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.”
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.)
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Below is this week's segment – Animal Interference - Listen
In golf – it’s common to hear about birdies, eagles, maybe even an albatross. Or in my case, a snowman. But what if an actual animal interferes with your ball while in play?
There are two kinds of interference.
The first involves a ball still in motion. If you are putting and a squirrel darts out and stops or redirects your putt, you simply get a do-over from the original spot.
Off the green, if a moving ball is stopped or re-directed, you play the ball from where it ultimately stops.
If your ball is stopped and a seagull picks it up and carries it off – you just replace the ball to its original spot and proceed.
It doesn’t happen often, but now you know how to deal with squirrels and seagulls … in addition to birdies and eagles.
(PHOTO by Gary Shook.)