The Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Golf Tournament might not be until October, but there probably will be many events before then that feel the same for Rochester Adams and Rochester High.
That’s because whether it’s at invitationals, dual matches or league tournaments, whenever they are competing at the same event, it will likely be more than a battle of the best teams in Rochester or Oakland County.
It could very well be a contest between the two best teams in the state that reside roughly three miles from one another.
“It’s nice to be battle-tested,” Adams coach Jeff Kutschman said. “We see Rochester this year between duals and tournaments probably six or seven times.”
Adams enters this year as the reigning LPD1 champion after a resounding triumph at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley a year ago.
The Highlanders captured their first Finals championship by finishing 47 strokes ahead of runner-up Brighton, and Adams might be even more potent this year. The only graduate off of that team was Grace Wang, so Adams is in a great spot to repeat with nine of 11 players back.
Laura Liu, Katie Fodale and Olivia Dance will be the senior leaders, with junior Alexa Camargo and sophomore Hannah Wang also back after playing at the Final last season.
“The mindset for the girls is just like it was last year, where it was one day at a time and one shot at a time,” Kutschman said. “We tried not to let anything get too big in front of us. Just go out and play golf. Just have a good time and focus on what you’re doing at the time.”
A traditional power that went through some hard times after winning its last Division 1 championship in 2016, Rochester seems to be back on the upswing.
The Falcons finished third at last year’s Final — 52 shots behind Adams — in what was their first top-5 finish since the 2016 squad won it all.
Even better for Rochester is that its best four golfers are back from last year’s team: seniors Brooke Haney and Natalie Haise, junior Madison Yang and sophomore Ananya Kumar.
For Rochester head coach Jeff Haney, who has helped guide the program to three Division 1 championships (2008, 2009, 2016) and two runner-up finishes since girls golf moved to the fall in 2007, it’s good to begin a season with lofty expectations once again.
“I’ll be honest, after we won in ’08 and ’09, I figured that would be the extent of that for me,” Haney said. “I was then fortunate to have those teams in ’15 and ’16. I really didn’t think it would come back around again. I feel pretty lucky to have a real strong team again.”
There is work for the Falcons to do in order to try and make up the 52-stroke difference Adams had on the Falcons last year, but Haney likes his team’s overall depth beyond the top four who are back.
“We have better depth than most people,” he said. “At a tournament, probably all nine of my girls can shoot under 100, compared to some other teams I’ve had where we barely had anyone who could shoot under 100.”
In fairness, Adams and Rochester won’t be the only title contenders in Division 1.
Brighton graduated just one senior from last year’s runner-up team and is powerful as well, while Rockford has four golfers back from its team that finished fifth last year, including senior Jessica Jolly, who tied for third individually at the 2022 Final.
But given the talent and experience both Adams and Rochester have back, don’t be surprised if the LP Division 1 Tournament in October turns into a de facto “Rochester Invitational.”
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) Rochester High’s Madison Yang putts during last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final at Bedford Valley. (Middle) Adams celebrates its 2022 LPD1 title; the Highlanders graduated only one golfer. (Top photo by High School Sports Scene; middle photo courtesy of Adams’ athletic department.)