It's Championship Time for Badker, While Houghton Holds On for Team Title

By Todd Rose
Special for Second Half

June 1, 2022

BARK RIVER – From the Division 3 boys basketball championship game at the Breslin Center to the Great Northern Conference golf final at Escanaba Country Club, the story of much of Brady Badker’s senior year has been second place.

That changed Wednesday afternoon, as Menominee’s Badker won the individual championship at the Upper Peninsula Division 1 Final at Sage Run Golf Course in Bark River.

“This one feels good to get off my chest,” Badker remarked after the win. “The last two things I cared about most were basketball and golf, and (it was) runner-up, runner-up. But, this one was kind of the one I wanted really bad because last year I came up short.”

Badker shot a 75 on Wednesday to earn a three-stroke win over Houghton’s Marino Pisani.

Badker marked the front nine as the place where he earned his advantage.

“I’d say on the front nine my approach shots were kind of getting real close,” he said. “I got good looks at birdies instead of those long five-foot par putts. Those are the ones you have to save out here because it’s a tough course. When you’ve got those five-footers for birdie instead of five-footers for par, that really helps to keep your mindset going.”

Aside from the added challenge of wind, the Sage Run course itself presents a challenge on its own.

“A lot of courses that we play up here, you’re hitting wedges and all that in the greens,” noted Badker. “Here, you’re hitting 8-irons and 9-irons, so it’s a little bit higher. You have to think about the wind and the bunkers around the green and behind the hole. If you can hit it long or if you can hit it left, it’s a lot tougher. You kind of have to hit your spots or you’re going to struggle here.”

Runner-up Pisani, a Houghton sophomore, felt he had a bit of a rough start and end but still enjoyed the sunny, warm day at Sage Run.

“I thought it was a pretty solid round,” Pisani said. “I started off slow. I had a triple and a couple doubles but rebounded well, stayed composed and kept level-headed. … Somebody told me I was about one back of (Badker) with four to go, and I struggled to close out a bit. I took a double on one of my last holes and had a couple missed putts, but I’ll try not to think about it too much.”

Houghton golfWhile Pisani finished runner-up in the individual standings – ahead of a three-way tie between Cole Myllyla (Kingsford), Cooper Pigeon (Iron Mountain) and Tyler Annala (Westwood) for third – his Houghton Gremlins shot a collective 329 to take home the team championship.

“Overall, I thought the team did great,” Pisani said. “Every guy performed well, and I think it was just a great day for golf in general.”

Houghton coach Corey Markham shared his excitement as well.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” he added. “We had never seen the course until yesterday. We came down to do a practice round, and the wind was howling like 30, 35 mile an hour. So it was hard to get a read on how you’re playing the course in those kind of winds. But, they got to see the course and how it was laid out, so that really was great.

“They showed up. I told them going in if we could average between 80 and 85, we’d be right in the mix. We had Marino go down into the 70s, and the rest were all between 80 and 85. So, I’m really proud of how they played today.”

The U.P. Finals championship rounds out a successful year for the Gremlins, who also collected top honors in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference.

“It was a really good year for us,” said Markham. “We started off slow. We had a late spring, and we had no practice before we played our two first meets and our course opened one day before our third meet. We had a slow start, but once we started playing and getting in a groove we won most of the meets we played in the last quarter of the season.”

Finishing second with a score of 334 was GNC champion Marquette.

“Going in, I thought if the guys played well and had a really good day there would be a good chance we’d be in the mix,” said Marquette coach Ben Smith. “I bet if you asked the kids while they were out there, you probably wouldn’t get too many ‘it’s going great Coach’ responses. But, conditions were tough out there. Obviously, the wind and the course itself is not easy. … But, credit to the kids, they hung in there.”

Smith added that close matches throughout the season helped prep Marquette for the competitive nature of the U.P. Finals.

“We’ve had a couple matches this year that came down to a shot or two,” he said. “So, I think the kids kind of bought into the idea that every swing matters and even if it doesn’t seem like it’s your day, just try and get the ball in the hole. Credit to them, they hung in there for each other and were able to come out with a second-place finish.”

The margins at the top of the team standings were thin as the top five all shot within 12 strokes of each other. After Houghton (329) and Marquette (334) were Calumet and Kingsford tied at 337, with Escanaba rounding out the top five at 341.

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PHOTOS (Top) Brady Badker of Menominee tees off on hole 16 at Sage Run Golf Course during Wednesday afternoon's MHSAA U.P. Division 1 Boys Golf Final in Bark River. (Middle) Houghton holds up its first-place team trophy. (Photos by Todd Rose.)

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

By Jason Juno
Special for

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.”

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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.)