Hackett Catholic Prep Returns from Break as D4's Best Again

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

June 12, 2021

FRANKENMUTH – Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep officially won the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 Golf Final championship with its play Saturday afternoon, but the seeds for the victory were planted Thursday.

The Irish played a practice round at The Fortress Golf Club a day before competing in the two-day tournament, and what was learned during that round played a crucial role in a back-nine surge that clinched their second-straight title.

“We try and come out the day before the event, and we were able to do that this year, and I would say it was very crucial,” Hackett coach Jim Holton said. “We stress, ‘We’re not here to shoot a score (Thursday), we’re here to learn,’ and that’s what we did when we got here.”

Hackett finished with a two-day total of 640 strokes, finishing ahead of runner-up Lansing Christian by six. Charlevoix was third with 646, followed by Maple City Glen Lake at 677. 

Clarkston Everest Collegiate’s Remy Stalcup was the tournament medalist, shooting a two-under 142 to win by seven strokes.

For Hackett, a course far from home felt familiar enough Saturday afternoon as it held off a Saturday morning surge from Lansing Christian.

About halfway through the round, the Pilgrims inched ahead, but it was the work done on the back nine that lifted the Irish to a victory.

Their scoring foursome of Tommy Keyte, Ben Bridenstine, Ryan Chafty and Niklas Johansson combined to shoot 158 on the back nine, while Lansing Christian’s top four came in at 166 down the stretch.

“I think we all went through a tough stretch there as a team,” said Keyte, who was the individual runner-up at 149. “Back nine, we just kind of locked in and we picked it up. Made some good birdies, made some good putts. Everything just kind of clicked together on the back. The practice round, we really focused on where we wanted to hit our golf shots. It wasn’t driver every hole, it’s 4-irons, hybrids – you have to place your tee shot because there’s trouble on every hole.”

Clarkston Everest Collegiate golfHolton said he and his team had identified the back nine as the key during Thursday’s practice round.

“We realized the back nine can cause problems for teams,” he said. “We discussed that in the practice round, made our gameplan based on the holes and what we needed to do to keep ourselves ahead of the other competition. We started off great, had a little lull, Lansing Christian went by us and I was a little concerned. But I knew those tough holes were ahead, and I knew we planned well for those holes.”

The second-straight title for Hackett was actually the team’s second in three years, as there was no 2020 season. The senior-laden group – Keyte, Bridenstine, Chafty and No. 5 player Grayson Walters are all seniors – was focused on retaining their title, despite the year off.

“It felt great,” Keyte said. “The whole team was really excited for this weekend, and we’ve been waiting for this for two years now, because we were trying to go back to back. We did it today, and we had a great time. It was a grind out there.”

Following up Keyte’s 149 for Hackett were Bridenstine (158), Chafty (163) and Johansson (171). Walters wasn’t far behind at 173. 

Davis Garrett (150) took third individually to lead Lansing Christian, and was followed by William Combs (156), Caden Kinnas (167) and Baylor Brogan (173).

While Hackett was repeating as team champ, a new face was dominating the course in the individual race. As a sophomore, Stalcup was playing in his first MHSAA Finals, and he led nearly wire to wire. He essentially put the tournament away with an eagle on No. 1 (his 16th hole of the day) on Saturday. 

“I hit my drive in the right heather, so I took a 5-iron out from about 230 (yards), and it almost went in, actually,” Stalcup said. “It was, like, not even a foot for a tap-in eagle and it got me back into it with a big lead.”

Stalcup had played the previous four holes at two-over par, and while the eagle ended up just padding his lead, at the time it seemed necessary.

“I thought it was close; I didn’t know if I was winning by a bunch or not,” he said. “So that helped a lot, for sure. I was happy then. I didn’t look at the leaderboard. I don’t want to know until the very end.”

Stalcup had played at The Fortress earlier in the season, and it was kind to him then as well.

“I love the course; I love it,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite courses, actually. I always play good here. I played good earlier in the season here, too. I putt really well on these greens, I love these greens. I made a lot of long putts. It helps a lot, too, I hit it pretty far. I hit a lot of wedges into greens.”

Jake Beaudoin of Charlevoix and Luke LeBourdais of Saginaw Nouvel tied for fourth at 153, followed by Brady Krohn of Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (154), Michael Zanoni of Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (155), Lansing Christian’s Combs, Blake O’Connor of Glen Lake (157) and Jeffrey Andrus of Royal Oak Shrine (157).

Full results will be linked when available.

PHOTOS: (Top) Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep, with a golfer putting here during Friday's first round, repeated as Division 4 champion. (Middle) Clarkston Everest Collegiate's Remy Stalcup drives during Friday's first 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.)