Moments before the top three finishers in the girls' 14-15 age bracket were to have their photo taken at the Drive, Chip & Putt local qualifier Thursday at Canyon River Golf Club, a small commotion broke out that confused third-place finisher Isadora Gomes Tomazeli.
Out of a crowd of parents Tomazeli's dad, Joao, a square man who looks like he'd be a heck of a rugby winger, came forth to exchange Isadora's hat with the one he was wearing.
He roughly placed it on his daughter's head before squaring the cap up nicely.
"Sponsorship. It helps pay for the trip," Joao exclaimed before the rest of the parents snapped photos with their phones of the three finalists.
With his wife, son, Joao Jr., and daughter in tow, Joao made the trip from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Missoula where Isadora was given a chance to further her burgeoning golf career. One of more than 100 golfers aged 7-15 gathered at Canyon River, Isadora performed well enough to make the cut in her flight and move on to a sub-regional event held Aug. 9 at the Golf Club at Hawks Prairie in Olympia, Wash.
Golfers were broken down by age group and then scored on how well they putted, chipped and drove the golf ball. The top three in each flight qualified for the sub regional, which could lead to a berth in the super regional event held at Chambers Bay -- the course that just hosted the U.S. Open. The ultimate goal is the chance of reaching the national competition at the famed Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
"It's really nice that the USGA, Augusta and PGA of America have teamed up for the first time to give these kids that chance," said Monte Koch, a golf professional who was on hand to help run the event.
Adolescent boys and girls -- most of whom were dressed in neon polos -- were all over the grounds near the Canyon River clubhouse as they shuffled from one event to another. Thursday marked the second consecutive year the course hosted the Drive, Putt & Chip competition and it gave young Isadora the opportunity to test her skills against competition that may become more familiar in the years to come.
A 1995 graduate of the University of Montana, Joao plans to relocate his family in the fall of 2016 from Brazil to Missoula where his wife can study mental health at his alma mater. It'll also create a chance for Joao Jr., to eat all the local ice cream he can and to catch all the foul balls he can get his hands on; he snagged one at the Osprey game Wednesday night, an event that could further fuel a potential switch from soccer to baseball.
But just as important, it will allow Isadora to play more competitive golf in the United States. With a cumulative score of 75, Tomazeli finished third behind local product Emily Garden (77) and Jenna Sand (89), who made the nearly 9-hour drive from Camrose, Alberta, with her family.
Tomazeli started strong with a 50-point showing on the putting green, which consisted of three putts from three different distances into a bull's-eye like-target.
But the next discipline didn't go as planned.
"Chip was terrible," said Tomazeli, who started to take golf seriously a little more than a year ago and can now be found on the course almost every day.
She rebounded in the driving portion with a score of 20. Her second drive cut down the middle of the narrow landing space and rolled just past the 180-yard mark.
Isadora, how were you able to recover from your performance on the chipping green?
"Poker face," the young Brazilian says.
It's a talent she says she learned watching her favorite golfer, Rory McIlroy, on the television with father.
"Good shots," she said with a smile before the emotion drains from her face. "Bad shots," as her face again becomes devoid of any emotion behind her horn-rimmed glasses.
"Always, you have to hide your emotion. The first shot I was dying inside," she said, referencing her first drive that sliced out of bounds. "But ... "
The family has a few weeks of vacation remaining, during which time Joao hopes to take them floating down the Clark Fork River, exploring Glacier National Park and hiking up Mt. Sentinel as they try to gain a grasp of the town's culture before making the move. The younger Jaoa was excited about the opportunity to get ice cream at the Big Dipper, while Isadora was looking forward to the opportunity to go to a local shooting range.
While they are in town, they'll scout the areas they will eventually call home. Joao has already determined Joao Jr., will attend Hellgate Elementary, while Isadora will enroll at Hellgate High School. Once there, she will continue improving her game with an eye toward the future.
"I want to play for college and I would like to go pro," Isadora said. "Be the next Rory McIlroy."