Houghton 3-Peats, Negaunee Ace Shines

June 2, 2016

By Keith Shelton
Special for Second Half

CHAMPION – With a strong golf game that can travel just about anywhere and a top three as strong as any in the Upper Peninsula, it wasn't hard to understand how Houghton secured an MHSAA Division 1 U.P. Finals three-peat Thursday at Wawonowin Country Club. 

Whereas the Gremlins' closest competitors struggled mightily on certain holes, Houghton stayed consistent as it has all season, despite windy conditions, and retained the title with a 317 score, 10 strokes better than runner-up Negaunee. 

The Miners had their share of advantages this go-around, playing on their home course. And while they celebrated top golfer Carter Mason earning medalist honors with an even-par 72, Houghton's overall depth proved stronger and its golfers able to translate their games to a not-so-familiar course. 

"Going into the year, we didn't know what we'd have in the back end of our rotation," said Gremlins coach Corey Markham. "We knew our top three were real strong, but our four and five golfers – George Butvilas and Ben Strong – really came up big for us. They came on strong as the year went on, and they proved to be very important in today's score."

The Gremlins were led by third-place Gunnar Stein, who shot an impressive two-over 74, especially given a two-hole string on the back nine. Stein struggled on holes 14 and 15, taking a six on 14 and a seven on 15 after losing a ball in the water. The two holes pushed him out of the medalist spot despite a double bogey free day on the other 16 holes. 

"Gunnar had it under par for a while, but he had a triple bogey on 14," said Markham. "To keep your head straight and come through that is tough to do, but he did just that. It's a testament to his golf ability, and his mental state."

Mason had no such problems. Playing the course where his family has had a membership for the last decade, he avoided big mistakes and was the lone golfer to come in at par. Kingsford's Dylan Dalsanto was runner-up with a 73. 

"My putting was the best part of my game today," said Mason. "I started off with three bogeys in the first five holes, but then I came back with birdies on 6, 7, 10 and 16.

"On 15 (which has water), I played the tee shot safe with the 3-wood, and stayed short of the water."

Last year at Pine Grove, Mason was far back from the leaders, shooting in the mid 80s. The double-digit improvement was validation of his work during the summer. 

"Last summer, I played almost every day," Mason said. "I started hitting my irons a lot better and making a lot more putts this year. My putting has definitely improved. 

"There were a few holes that could have been improved today, but it was pretty good," Mason added. 

Gremlins senior Wyatt Liston placed fourth overall with a 75, followed by Bryce Douglas of Gladstone and Nathan Rousseau of Escanaba, both with 81s. 

Negaunee's runner-up team finish was a pleasant surprise for Mason. The Miners have played second fiddle to Escanaba and Gladstone at most events this year. Escanaba's top golfers struggled on a number of holes, resulting in a third place team score that was slightly disappointing, though coach Brian Robinette was pleased with the effort.

"Wawonowin is a course that demands that you're on with your golf swing, on with your short game, on with the mental portion of things," Robinette said. "You have to be able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off after a double bogey. You need to keep your emotions in check. 

"Our five boys went down swinging, and I'm proud of the way they handled themselves. They put a lot of pressure on themselves, as all competitors do. The looks on their faces tell me everything I need to know."

The Gremlins will lose Liston, who with his sophomore sister Kaaren on the girls team made a formidable tandem for Houghton golf over two seasons. 

"The Listons are an awesome golf family," said Markham. "They just live for golf. They're very talented. 

"It's going to be sad to see Wyatt leave, but he won his share of U.P. championships as a team at Houghton. Kaaren is only a sophomore, and such a good solid golfer. We're looking for two more good years out of her."

Negaunee, on the other hand, had no seniors this year. Led by Mason, who will be a senior next season, the Miners will be on the watch list for a Division 1 title.

"We're going to have the same exact team next year," said Mason. "We should improve over the summer, and we'll have a good chance to win next year. We'll see how that goes."

