DCC Moves Up From 2nd Last Year to 1st This Time with Sizzling Saturday

By Tom Lang
Special for MHSAA.com

June 11, 2022

BIG RAPIDS – A comeback didn’t seem possible.

But then again, as the saying goes, in sports anything can happen.

Last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 champ Ann Arbor Skyline was cruising along with a 10-shot lead over last year’s runner up, Detroit Catholic Central, with only four holes to play Saturday at Ferris State University’s Katke Golf Course.

That’s when the switch got flipped.

The DCC team – including star Peter Stassinopoulos – had been playing better than most, but at that point not well enough to overcome Skyline’s first-day lead.

But the senior finished the day at 2-under par 70, by way of a sizzling run of 5-under par on the last four holes (birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie) to lead his team to a huge comeback win over Skyline with a Saturday team score (top four golfers) of 2-under par 286 to Skyline’s 293. The final margin was 587-589 for the two-day Division 1 Final tournament.

“I’ve been saying this to myself the last couple of weeks, ‘pedal to the metal,’ regardless of where I’m at, and regardless of who is around you, or what they tell you, or what the conditions are,” Stassinopoulos said, soon after getting a dousing of ice water out of a cooler by his teammates during a TV interview. “I saw my coach’s face on 14, and he didn’t look too happy. And I just knew that we either had to finish strong or at least put a good game face on. I didn’t know where we stood (team scoring), but I made the right swings and our team got it done.”

DCC coach Mike Anderson described the final 45-60 minutes of play like this:

Anderson said that he was at the 15th tee box, a par 3. Skyline was 10 strokes up at that time.

“I was talking with the Skyline coach there and I didn’t say congratulations (you won), but I said, ‘It’s been fun watching your team today. You’ve played really solid all day.’

“Then our Liam (Casey) hit it in there to one foot and tapped it in for birdie. The next guy hits it in there close and makes birdie, the next guy makes par. And every time we’re doing that the Skyline guys are making bogies.”

Anderson went to the 16th hole, where his players were making birdies on that par 5 hole, after Stassinopoulos made an eagle. By the time both teams were going through the 17th tee, the team scoring was tied.

Ann Arbor Skyline golf“No. 17 is not an easy hole. It’s a 170-yard par 3 over water, hard left-to-right pin,” Anderson said. “Then Liam, Peter and Neil (Zhu) all hit it inside 10 feet, and they all make the putt for birdie. So, all of a sudden we’re leading, and the guys finished 18 strong.”

Skyline sophomore Ieuan Jones played solid and steady to win individual medalist, after a runner-up showing last year as a freshman. He scored 69-69-138 to win by six strokes over junior Andrew Daily of Brighton and East Lansing sophomore Drew Miller.

Jones said he can never be disappointed by winning a tournament, which he’s done many times in his short career.

“I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get it done as a team, but I’m happy I left everything out there,” Jones said as players and teams were gathering around the scoreboard. He said the key is always the drivers and putter, and if those are going well it’s all good.

“I was making sure that I stayed focused on every single shot,” Jones added. “I knew the team scoring was going to come down to some pretty close numbers, so I was making sure I did what I could.”

Jones was very cognizant of the strong winds blowing across Katke. The wind picked up in the afternoon when he was playing the back nine with more tree-lined fairways providing some protection – that same back nine where the winning Shamrocks team poured it on. The runner-up finish to Skyline last year was a huge motivation for DCC’s golfers.

Neil Zhu was DCC’s top individual finisher over the two days, tying for fourth at 145 (73-72). Stassinopoulos tied for sixth at 146 (76-70), Julian Mesner was eighth at 147 (74-73) and Casey tied for ninth at 149 (78-71) while also shooting under par for his second round.

“Going off the first tee, I knew they’ve got one (title) under their belts, and just want another one,” Stassinopoulos said. “And we really wanted our first for this groups of guys. We’re out there day and night, rain, no rain, and I think this group of boys deserve it.”

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PHOTOS (Top) DCC’s Peter Stassinopoulos sends an approach shot during Saturday’s LPD1 Final at Katke. (Middle) An Ann Arbor Skyline golfer tees off during the second round. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

Hockey Players Transferring Winter Puck Skills to Spring Golf Swings

By Tom Lang
Special for MHSAA.com

May 26, 2023

When the Michigan seasons shift from winter to spring, some high school golf teams are a little more eager than others for the hockey season to officially end.

This is especially true for the school golf programs in Brighton, Hartland and Muskegon Mona Shores – examples of boys teams that love having hockey players transition from the indoor frozen ice to play golf outdoors on the lush green grass.

“I would take a golf team full of hockey players any day,” said Hartland golf coach Nathan Oake. “I love them.”

We can tell, because his program is full of them.

Hartland and Brighton each have eight hockey players on their 16-golfer varsity and JV rosters.

