Lumen Christi Lives up to Links Tradition

June 9, 2016

By Chip Mundy
Special for Second Half 

JACKSON – Every city has things for which it is known. Jackson is no different.

Jackson is the birthplace of the Republican Party.

It claims to have originated –and perfected – the Coney Island hot dog.

And Jackson is home to some really great golf.

Just what makes Jackson such a great golf town?

“Maybe it’s the water,” Jackson Lumen Christi boys coach Dave Swartout said with a smile. “I think the fact that there are 20 courses in the county certainly helps. So anybody who is young and wants to play golf has the opportunity, and luckily for a lot of people in this area, especially as juniors, you can play golf for not a lot of money. It’s not as expensive of a sport as some people might think it is.”

According to the National Golf Foundation’s annual report this year, Jackson is second in the state to Monroe and 12th in the country for 18-hole golf courses per capita. And that has led to some sensational golf out of Jackson on the high school level.

Dating back to 1937, when Jackson High School won the Class A title, Jackson County boys golf teams have totaled 30 MHSAA Finals boys championships, led by Lumen Christi, which has 14. Lumen Christi also has won four girls golf titles.

“I play golf almost every day,” Lumen Christi senior Will Double said. “It does help when you have the availability to play different courses every day and play different holes.”

The Titans appear to be in the mix for another title. They are ranked No. 2 in Lower Peninsula Division 3 going into this weekend’s championship tournament at Forest Akers East on the campus of Michigan State University. Lumen Christi is coming off its 11th consecutive Regional championship last weekend.

“I really think we have a realistic chance to win it, but I’ve said that the last five years, too, and we’ve finished second and third,” Swartout said.

History of success

Lumen Christi has won an MHSAA-record 14 Finals championships in boys golf. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Lumen Christi opened in 1968 with the merger of Jackson St. Mary and Jackson St. John, and from 1954-61, St. Mary, coached by Ed Cimock, won eight consecutive Class C/D championships. That streak has not been matched or broken, and during it, St. John was the Class C/D runner-up in 1956.

Those St. Mary teams had real star power. Brothers Dave and Mike Hill led some of those teams and went on to enjoy excellent careers at the professional level. Dave won 13 titles on the PGA Tour and six more on the PGA Senior Tour, while Mike won three times on the PGA Tour and 13 times on the Senior Tour.

In 1972, the Hill brothers pulled off a unique feat, as both won a PGA Tour event in the same year.

Six years later, Lumen Christi won its first MHSAA Finals title – one year after the graduation of Steve Maddalena, who went on to win three Michigan Amateur titles. From 1981-86, Lumen Christi won six consecutive Class B titles – tied for the second-longest streak in MHSAA history to St. Mary’s eight in a row.

Star power, however, has not been a staple of Lumen Christi’s 14 championships. None of Lumen Christi’s championships included an individual MHSAA champion. Jamie Clark was the 2005 Division 3 champion – the only individual Finals champion in school history – and that team did not win the title.

Lumen Christi did have the 1991-92 Mr. Golf in Derek Robison, and although that team won the Class B championship, Robinson was not the individual winner.

In Class B, the Titans had 10 Finals titles and two runner-up finishes. In Division 3, they have four titles with four runner-up finishes.

Lumen Christi is coming off a third-place finish in 2015, which to most schools would be an amazing accomplishment. But for the Titans, it was their worst finish at the Finals since 2008.

“We always go into the season with certain goals, and one is to always win the conference,” Swartout said. “In all the years I’ve coached, my teams have only not won the conference twice. Then, we’d like to keep the Regional streak alive.”

The architect

Swartout has been associated with the program since 1972, mostly as head coach. However, he’s not a natural-born golfer. At one time, he was a frustrated basketball coach.

“I spent one year as a freshman basketball coach at Lumen Christi in 1971 and got an ulcer from it,” he said. “The athletic director said, ‘Maybe you should try something else,’ and so did my doctor. The coaching job opened up in golf, and I couldn’t break 90, so I said, ‘I’ll do that for a while until I get a basketball job somewhere else.’ ”

He never left the program.

“I fell in love with the game and really spent a lot of time reading and watching other good golfers, trying to improve myself,” Swartout said. “I read everything I could get my hands on, because I couldn’t beat any of the kids on the team.”

Between his new-found love for the game and his passion to teach, Swartout became a successful golf coach. He also coached the Lumen Christi girls team when it won the 2004 Division 3 title.

“I was a teacher in the classroom and love teaching, and I think the combination of those two things helped me become a good coach,” he said. “One, from teaching, I could communicate ideas, and two, from all the studying and work I did to improve my game, I learned a lot about technique.

“I do like to think I have a pretty good eye. I can see the small things that a player might be doing. When the juniors get to the level when they are shooting anywhere from 76 to par or better, then when the timing begins to break down. It’s the little things that are making a difference. You’re not going all the way back to create a new swing; you’re trying to find that one little flaw that is impacting their play.”

