Mercier Repeats, Chassell Earns 1st Team Title since 1995

By Todd Rose
Special for Second Half

June 4, 2021

GLADSTONE – Chassell edged Powers North Central and individual champion Bryson Mercier by two strokes Thursday to win the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 3 team championship at Oaks Caddyshack Club in Gladstone.

The Panthers carded a 377 to the Jets’ 379. The top three were capped off by Engadine at 426.

“It’s just been a really good season,” said Panthers coach Erik Crowley. “It’s not a very long season up here, so we made really good time of the work we were able to do. We saw a lot of improvement from the team. Just a really fortunate season. (We had) lots of good kids, and they all improved a lot.”

The runner-up finish was the highest in North Central’s Finals history on the golf course.

“Spring sports are a difficult time because of weather and sharing athletes with other sports,” said North Central coach Gerald Whitens. “I am so proud of our boys and girls teams for their efforts preparing for this tournament.”

North Central junior Bryson Mercier shot 73 to take the individual win ahead of Ontonagon’s Tomas Immonen (75).

Mercier also was the Division 3 champion as a freshman in 2019 before COVID-19 forced last season to be canceled.

“It’s always nice to get a win,” Mercier said. “I left a couple shots out there, but overall, I played pretty well. (Tomas Immonen), who took second, he played a really good round today. I thought he did very well.”

Chassell golfThe win, Mercier said, wasn’t without its challenges

“The course played pretty tough with the wind,” he said. “I thought I bounced back from a couple bad shots and am pretty happy with how I played.

“I’m really proud of my team. Really proud of my team,” Mercier added. “Second place, that’s the first time our school has ever gotten a runner-up or finalist, so I’m very proud of my team.”

Whitens spoke highly of Mercier’s performance and overall attitude toward the game and school.

“We are led by the top golfer in the U.P., and his score supports that,” he said. “Bryson is an extremely dedicated young man, whether it's academics or sports. Bryson has always put forth the effort to be the best he can be.

“I have had the pleasure of watching him grow up with a golf club in his hand and driving around with his dad on a golf course for hours every day since he was able to walk. I am so proud of him and the way he carries himself on and off the course.”

Immonen, in his final golf event, shot a personal best at 75.

“Just to say that I can be somewhat close to (Mercier) is pretty good,” said Immonen. “He usually beats me pretty bad every meet, so it was nice to come out here and shoot 75.”

Immonen gave a special thanks to his coach Brady Guilbault. “Thank you Brady Guilbault for being the best golf coach ever,” he said.

Cedarville’s Jay Freel and Chassell’s Dean Pietila tied for third individually at 84. Chassell’s team championship was its second in the sport, with the first coming in 1995. The Panthers also finished Division 3 runners-up in 2011.

“It feels good to finally accomplish something after putting in long hours at the golf course,” said Pietila. “Things got a little rough right off the start. I bogeyed a par-three I shouldn't have. Once all the nerves left, then I started settling in and playing golf.”

The rest of the individual top 10 were as follows: Caleb Kohlmann at 89 (Cedarville), Todd Rautiola (Chassell) and Davin Hill both at 93 (Dollar Bay), Ethan Kopt at 97 (Crystal Falls Forest Park), Brayden Wilhour at 98 (Cooks Big Bay de Noc), and Devin Kipela (Chassell) and Brett LaBonte (Powers North Central) both shooting 99.

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PHOTOS: (Top) North Central’s Bryson Mercier putts during his Division 3 championship round Thursday. (Middle) Chassell poses with its first Finals winner’s trophy in the sport since 1995. (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.)