Gull Lake Ready for Challenge of Adding to 2022 Finals Runner-up Finish
By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com
April 20, 2023
RICHLAND — Hank Livingston is a prime example of how fickle a golf course can be and why it is important not to give up.
The Gull Lake sophomore started last year’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Golf Championship carding an 11 on the first hole of the second round.
“He’s my No. 2 and makes an 11,” coach T.R. Walters said, shaking his head.
But Livingston shook it off and ended with a 79 for the round.
“He literally birdied the next two holes,” Walters said. “Flint Powers coach said to me, did you see what happened to your No. 2?
“I said, yeah, I was in the tall stuff with him.”
The Powers coach specified on the green.
“I was like, what?” Walters said. “He literally whiffed a putt that was two or three inches.”
Walters said he could not believe it. “(Livingston) said, ‘Coach, I just whiffed a putt for 10,” Walters said. “He goes, ‘I reached over to tap it in and I just bounced my club over it.’”
Neither Walters nor Livingston panicked.
“The way he said it to me, I was like, ‘This kid is absolutely fine.’ Then he birdied his last two holes,” Walters recalled. “You throw an 11 in as a freshman, and you don’t just quit. That’s a pretty good sign.”
It was a great sign.
The Blue Devils finished runner-up to Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice at the Final with Livingston tied for 18th individually with a 157 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State.
Things may be a bit tougher this year with the graduation of Bryce Wheeler, who won the medalist honor that weekend and was named Michigan’s Mr. Golf last spring.
However, the team is off to another successful start this season, winning the Greater Kalamazoo Tournament and the Coldwater Invitational.
Will Beardsley, who was part of a Division 2 championship in the fall with Gull Lake’s boys soccer team, said with Wheeler gone, everyone needs raise their games this year.
“Consistency is a big thing for us this year,” he said. “As long as everyone can play consistently and we all play as a team and have each other’s backs. If someone isn’t playing well one day, another guy can step up.
“Last year was a lot of a one-man show. This year, we’re definitely more balanced. Everyone’s contributing more this year rather than just one guy going 4-under.”
As the lone senior on the team, Beardsley, nicknamed “Will the Thrill” by his coach, said he feels like the “old man.”
“I see my role as having the experience,” he said. “If there are questions about rulings, I’ve had a couple more years experience, so I can usually answer those.
“I can tell them what a match day will look like and what we’re going to do on the range, what we’re going to do on the putting green, the ins and outs of what we do off the course.”
Beardsley got hooked on golf at age 5 from his grandfather, Bud Baldwin, who coached golf at Portage Northern High School.
Another Blue Devil with a bit of golf history is sophomore Chase Kosin, who is the great grandson of Letha and Darl Scott who started Gull Lakeview Golf Course in Richland in 1962.
Gull Lake does most of its practicing at the course, but Bedford Valley’s North Course is the team’s home course.
“Chase cracks me up,” Walters said. “I see so much of his grandpa in him. If there’s a piece of trash on the golf course, it goes in his golf bag.
“He’s an outstanding kid. He just gets better and better. His uncle (Casey Scott) played one PGA Tour, the Buick Open.”
Livingston also has a bit of golfing history. His uncle, Tom Harding, who played golf at Michigan State University, is in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
Another returning golfer is junior Ben Szabo.
“Our No. 3 last year, he had an outstanding fall and played a bunch of junior tournaments,” Walters said. “He started playing significantly better golf. He’s also one of those kids who absolutely loves being on the golf course all the time.”
Walters is getting some help from an unexpected source. Junior Beau Carr, who was Plainwell’s No. 1 golfer last season, moved into the district.
“He’s amazing,” Beardsley said of Carr. “He’s fun to be around, a great player, hopefully will fill that missing spot that we lost this year.”
Carr also has some state tournament experience. As a freshman in 2021, he was on the Plainwell team that advanced to the LPD2 Final and finished 18th.
“Me and four seniors,” he said. “Once they graduated, the next year was a lot tougher.”
He added it was the first time that “Plainwell made it to state in 17 years. It was a big accomplishment for us.”
Walters, who teaches social studies in the middle school, is a Gull Lake grad whose main sport was baseball.
He did not take up golf until he suffered a knee injury playing basketball at Kellogg Community College.
“One of the first times playing golf was actually at Ballybunion Golf Course (in County Kerry,) Ireland,” he said. “I was over there playing basketball in a tournament and played Ballybunion and thought it was kind of fun.”
Once Walters found out he had the eye-hand coordination for golf, he was hooked.
He has worked the last 24 years at Bedford Valley Golf Course in Battle Creek and plays every day he can.
“I got to the point where I could qualify to play the Michigan Open and a few events like that … before kids,” he added.
Carr summed up the feelings of many golfers when he said, “It’s a challenge. You’re never going to figure it out.
“There’s one day you’re going to play great and the next day you feel like you haven’t hit a golf ball in two weeks. That sucks, but it’s all a part of the ride.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Gull Lake’s Ben Szabo tees off during last season’s LPD2 Final at The Meadows at Grand Valley State. (Middle) From left: Gull Lake boys golf coach T.R. Walters, Will Beardsley and Beau Carr. (Below) Beardsley works on his short game during a practice this spring. (Top photo by High School Sports Scene. All other photos by Pam Shebest.)
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.
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.
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.)