In those early years, Swartout was working on his game as well as helping his players work on theirs. That, too, proved to be a winning combination.

“I had to really work to improve my game,” said Swartout, whose brother Steve has been his assistant coach the past three years. “I was 24 when I became coach, and by the time I was 30, I was a 2 handicap. In order to get from 90 to that, you have to work at it and learn things. I had to discover how I needed to swing to hit the ball correctly, so therefore from that and reading everything I could get my hands on, I could communicate that to the players.”

The players

While the game hasn’t changed much in the 45 years Swartout has been associated with the Lumen Christi team, the equipment certainly has made great improvements.

“I look back to when I started coaching in the 1970s and 80s and even into the early 90s,” he said. “You’re talking about high school teenagers hitting a golf ball – and not a very good golf ball but a softer golf ball – with wooden clubs that had a sweet spot the size of a dime. Yet I was still getting scores in the high 60s and low 70s, but equipment has made a huge difference.”

Instead of star power, the staple of Swartout’s successful teams at Lumen Christi has been team depth, and this year’s team is no different. Lumen Christi won the Regional at Hantz Golf Club in Tecumseh with four players scoring 82 or lower and a fifth at 85.

Double, the team captain and one of two seniors, led the way with a 75. He didn’t have a three-putt all day. He’s finished second or first in tournaments at least six times this season, and he’s been in the top 10 of every tournament he’s played except one.

“He’s not very big, but we call these kind of players sneaky long,” Swartout said. “You look at them and think they won’t hit the ball far, but he has fairly decent length off the tee.

“Over the course of the past four years, he has worked on every aspect of his game, and he is very dedicated to try and improve.”

The dedication really stood out during the summer after his freshman year.

“I’ve worked so hard to get to the point I’m at now,” Double said. “My freshman to sophomore year, I had no social life. It was golf every day, and I’m not lying. I think I saw my friends once or twice in the summer, but the next summer I hung out with them a little more.

“I’ve been here for four years and finished second twice and third last year. To most schools, that’s a great accomplishment, but to me that’s disappointing. I want to win a state championship.”

The next two players are senior Grant Konkle and junior Luke Girodat. Both shot 82 at the Regional.

“Konkle and Girodat are just flat-out long hitters,” Swartout said. “Both of them can hit it anywhere from 300 to the 340 range. It makes the par 4s rather short.

“Their biggest difficulty this year has been being consistent off the tee. You can hit it a long way, but if you go right or left, that is costing you shots.”

Konkle doesn’t want to leave Lumen Christi without winning an MHSAA championship.

“We’re out here every day working,” he said. “We get something to eat, hit range balls and then go play. We feel the pressure because nobody likes to take second. It’s tough.”

Juniors Logan Anuskiewicz and Riley Hestwood and freshman Tanner Schnell complete the top six players on the team. Schnell competed in the Regional and shot 80 while filling in for Hestwood.

“Hestwood was out of town and couldn’t go down there to practice,” Swartout said. “If you don’t know that course and have never played it before, you are not going to play it well. So I took the freshman, and he shoots 80 and finishes in the top 10.”

It is that sort of depth that gives Swartout confidence going into this weekend.

“I told them this the other day, and other coaches have told me this, too: In terms of having six players all capable of striking the ball, I’ve never had a team as good as this,” he said. “I told them, ‘Look at some of the great teams that I’ve had. I’ve had two teams that averaged 304. I had one team that broke 300 seven times and shot even-par 288 as a team, but never this depth and never as good as this team is.

“Their difficulty is they can’t stay away from the big numbers, and that is what has held us back. They might make a double-bogey here or a triple-bogey there, and if you make a couple of those, I don’t care how well you play the other 16 holes, you’re still going to shoot 80.”

Swartout hopes the players avoid those big numbers, and if they can do that, they will have a great chance.

“We’ve seen every team that is ranked around us, and I don’t think that there is a difference at the top,” Swartout said. “I am biased, but I think my team is better as a team. I’ve got five guys, and I can even throw the freshman in, who all are capable of shooting 75 or better on that course, and I don’t think the other teams have five guys who can do that.

“But we are going to have to play really, really well to win, because if the weather holds, you are going to see some really low scores.”

Chip Mundy served as sports editor at the Brooklyn Exponent and Albion Recorder from 1980-86, and then as a reporter and later copy editor at the Jackson Citizen-Patriot from 1986-2011. He also co-authored Michigan Sports Trivia. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Jackson Lumen Christi’s Will Double tees off during last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final. (Middle) This season’s Titans: Front row, from left: Grant Konkle, Tanner Schnell, Will Double. Back row, from left: Dave Swartout, Luke Girodat, Logan Anuszkiewicz, Steve Swartout. Not pictured: Riley Hestwood. (Click to see more like top photo from; team photo by Chip Mundy)

Hockey Players Transferring Winter Puck Skills to Spring Golf Swings

By Tom Lang
Special for

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

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.)