Performance: NorthPointe Christian's Erik Fahlen Jr
June 15, 2018
Erik Fahlen Jr.
Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian junior – Golf
The NorthPointe ace fired a two-day 71-67-138 to win the individual championship at last weekend’s Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final at Forest Akers East, leading the Mustangs to their first team title since 1996 in earning the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” Fahlen’s 138 was the lowest score in LPD4/Class D Finals history since the tournament went to a two-round format in 1994 and tied for fourth-lowest for all divisions – even through he played through steady rain in East Lansing.
The victory was his fourth this spring, following championships at the Kent County Classic (shooting 74), Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver final (68) and Muskegon Mona Shores Invitational (73 plus a playoff). He also took second at his Regional and at the Katke Classic and averaged 74.9 strokes per round. NorthPointe, on the strength of two top-10 individual finishes by Fahlen and seventh-place Logan Holtkamp, a third that just missed by Hayden VanErmen and career-low scores from its fifth player Lance VanErmen, locked up the LPD4 team title with a few holes to play Saturday on the way to winning by 33 strokes. The individual race, meanwhile, came down to Fahlen, Suttons Bay’s Thomas Hursey and reigning champion Austin Fauser of Clinton – Fahlen and Fauser were tied with three holes left before Fahlen finished birdie-par-birdie to clinch the medalist honor.
Fahlen had finished 11th at the LPD4 Final in 2017, then decided to make golf a year-round pursuit playing on three junior tours last fall and winter that took him to Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee among southern locales. He has a busy playing schedule mapped out for this summer, filled with Golf Association of Michigan (GAM), United States Golf Association (USGA) and American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) events. He also carries a 3.6 grade-point average as he looks toward college and continuing to golf at that level, and he’ll have one more opportunity next spring to lead NorthPointe for his dad Erik Sr., the Mustangs’ coach.
Coach (and father) Erik Fahlen Sr. said: “He played probably 20-25 tournaments outside of high school since last state finals, and he won nine of those. … (Heading into last fall) he hadn’t ever cracked the 60s, and then over two months he had two 69s and a 67. He got the confidence to finish, got in his mind he can shoot in the 60s – he’s just got to finish it up. … (On Saturday), I’m talking to him at the 18th tee and I said, ‘We’ll, you’re one stroke ahead but you both (Fahlen and Fauser) have one to play. A birdie will win it, par might win it, and with a bogey you will be a playoff.’ He looked at me and said, ‘I’m not going to be in any playoff. I’m going to birdie this hole.’ Those experiences in tournaments have helped him finish. When you’re golfing, you’ve got to learn how to finish.”
Performance Point: “It was a really special weekend, getting to play with the three seniors on our team and it was our last tournament together,” Erik Jr. said. “It really couldn’t have gone any better for us – we played our two lowest rounds of the year at state finals, which is really cool, and I played well individually. We know that we have the game. We were looking for those numbers all year, and they hadn’t really come. It’s a 36-hole tournament, and you’ve just got to take it hole by hole and do our best to shoot the lowest score.”
Rain? No problem: “I use a push cart, and that definitely helps with rain. I’m able to keep multiple towels on my cart and I have an umbrella, and my dad was making sure everything I had was staying dry … And (it’s about) not letting the rain bug you. You don’t want it to really change your game. You just want to go out and play the golf ball, not let it distract you like it happened to many other players, like ‘Hey, it really stinks playing in this rain. I’m getting soaked.’ I didn’t really worry about that. I just go out and play a round.”
Mustangs striding: “It’s sweet to bring back the life of NorthPointe golf. We went through a couple struggles four or five years ago and the team wasn’t looking very good, and now we’ve got a couple young kids in, and my dad gets the coaching job and it kinda gives the program new life – new motivation, that we’ve got to be this championship team and bring a state title back to NorthPointe.”
Thanks Dad: “I’ve been playing in the little junior tournaments since I could walk, really, since I was a really small kid. He was my coach all along for that, so for him to be my coach now since I started going to high school, it’s cool having him be my coach and being the coach of me as well my friends on the team, and having a special connection not only as coach but as a father as well.”
Great leads to follow: “Of course I love looking at Jordan Spieth and how he was in his junior days, and how he was the king of junior golf. That’s something huge to look up to. And there’s a couple of local high schoolers, kids that went to Detroit Catholic Central like Ben Smith, James Piot and Sean Niles. They graduated last year. Those are kids I look up to, to try to get my game to be like theirs; they all went to play somewhere (in college) big and pretty cool for golf. I do not know them personally, but I played in tournaments against them. They were definitely big names; they’d all win these individual junior tournaments and state championships, and I’m trying to get my golf game to be like theirs.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2017-18 honorees:
June 7: Paxton Johnson, Escanaba golf - Read
May 31: Lydia Goble, Schoolcraft softball - Read
May 24: Corinne Jemison, East Kentwood track & field - Read
May 17: Reagan Wisser, Richland Gull Lake soccer - Read
May 10: Clayton Sayen, Houghton track & field - Read
May 3: Autumn Roberts, Traverse City Central tennis - Read
April 26: Thomas Robinson, Wyoming Lee track & field - Read
March 29: Carlos Johnson, Benton Harbor basketball - Read
March 22: Shine Strickland-Gills, Saginaw Heritage basketball - Read
March 15: Skyler Cook-Weeks, Holland Christian swimming - Read
March 8: Dakota Greer, Howard City Tri-County wrestling - Read
March 1: Camree' Clegg, Wayne Memorial basketball - Read
February 23: Aliah Robertson, Sault Ste. Marie swimming - Read
February 16: Austin O'Hearon, Eaton Rapids wrestling - Read
February 9: Sophia Wiard, Muskegon Oakridge basketball - Read
February 2: Brenden Tulpa, Hartland hockey - Read
January 25: Brandon Whitman, Dundee wrestling - Read
January 18: Derek Maas, Holland West Ottawa swimming - Read
January 11: Lexi Niepoth, Bellaire basketball - Read
November 30: La'Darius Jefferson, Muskegon football - Read
November 23: Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison swimming - Read
November 16: Bryce Veasley, West Bloomfield football - Read
November 9: Jose Penaloza, Holland soccer - Read
November 2: Karenna Duffey, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North cross country - Read
October 26: Anika Dy, Traverse City West golf - Read
October 19: Andrew Zhang, Bloomfield Hills tennis - Read
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian's Erik Fahlen Jr. follows through on a swing this season. (Middle) Fahlen poses at Forest Akers East after clinching the Lower Peninsula Division 4 title. (Top photo courtesy of the Fahlen family; bottom photo by HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Hockey Players Transferring Winter Puck Skills to Spring Golf Swings
By Tom Lang
Special for MHSAA.com
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.
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.
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 MIGolfJournal.com.
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.)