Extra Effort Pays for Champion Houghton

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

May 28, 2014

MARQUETTE — The top four Houghton High School boys golfers went to such places as Washington, D.C., South Carolina and Florida during Spring Break to sharpen their skills. 

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

They were rewarded for their efforts Wednesday as the Gremlins captured the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 title with 310 strokes at the Marquette Golf & Country Club’s Heritage course. 

Runner-up Escanaba shot 318, followed by defending champ Marquette at 321.

Houghton sophomore Wyatt Liston earned medalist honors by firing a 73. He was followed by Marquette junior Mike McGee, who shot a personal-best 75, and Escanaba sophomore Nick Aird at 76. 

“I think everything went pretty well,” said Liston, who birdied three holes on a sunny day and seasonably cool day near the shore of Lake Superior. “Overall, I played pretty solid. Hitting the fairway off the tee was the key, although I wasn’t getting a lot of distance on my shots.

“I thought my approach shots and putting went pretty well. The greens had a lot of movement, and today was all about being able to read them. What today’s tournament means is I have a lot of room for improvement. I would like to get a little better at striking the ball.” 

Houghton’s Gunnar Stein and Ben Strong and Escanaba’s Dane Casperson, who birdied four consecutive holes, shared fourth place at 78.

The Gremlins recorded seven birdies during the tournament. 

“Anytime you can get three golfers to shoot in the 70s, it helps,” said Houghton coach Jack Humpula. “Our consistency across the board also helped. Another thing that helps is the guys don’t let a bad shot ruin the entire hole. We’ve been pretty consistent all season and that’s how we won our (West-PAC) conference.”

Fourth-year coach Brian Robinette said he was very pleased with Escanaba’s performance. 

“I feel real good about how we did,” he added. “You’re always looking for results at the end of the year, and 318 is the lowest score we shot in a tournament all year. We just wanted to perform in a way (in) which another team had to shoot a score better than us. A 310 is definitely a championship performance on this course.

“I’ve always believed that success breeds success, and I think that holds true in (Houghton’s) program. I also think our program is heading in that direction. We didn’t lose any momentum in terms of where our program seems to be going.” 

Dylan Gauthier added a 79 for the Eskymos, who were last crowned U.P. champions in 2011.

“When you get three kids shooting in the 70s under the pressure of the U.P. Finals, I think it bodes well for your program,” Robinette said. “Dane (Casperson) is a four-year veteran who understands what this is all about. He was part of a U.P. championship team as a freshman and had to take a leadership role at a very young age. Just watching Dane carry himself around the course this year just kind of gives you that sense of pride. We feel our program is on the rise.”

Marquette also had an additional top-10 finisher in Brett Specker, who shared seventh with Gauthier and Gladstone’s Max Stasser at 79. 

“We’re happy for Mike (McGee),” said Marquette coach Ben Smith. “He bogeyed the last hole and was kind of bummed about that, but he still shot a great round.

“I thought the boys shot an OK score. A lot of our kids left a stroke or two out there. Scott (Frazier) and Brett (Specker) led us all year, and Mike was our No. 3 golfer. It’s awesome when you can get these kinds of contributions throughout your lineup as we did from Mike today.” 

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Houghton's Wyatt Liston drives from the sixth tee box during the MHSAA Division 1 U.P. Finals on Wednesday at Marquette Country Club. (Middle) Escanaba's Dane Casperson putts on the fifth green. (Photos by Adelle Whitefoot.)

Mid Peninsula's Boys Sweep UPD3 Titles, Including 1st Team Championship

By Jason Juno
Special for MHSAA.com

June 1, 2023

HYDE – The Rock Mid Peninsula boys won their first Upper Peninsula Finals boys golf championship Thursday, earning it in Division 3 at Highland Golf Club near Escanaba.

The Wolverines finished with a score of 324, 13 strokes fewer than runner-up Ontonagon.

“It’s the first time in school history for us, so we’re pretty excited about it,” Mid Pen coach Earlene VanDamme said. “The kids put a lot of work into this year.”

They did it with three golfers among the individual top five, led by medalist Bradly VanDamme, who shot a 77, and tournament runner-up Michael Englund, who carded a 78. Christian VanDamme was close behind with an 81, which was good for a fifth-place tie.

Big Bay de Noc’s Nick Desjarden watches a tee shot at Highland Golf Club. The three golfers have shot consistently around 80 all year. 

“Our top three boys were pretty equivalent. They were within one or two strokes of each other,” Coach VanDamme said. “I kept messing with the order. It didn’t matter where I put them, it always ended up that they were just all always kind of consistent.”

Bradly VanDamme said he has been shooting consistently in the 80s. He shot an 80 here during a practice round. 

“So a 77 today was huge,” he said. “I never expected to play as good as I did today.”

Fixing a key part of his game helped.

“I got off the tee well; usually that’s my struggle,” VanDamme said. “But every tee, I just thought, if I can keep this one in play and keep it in the fairway, then this course is pretty easy if you can keep it in the fairway.”

He said he was happiest about the team title.

“It’s great. All the guys are really excited. That was our goal coming into this – we didn’t care how we all individually placed, we just wanted to win as a team,” he said.

Watersmeet’s Edmond Williams putts during his round.That’s the way team leaders think.

“Bradly is a strong leader for the team,” Coach VanDamme said. “He continuously is just prepping the team, saying, ‘Come on guys, this is about the team score. We all need to do this.’”

His brother Christian VanDamme was just four strokes behind him.

“It helps that (Bradly’s) brother is on the team because he is very competitive with him,” said Coach VanDamme, who also is Bradly and Christian’s mother. “And they put a lot of extra practice in trying to better themselves, so they do practice a lot.”

Ontonagon was team runner-up for the second year in a row.

The Gladiators were led by Abi Pestka, who finished in third place and shot an 80, and Jerry Majurin, who tied Christian VanDamme with an 81.

“That’s the best the boys have done as a group,” Ontonagon coach Jim Jessup said. “Everybody was fairly close in terms of their scores.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Rock Mid Peninsula celebrates its first UP Finals championship in boys golf Thursday. (Middle) Big Bay de Noc’s Nick Desjarden watches a tee shot at Highland Golf Club. (Below) Watersmeet’s Edmond Williams putts during his round. (Photos by Jason Juno.)