization that serves nearly 20,000 members, as well as an estimated 70,000 other men, women and children who play golf at least Occasionally in the Treasure State. Opitz is retiring after this busy summer season, and he will be succeeded by Helena’s native Nick Dietzen.
Both men shared leadership roles on Sunday, April 24, when the MSGA board of directors met in Bozeman. It was the first time in more than two years that the board was able to meet in person because of the COVID-19 issue.
Opitz, a long-time Coach and Athletic director in the Helena public school system, called the hiring of Dietzen “an enlighted decision.” He said Dietzen, with a wide background in golf, public relations and fundraising, “will bring a fresh vision to the MSGA. Working with Nick in the past few months, it is clear he has a vision for the MSGA that will grow and enhance our presence with the golfing community in Montana. ”
The MSGA-sponsored golf schedule opens with the relatively new State Four-Ball Tournament, to be played May 21-22 at Old Works Golf Course in Anaconda.
The State Junior Tournament will be played June 20-21 at Laurel Golf Club. The meet will be preceded by five district junior tourneys earlier in June, all run by MSGA volunteers.
July will be extremely busy for state golfers as well as MSGA staff. The Women’s State Amateur – which also includes the State Seniors and the State Mid-Amateur divisions – will be played July 14-18 at Lake Hills Golf Course in Billings.
The Men’s State Amateur – including Senior and Super Senior divisions – will be contested July 28-30 at Riverside Country Club in Bozeman.
Between those state events will be the Girls Junior America’s Cup Tournament set for July 24-28 at the Green Meadow Country Club in Helena. It will bring together 18 four-person female teams from across the western United States, plus representatives from Mexico and western Canada.
The schedule continues in August with the Montana State Seniors Tournament, to be played Aug. 2-4 at three courses in the Flathead Valley. The largest golf event in Montana with an expected entry of more than 320 men, the tourney will be running for the first time by the MSGA.
The former Montana State Senior Golf Association merged with the MSGA in late 2021. The former Women’s Association previously merged with the MSGA about three years ago, so all Montana Golfers are under the same umbrella for the first time.
“The Merger with the MSSGA was accomplished about as smoothly as we could have planned,” Opitz said. “This accomplishes one of our long-standing goals to bring all of us together.”
Dietzen said the merging of all golf associations established a solid platform for the upcoming busy season.
“The 2022 season marks the first time in which the MSGA represents all segments of the golfing population under one roof… it is without question the most complete tournament schedule in MSGA history,” he said.
The MSGA schedule concludes on Aug. 11-13 with the State Men’s Mid-Amateur tour, to be played at Marias Valley Golf Club in Shelby.
Junior matches for the Montana-Alberta Cup are on hold, pending approval by Canadian officials.
The board also heard annual reports from more than a dozen committees, and as usual, junior golf was a main topic.
The MSGA annually funds several aspects of junior golf, including K-8 junior player development through the state’s schools; the extensive system of Qualifying players for the State Junior Tournament; the Scholarship program for graduating high school seniors; and competition for the more accomplished boys and girls in Junior America’s Cup events.
In board action relating to junior golf, funding for K-8 programs increased from $ 10,000 to $ 15,000; adult tournament fees were raised $ 25, with $ 5 going toward the Girls Junior America’s Cup sponsorship; and Scholarships were approved for $ 10,000.
Three new members of the MSGA Hall of Fame were selected.
Bill Dunn of Missoula and Jo Smith of Helena earned their way into the hall in the Players Division after each won their third state Championship. Longtime Billings professional Bob Eames was recognized in the Associates Division for his contributions to state golf. All will be inducted this summer.
More information about the MSGA and its programs, along with entry forms for 2022 tournaments, are available at msga.org.