HARRIS – The Houghton High School boys golf team cruised to a repeat of its 2022 MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 championship Wednesday, while a newcomer “came out of nowhere” to win the individual medalist honor.
The Gremlins took the top spot in the 12-team tournament by six strokes over runner-up Sault Ste. Marie, with Marquette, Calumet, and Negaunee in a three-way tie for third place. The Gremlins had a score of 323, the Blue Devils were second with 329, with the next three in that logjam at 331.
It was a remarkable accomplishment for the Gremlins, who had to deal with heavy snow on the ground deep into May this spring.
“It feels great,” Houghton senior Cam Markham said. “Amazing. Two years in a row that we've done this. It's a huge accomplishment. Just practicing when you can, even it's in the gym, hitting balls into nets. Getting better when you can. There's simulators at some local places around town, so we'll go to those, too, when there's snow on the ground.”
Individually, Negaunee sophomore Holden Meyer shot 75 on the challenging Sweetgrass Golf Course in northern Menominee County to take an unlikely medalist spot.
“I feel like I'm out of this world right now, I'm not gonna lie,” he said. “The course is in good shape, everything is really nice. I didn't think this was going to happen on any course. I played basically the round of my life.”
So, how did Meyer do it?
“I kept the ball on the fairway all day,” Meyer said. “The sand traps are really hard here, so I tried to stay out of that. I only hit one of them all day, so that was a really big help.”
He held on by one stroke when Marquette senior Brock Taylor missed a birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have forced a playoff round.
“Early on in the day, I was playing OK, but then I had a couple of hiccups,” Taylor said. “I was able to bring it back together at the end. But, I missed it by just that much.
“I've kind of struggled, so I'm happy with the way I played today. Our team has been rock-solid all year long. But for me, man, couple of missed putts, couple of dumb decisions, and that was the difference."
Houghton junior Marino Pisani and freshman teammate Jack Sayen finished tied for fourth place after shooting rounds of 80.
In fact, there were a total of seven golfers who finished at 80, also including Kaleb Chiplewski (Marquette), Danny Loukus (Calumet), Odin Medrick (Sault Ste. Marie), Cooper Pigeon (Iron Mountain) and Nicklas Duran (Kingsford).
Markham was in contention until the bottom dropped out late in the round. He settled for a 19th-place finish after shooting an 82.
“I couldn't pull through at the end, just really struggled on those last four holes.” said Markham, who's main sport is hockey – he was named Mr. Hockey as the state's top high school player in March.
Beyond that seven-way tie for fourth place at 80, there was another eight-way tie for eleventh place at 81. That's 15 golfers with virtually the same score.
Junior Shane Wallin led Escanaba, finishing with an 81.
“It wasn't bad,” Wallin said. “A couple of three-putts, but it went well. On No. 18, I hit a 4-iron and missed an eagle putt but got a birdie. So that was good.
“We didn't do horrible. I wish we would've won a couple of the other tournaments that we went to. They were really close with Marquette. But we had a good season.”
Westwood sophomore Tanner Annala was able to avoid that 15-golfer logjam at 80 and 81 by finishing his round with a 79, good for third place overall.
There were some moral victories, too. Take Gladstone senior Austin Bagwell, who played baseball for the last three seasons and chose golf this time. While he finished 55th out of the 61 golfers on the course Wednesday, he said it went well.
“I think we all had fun,” Bagwell said. “I parred my first-ever hole at Sweetgrass, so that was pretty cool. Everything went downhill from there.”
One of the smallest schools in Division 1, Baraga, ended up in eighth place with a 349 as a team score. The co-op with L'Anse High School puts the Vikings over the 264-student cutoff that divides Division 1 and Division 2.
“I can play with a lot of these kids,” said Baraga junior Cage Osterman, who was among those tied for 11th with an 81. “A lot of them are really good, too. I felt good, I just missed a couple of shots. My driving was good. I only missed two fairways today. I just couldn't putt. The short game was not there today.”
PHOTOS (Top) Houghton’s Marino Pisani lines up a putt during his round Wednesday at Sweetgrass. (Middle) Negaunee’s Holden Meyer. (Below) Marquette’s Brock Taylor follows a drive. (Photos by Jack Hall.)