Montana pair shine on cold, windy Day 1 at Southwestern

Brentley Romine
·3 min read

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. – With temperatures in the 40s and winds howling in the 20s, players bundled up for Monday’s opening round of the Southwestern Invitational.

Well, everyone but San Diego State’s Joey Moore. The junior from Billings, Montana, braved the elements in shorts as he shot even-par 72, which was good for T-6 on a tough day at North Ranch Country Club.

“I did have rain pants on for a few holes this morning,” Moore admitted, “but it felt pretty good in the sun.”

The native Montanan is accustomed to brutal weather conditions. One time during his junior year of high school, Moore played a tournament at Jack Nicklaus-designed Old Works Golf Club in Anaconda, Montana, where it was snowy, sleety, windy and at times even sunny.

“We got all four seasons in one day,” said Moore, who shot 76, the best score of the day by three shots, and won.

Arizona State sophomore Ryggs Johnston can relate. He also is from Montana, though he hails from the northwest town of Libby. Like Moore, who Johnston has known since middle school, Johnston has played a few of those snowy, hail-dropping, bone-chilling rounds.

“But it’s been a while and it’s never fun to play in it anyways, even if you’re used to it,” Johnston said. “I’ve definitely gotten more susceptible since I’ve been in college.”

Johnston, who was smart enough to pack some mittens, was one shot better than his fellow statesman on Monday, carding a 1-under 70. Projected to be a key contributor for a national title contender, Johnston was one of two Sun Devils under par, joining David Puig (70), who was among three players tied for the individual lead.

Arizona State, which was T-2 but 17 shots behind Pepperdine at last year’s Southwestern, shot the round of the day as a team, a 4-over 292, one better than SMU.

“We still remember that and we talked about it last night,” Johnston said. “We want to come here and make a statement and show that we can beat them. To have them beat us by so much last year, we want a little revenge I guess.”

(The host Waves were 20 over after Day 1 in their title defense.)

Moore was low Aztec by a shot on Monday, making a tough downhill and downwind 15-footer for birdie on the third hole after opening with back-to-back bogeys. He also drained a 40-footer on the par-4 16th.

Not bad for a player who didn’t make the lineup last season and played in just one event as an individual after logging seven starts as a freshman. Moore blames some of his poor play on injuries, including a left-ankle injury suffered while swimming in Cabo last year.

Now healed, Moore is hoping to rebound this spring. He won a four-for-one playoff last Thursday to grab the final spot in the lineup for San Diego State’s spring opener. He hit 15 greens and chipped in the last hole to shoot 70 at Barona Creek in San Diego.

“We know he has the talent and potential, and he put in a lot of hard work in the fall and over the winter break,” said San Diego State head coach Ryan Donovan, whose team didn’t count anything worse than bogey and sits third at 6 over. “He’s matured, just like any college kid, and he’s hungry. He wasn’t enjoying sitting on the bench, so I think he was hungry and went out and put up a good qualifying round to earn the last spot, and of course he put up a great round today.”

Added Moore: “This proves a lot to myself.”