By Mark Meyer
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING – Standing in a greenside bunker at the 18th hole and staring at perhaps one of the most important shots of his high school career, DeWitt senior Geoffry Croley calmly grabbed his sand wedge and helped seal his team’s MHSAA title in dramatic fashion.
Croley’s unlikely birdie – a one-hopper off the flagstick and into the cup – was one of several key title-savers for the Panthers, who edged Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 594-595, to win the Division 2 championship at Forest Akers East on Saturday afternoon.
Croley’s younger brother, freshman Joey, rolled in a par putt on his last hole (the 16th) and earned a big pat on the back from coach Dave Koenigsknecht.
“A lot of big shots down the stretch, because we knew it was going to be tight,” said Koenigsknecht, whose team finished seventh last year. “We didn’t get off to a great start, but the kids battled all day and hung on at the end.”
Senior Owen Beyer, who shot a medalist round of 5-under-par 67 on Friday, led the Panthers with a two-day total of 2-under-par 142. Geoffry Croley finished three shots back at 145, Joey Croley carded a 153 and junior Ian Helm finished at 155. Senior Mike Coscarelli counted a 79 Saturday and finished at 160 for the two days.
The MHSAA title was the third in six years for DeWitt, which also captured Division 2 championships in 2010 and 2011.
“Ian Helm, Mike Coscarelli and Joey Croley have really improved in the past couple of weeks,” Koenigsknecht said. “As they started to shoot some scores in the 70s, their confidence picked up and made us a much better team heading into regionals.”
Walking down the fairway at the par-3 18th hole, Geoffry Croley was hoping to get up and down in two shots from the bunker.
“I knew we were close (with Cranbrook Kingswood) and had a feeling it might come down to the last hole,” Croley said. “I picked my spot, the ball took one hop, hit the stick and the tears started falling faster than the ball could hit the hole. What a special way to end the season.”
Senior Dylan Deogun led runner-up Cranbrook Kingswood with a 3-under-par 141 while sophomore Devin Deogun shot 145. Sophomore Wyatt Fryckman (154) and senior Matt Jacobs (155) completed the scoring for the Cranes, who were the defending champions and top-ranked team in Division 2 entering the Final.
Junior Spencer Schab led third-place Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (603) with a 146 while senior Trevor Goslin carded a 144 (69-75) for fourth-place Dearborn Divine Child (605).
Hamilton senior Nick Carlson won his second individual Finals title by shooting an 8-under-par 64 to finish the tournament at 10-under-par 134.
“Yesterday (Friday) I didn’t have a whole lot right going for me, but today was the opposite,” said Carlson, who is headed to the University of Michigan. “I chipped in from 40 yards out on the 11th hole for birdie and made a 50-footer on the eighth hole, again for birdie. It was one of those days when a lot of very good things happened.
“If I didn’t hit a good drive or good approach, I was able to chip it close and save a shot here and there.”
Carlson won the Division 2 title as a freshman in 2012 and finished second the past two seasons, including last year at Forest Akers West.
“This last week of golf was the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” Carlson said. “I was loose, relaxed and really enjoying where I was at. On the last hole I just wanted to soak it all up and savor the moment.”
Hamilton coach Kevin Arnold has been watching Carlson play at Diamond Springs Golf Course in Hamilton since he was 5 years old.
“A real pleasure to coach and a fine young man,” Arnold said. “I didn’t do much for Nick other than to act as a sounding board for occasional advice. He’s worked long and hard to get to this point and I’m very happy for him. He deserves all the accolades because he’s worked hard to get to this point.”
PHOTOS: (Top) DeWitt’s Geoffry Croley watches his birdie chip on No. 18 on Saturday; it fell into the cup and helped decide the Division 2 title in the Panthers’ favor. (Middle) Hamilton’s Nick Carlson smiles after receiving his championship medal, the second of his career. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).