RICHLAND — Hank Livingston is a prime example of how fickle a golf course can be and why it is important not to give up.
The Gull Lake sophomore started last year’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Golf Championship carding an 11 on the first hole of the second round.
“He’s my No. 2 and makes an 11,” coach T.R. Walters said, shaking his head.
But Livingston shook it off and ended with a 79 for the round.
“He literally birdied the next two holes,” Walters said. “Flint Powers coach said to me, did you see what happened to your No. 2?
“I said, yeah, I was in the tall stuff with him.”
The Powers coach specified on the green.
“I was like, what?” Walters said. “He literally whiffed a putt that was two or three inches.”
Walters said he could not believe it. “(Livingston) said, ‘Coach, I just whiffed a putt for 10,” Walters said. “He goes, ‘I reached over to tap it in and I just bounced my club over it.’”
Neither Walters nor Livingston panicked.
“The way he said it to me, I was like, ‘This kid is absolutely fine.’ Then he birdied his last two holes,” Walters recalled. “You throw an 11 in as a freshman, and you don’t just quit. That’s a pretty good sign.”
It was a great sign.
The Blue Devils finished runner-up to Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice at the Final with Livingston tied for 18th individually with a 157 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State.
Things may be a bit tougher this year with the graduation of Bryce Wheeler, who won the medalist honor that weekend and was named Michigan’s Mr. Golf last spring.
However, the team is off to another successful start this season, winning the Greater Kalamazoo Tournament and the Coldwater Invitational.
Will Beardsley, who was part of a Division 2 championship in the fall with Gull Lake’s boys soccer team, said with Wheeler gone, everyone needs raise their games this year.
“Consistency is a big thing for us this year,” he said. “As long as everyone can play consistently and we all play as a team and have each other’s backs. If someone isn’t playing well one day, another guy can step up.
“Last year was a lot of a one-man show. This year, we’re definitely more balanced. Everyone’s contributing more this year rather than just one guy going 4-under.”
As the lone senior on the team, Beardsley, nicknamed “Will the Thrill” by his coach, said he feels like the “old man.”
“I see my role as having the experience,” he said. “If there are questions about rulings, I’ve had a couple more years experience, so I can usually answer those.
“I can tell them what a match day will look like and what we’re going to do on the range, what we’re going to do on the putting green, the ins and outs of what we do off the course.”
Beardsley got hooked on golf at age 5 from his grandfather, Bud Baldwin, who coached golf at Portage Northern High School.
Another Blue Devil with a bit of golf history is sophomore Chase Kosin, who is the great grandson of Letha and Darl Scott who started Gull Lakeview Golf Course in Richland in 1962.
Gull Lake does most of its practicing at the course, but Bedford Valley’s North Course is the team’s home course.
“Chase cracks me up,” Walters said. “I see so much of his grandpa in him. If there’s a piece of trash on the golf course, it goes in his golf bag.
“He’s an outstanding kid. He just gets better and better. His uncle (Casey Scott) played one PGA Tour, the Buick Open.”
Livingston also has a bit of golfing history. His uncle, Tom Harding, who played golf at Michigan State University, is in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
Another returning golfer is junior Ben Szabo.
“Our No. 3 last year, he had an outstanding fall and played a bunch of junior tournaments,” Walters said. “He started playing significantly better golf. He’s also one of those kids who absolutely loves being on the golf course all the time.”
Walters is getting some help from an unexpected source. Junior Beau Carr, who was Plainwell’s No. 1 golfer last season, moved into the district.
“He’s amazing,” Beardsley said of Carr. “He’s fun to be around, a great player, hopefully will fill that missing spot that we lost this year.”
Carr also has some state tournament experience. As a freshman in 2021, he was on the Plainwell team that advanced to the LPD2 Final and finished 18th.
“Me and four seniors,” he said. “Once they graduated, the next year was a lot tougher.”
He added it was the first time that “Plainwell made it to state in 17 years. It was a big accomplishment for us.”
Walters, who teaches social studies in the middle school, is a Gull Lake grad whose main sport was baseball.
He did not take up golf until he suffered a knee injury playing basketball at Kellogg Community College.
“One of the first times playing golf was actually at Ballybunion Golf Course (in County Kerry,) Ireland,” he said. “I was over there playing basketball in a tournament and played Ballybunion and thought it was kind of fun.”
Once Walters found out he had the eye-hand coordination for golf, he was hooked.
He has worked the last 24 years at Bedford Valley Golf Course in Battle Creek and plays every day he can.
“I got to the point where I could qualify to play the Michigan Open and a few events like that … before kids,” he added.
Carr summed up the feelings of many golfers when he said, “It’s a challenge. You’re never going to figure it out.
“There’s one day you’re going to play great and the next day you feel like you haven’t hit a golf ball in two weeks. That sucks, but it’s all a part of the ride.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Gull Lake’s Ben Szabo tees off during last season’s LPD2 Final at The Meadows at Grand Valley State. (Middle) From left: Gull Lake boys golf coach T.R. Walters, Will Beardsley and Beau Carr. (Below) Beardsley works on his short game during a practice this spring. (Top photo by High School Sports Scene. All other photos by Pam Shebest.)