Mona Shores has three hockey players this year, but usually has more. In 2023 it’s Oliver MacDonald (all-state honorable mention in hockey), Nathan McNarland and Nicholas Taylor, who was voted Division 1 all-state golf last spring, then leading his team to fifth place at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final.

Hartland’s Ian Kastamo (16) takes a faceoff against Brighton this winter. Brighton golfer Winston Lerch was also Division 1 all-state last year in golf and an assistant captain on the hockey team this winter that finished Division 1 runner-up to Detroit Catholic Central. Here in 2023, he shot a 65 to open the season at Oakland University for medalist and has committed to Grand Valley State for golf with his 72-stroke average.

Joining Lerch in the Bulldogs boys golf program are hockey players like Levi Pennala, winner of hockey’s Wall Award sponsored by State Champs as the top high school goalie. Pennala – who recently shot 72 at the Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship tournament, his career low for high school golf – finished in the top 30 last year at the LPD1 Final. Then early this spring when he was away at a high-level junior hockey tournament, freshman hockey player Adam Forcier stepped in and shot a school record 18-hole round for a freshman at 73. Jacob Daavetilla also works into the starting lineup at times.

Forcier tied the record of Davis Codd – who, as a pro hockey player on leave from the Saginaw Spirit OHL hockey team when COVID-19 shut down the league, won the LPD1 Final in 2021 for Brighton.

Brighton golf coach Jimmy Dewling said Codd was one of the earliest to prove to others you can play both hockey and golf and excel. In fact, that June in 2021, Codd went to an NHL scouting camp in Pennsylvania before the Golf Finals, drove overnight back to Forest Akers to play the two championship rounds, won the title, then immediately returned to Pennsylvania to resume the hockey camp.

“On our team, we believe, and TBone (Codd) was a perfect example of it, if there’s any time you have the opportunity to be competitive, it is going to make you a more well-rounded competitor and therefore better at your particular sport,” Dewling said.

“We like hockey players. In the winter, they have to think to where the puck is going, be smart enough to react, and understand how that emotion is going to carry over from one play to the next. When it’s your shift you have to forget about the last shift, or take something from the last shift and put it into the next shift, to have consistent play.

“It’s the same on the golf course,” Dewling continued. “It’s one hole to the next, one shot at a time, being tough, and that’s only going to come from competition reps. We love the athletic ability more so than anything; the toughness and competitiveness all year.”

In addition to Lerch and Pennala starting on varsity golf, they are joined by traditional golfers Matt Doyle, Riley Morton and Andrew Daily, who is committed to Wayne State and finished LPD1 runner-up last spring.

Mona Shores’ Nicholas Taylor fires an iron shot. Going into the 2023 golf postseason, Brighton is ranked No. 2 in Division 1. The Bulldogs have won the Next Tee Invite at Oakland Hills, the North Star Invite at Plum Hollow and the KLAA Conference Championship – earning Brighton’s first conference title since 2007. The Bulldogs also were runners-up at The Meadows Invite at Grand Valley State University. The team is averaging 297 for 18 holes.

Oake admitted this is a rebuilding year for Hartland’s golf program. The varsity lineup has only two returning players with varsity golf experience – Keller King and Brady Betteley.

“So, we opted to keep a group of tough competitors with a solid combination of speed and strength – and who are not concerned about the cold conditions that we play in,” Oake quipped.

Five others rotate into the Eagles’ golf starting lineup with King and Betteley: Isaac Frantti is an all-state hockey defensemen playing his first season of golf but shot a career-low 79 at American Dunes recently. He just signed a United State Premier Hockey League tender to play in Connecticut next year. Ian Kastamo scored the winning goal in Hartland’s Division 2 hockey championship victory in 2022, and LJ Sabala is a varsity hockey player as well.

Then there are two non-hockey freshmen getting shots to start occasionally – Dallas Korponic, who finished third at his weight at the Individual Wrestling Finals, and Michael Maurin. Five more sophomores and juniors are hockey players on the JV golf team.

We hope to be competitive with (Brighton) again soon, but they have the talent to make a big splash this year,” Oake said. “I also play golf at the same club as many Brighton players, so I see them quite a bit and we are friendly. When the Brighton team walked by our team on a recent Monday and all said hello to me and our guys, one of my players looked at me and said that this was the biggest difference between hockey and golf. In hockey, the small talk would be (traded) for the ice, and it would not be very nice out there.

“Either way, I believe both sports are filled with fierce competitors and respect, but when the game is over a handshake and a golf hat tip are offered to the victor.”

This story was updated and reposted with permission of MIGolfJournal.com.

PHOTOS (Top) Brighton takes a team photo after finishing third at last season’s LPD1 Final, and all five golfers are back this season including hockey players Levi Pennala (second from left) and Winston Lerch (second from right.) (Middle) Hartland’s Ian Kastamo (16) takes a faceoff against Brighton this winter. (Below) Mona Shores’ Nicholas Taylor fires an iron shot. (Photos courtesy of High School Sports Scene, Sapshots Photography and Mona Shores’ athletic department, respectively.)