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PHOTOS: (Top) Houghton's Gunnar Stein watches his tee shot on No. 17. (Middle) Negaunee's Carter Mason chips onto the No. 14 green. (Photos by Keith Shelton.)

Pinili Aiming to Add Medalist Honor as Brother Rice Seeks Finals 3-Peat

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

June 8, 2023

The phrase the “third time is a charm” might often be trite and overplayed, but it also couldn’t apply more to Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice senior golfer Lorenzo Pinili.

Greater DetroitTwo years ago as a sophomore, Pinili finished as the individual runner-up at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final, five shots out of first at Bedford Valley in Battle Creek.

Last year, Pinili was the runner-up again at Grand Valley State, valiantly rallying from an opening-round score of 76 to shoot a 68 on the second day at The Meadows, but still ending six shots behind.

Both years, Brother Rice won the team title, so Pinili still left happy.

But no doubt, he hopes the third time will be the charm from an individual point of view when he competes at this weekend’s Division 2 Final at The Fortress in Frankenmuth.

“This year, I definitely have a lot more motivation to finish first,” he said. “It’s a lot of patience. That’s what it is. I just have to trust my game and not really force anything. That’s what most people try to do. If they know they want to get a win or know they want to play well, they’re going to start forcing shots that’s out of their comfort zone or do stuff they don’t really do.”

Pinili, who will play collegiately at Michigan State, has been hitting a lot of good shots throughout a golfing life that started when he was 2 years old. 

In fact, while Pinili has no recollection of the moment he took up the game, his father Rommel has reminded him constantly throughout his life.

“He said that I picked up a stick while the TV was on and I tried to copy what was on TV,” Pinili said. “From there, he gave me a plastic club, and he gave me real balls. He thought I was making good contact. From there, he gave me real metal clubs, and I was able to hit balls. There’s actually a video on YouTube that you can find of me hitting golf balls at the range when I was 2. From there, it’s been with me my whole entire life.”

Pinili said if there’s one area of his game that has evolved more than any other since he began high school, it’s performing when the stakes are the highest.

The Warriors celebrate their second-straight team title, including Pinili (standing, third from left) and his younger brother Leandro (standing, fourth from right

Brother Rice associate coach David Sass echoed those sentiments about Pinili’s enhanced ability to stay even-keeled mentally under pressure.

“He has a tendency to have such a high level of expectation for his game, that can kind of prohibit him from looking beyond a simple mistake,” he said. “He’s been really good about doing that lately. Golf is very hard, and it’s really about managing your mistakes. Perfection is basically unattainable in golf. If he stays patient, understands that, picks his spots on when to be aggressive, is aggressive in that moment, and then plays it smart during moments he shouldn’t be aggressive, I think he’s got an incredible chance to win this thing.”

One of the biggest competitors for Pinili this weekend could be someone in the same household.

Leandro Pinili, a sophomore, finished in a tie for ninth last year at the LPD2 Tournament, and definitely helps push Lorenzo to greater heights in the game.

“We share a lot of passion with the game together, and sometimes it gets a little too competitive just because he wants to beat me and I can’t let him beat me,” Lorenzo said. “It’s really nice having someone besides me who understands the side of golf that I understand. It’s also really fun being able to play with my brother and compete with him. I really love it, and that’s one of the biggest things I’m going to miss about Brother Rice golf.”

And no doubt, Brother Rice will definitely miss Lorenzo Pinili when he finishes his high school career on Saturday at a course he is looking forward to playing because it will require precise shots.

“I think it will separate the best from the rest of the pack,” he said. “You really can’t get away with anything out there.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Brother Rice's Lorenzo Pinili, right, tees off during the 2022 LP Division 1 Finals as Grand Rapids Christian's Adam Workman follows his shot. (Middle) The Warriors celebrate their second-straight team title, including Pinili (standing, third from left) and his younger brother Leandro (standing, fourth from right). Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)