Norway's Kelly, St. Ignace Score D2 Titles

June 2, 2016

By Dennis Grall
Special for Second Half

NORWAY – There was considerable squirming at Oak Crest Golf Club on Thursday, and we're not even talking about the players who put on a good run for medalist honors.

No, the parents of the top two contenders tried to keep their emotions in check while taking the roller coaster ride as their sons battled for first place at the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 boys golf tournament.

Eventually, Tom and Michelle Kelly of Norway had a chance to exhale as their son Bryce emerged as medalist with a 78 to slip past 2015 champion Riley Thompson by a stroke. Kelly parred the last two holes while Iron River West Iron County's Thompson had a two-putt bogey-4 on No. 17 and then hit a short chip shot for a tap-in par-4 on the last hole.

Both contenders had a topsy-turvy back nine, to their chagrin and that of their parents. Kelly bogeyed holes 11-12-13 and doubled 15 while Thompson went double bogey-bogey to start and then hit an eagle-3 on No. 3 to pull within a stroke. He lost a stroke with a bogey on 14 but got one back with par on 15, and a birdie on 16 brought him into a tie that was broken on the short 17th.

"I can feel the good and the bad. I'm there cheering for him," Tom Kelly said. "It was hard when they had that swing. I could see the frustration in him."

Chris Thompson also was hanging on as his son went up-and-down. "You're learning a life lesson," he said of the difficult finish. "Bryce regrouped after a couple of bad shots, then Riley regrouped after he thought he was out of it.

"I've coached too long (football assistant, his son was quarterback) and I know they have to work through it themselves."

Bryce Kelly had the key shot on No. 18 when he reached the heavily-sloped green (low on the front) from a tough sidehill lie in the 18th right rough. "I knew I had to hit a good wedge on 18," he said. With the ball below his feet, he added, "I did not want to go right. I wanted to get it left and stay below the pin. I hit a pretty darn good shot."

Riley Thompson's drive on 18 was about 25 yards ahead of Kelly’s and just inside the 100-yard marker. However, Thompson’s approach was well short as he decelerated his wedge and fell about 10 yards shy of the green. He chipped on and nearly jarred the approach for the tying birdie.

"I've never really been in a situation at the close," he said of feeling the pressure down the stretch. "I made a mental mistake (while putting for par) on 17."

The eagle provided a major boost after a tough front.

"It (eagle) gave me confidence, but then I made some mistakes on the next two holes," he said. "I'm happy the way I played the back nine. I dug a deep hole after 10 but I showed some ability to grind through and get back at it."

Kelly, who is thinking about trying to be a walk-on for the Northern Michigan University golf team in the fall, was excited with his title. "This is a little special, especially doing it on my home course really topped it off."

St. Ignace claimed the team title with a 339, nine strokes fewer than Norway. Coach Claudette Brown watched her daughter Margo take medalist honors last year as a senior, then saw her boys team finish first a year later.

"I'm so overwhelmed. They are all pretty consistent," she said. "The boys were hoping to win. The kids can focus and do what needs to be done. I told them to focus on where they are."

She said the Saints made a big statement last month by winning a tournament in Charlevoix, beating perennial power Traverse City West in the process. She used three juniors and two freshmen for the Final on Thursday.

Junior Carter Tallaire, playing at No. 1, said "we thought we had a pretty good chance at it." He added that the Charlevoix tourney "gave us a lot of motivation. That really set the tone. We realized we could play good."

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PHOTOS: (Top) Kyle Johnson of Iron Mountain blasts out of a tough lie in a bunker shy of the 16th green at Oak Crest Golf Club on Thursday during the Upper Peninsula Division 2 Final. (Middle) Bryce Kelly of Norway watches his birdie putt attempt roll just past the 18th hole. His par enabled him to win medalist honors with a 78. (Below) St. Ignace won the team championship; the team includes, from left, Andy Metz, Carter Tallaire, Kody Rickley, Hunter DeKeyser, Drew Marshall and coach Claudette Brown. (Photos by Denny Grall.)

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.)