Peterson Repeats, Houghton Back on Top

By John Vrancic
Special for

May 29, 2019

By John Vrancic
Special for Second Half

ESCANABA – The Houghton boys saved their best for last here Wednesday, earning their fifth Upper Peninsula Division 1 golf championship in eight years and first since 2016.

The Gremlins, with 321 strokes, edged Marquette (323) and two-time reigning champ Escanaba (325) at Escanaba Country Club.

"We had a real solid day," said Houghton coach Corey Markham. "Our No. 1 golfer had a real solid round, and other guys lowered their scores. This was our best score of the season, and we couldn't ask for a better day for it. The day started calm, then the wind picked up about halfway through the tournament. The back nine was real wet, but the kids battled through it and had a great round."

Gladstone senior Rudy Peterson repeated as individual champion with an even-par 71, followed by Houghton junior Jiseung Choi at 74, Marquette sophomore Joe Luke and Escanaba senior Nathan Rousseau both at 78 and Iron Mountain's Ricky Brown at 79.

"I played very well on the front nine, then I struggled a little in back," said Peterson, who's headed for Michigan State this fall. "Playing aggressive in the front helped a lot, then I played a little too conservative in back.

"I felt a little more pressure coming in as defending U.P. champion, but just played my game. I figured if I won, fine. If I didn't win, it wasn't the end of the world. I won't be playing golf in college. I just plan to keep playing it for fun."

Peterson, who fired a sizzling 34 on the front nine, overcame bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16 for 37 on the back.

Choi shot 35 in front and 39 in back on this sunny and windy day.

"My approach shots were a challenge with the wind," he said. "The wind carried the ball a little. I just tried to keep myself focused. It feels great to win as a team. It's really fun."

Marquette and Escanaba also recorded season-best scores.

"We knew the number would have to be around 320, but we couldn't quite get there," said Marquette coach Ben Smith. "Houghton shot a real good score and Escanaba was right there. It took a few tournaments to get into a groove, then we won five in a row coming in here. The three seniors we're losing have been real solid the last four years, and our sophomore shot a real solid round."

Escanaba assistant coach Jake Berlinski was pleased with the leadership provided by Rousseau this season.

"Nathan had an outstanding year and career," he said. "Kids like him just don't come around all the time. He's a golf fanatic. We're going to miss him.

"We return the other four. Hopefully, third place will motivate them. The way Brian (Robinette, who was coaching the girls team Wednesday) coaches is second to none. We'll be back next year."

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PHOTOS: (Top) Gladstone’s Rudy Peterson chips on hole 18 at Wednesday’s Division 1 U.P. Final at Escanaba Country Club. Peterson was crowned champion after shooting an even-par 71. (Middle) Houghton celebrated its fifth team title in eight seasons. (Top photo by Austin Hemmingson, middle by Cara Kamps.)

Pinili Aiming to Add Medalist Honor as Brother Rice Seeks Finals 3-Peat

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

June 8, 2023

The phrase the “third time is a charm” might often be trite and overplayed, but it also couldn’t apply more to Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice senior golfer Lorenzo Pinili.

Greater DetroitTwo years ago as a sophomore, Pinili finished as the individual runner-up at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final, five shots out of first at Bedford Valley in Battle Creek.

Last year, Pinili was the runner-up again at Grand Valley State, valiantly rallying from an opening-round score of 76 to shoot a 68 on the second day at The Meadows, but still ending six shots behind.

Both years, Brother Rice won the team title, so Pinili still left happy.

But no doubt, he hopes the third time will be the charm from an individual point of view when he competes at this weekend’s Division 2 Final at The Fortress in Frankenmuth.

“This year, I definitely have a lot more motivation to finish first,” he said. “It’s a lot of patience. That’s what it is. I just have to trust my game and not really force anything. That’s what most people try to do. If they know they want to get a win or know they want to play well, they’re going to start forcing shots that’s out of their comfort zone or do stuff they don’t really do.”

Pinili, who will play collegiately at Michigan State, has been hitting a lot of good shots throughout a golfing life that started when he was 2 years old. 

In fact, while Pinili has no recollection of the moment he took up the game, his father Rommel has reminded him constantly throughout his life.

“He said that I picked up a stick while the TV was on and I tried to copy what was on TV,” Pinili said. “From there, he gave me a plastic club, and he gave me real balls. He thought I was making good contact. From there, he gave me real metal clubs, and I was able to hit balls. There’s actually a video on YouTube that you can find of me hitting golf balls at the range when I was 2. From there, it’s been with me my whole entire life.”

Pinili said if there’s one area of his game that has evolved more than any other since he began high school, it’s performing when the stakes are the highest.

The Warriors celebrate their second-straight team title, including Pinili (standing, third from left) and his younger brother Leandro (standing, fourth from right

Brother Rice associate coach David Sass echoed those sentiments about Pinili’s enhanced ability to stay even-keeled mentally under pressure.

“He has a tendency to have such a high level of expectation for his game, that can kind of prohibit him from looking beyond a simple mistake,” he said. “He’s been really good about doing that lately. Golf is very hard, and it’s really about managing your mistakes. Perfection is basically unattainable in golf. If he stays patient, understands that, picks his spots on when to be aggressive, is aggressive in that moment, and then plays it smart during moments he shouldn’t be aggressive, I think he’s got an incredible chance to win this thing.”

One of the biggest competitors for Pinili this weekend could be someone in the same household.

Leandro Pinili, a sophomore, finished in a tie for ninth last year at the LPD2 Tournament, and definitely helps push Lorenzo to greater heights in the game.

“We share a lot of passion with the game together, and sometimes it gets a little too competitive just because he wants to beat me and I can’t let him beat me,” Lorenzo said. “It’s really nice having someone besides me who understands the side of golf that I understand. It’s also really fun being able to play with my brother and compete with him. I really love it, and that’s one of the biggest things I’m going to miss about Brother Rice golf.”

And no doubt, Brother Rice will definitely miss Lorenzo Pinili when he finishes his high school career on Saturday at a course he is looking forward to playing because it will require precise shots.

“I think it will separate the best from the rest of the pack,” he said. “You really can’t get away with anything out there.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Brother Rice's Lorenzo Pinili, right, tees off during the 2022 LP Division 1 Finals as Grand Rapids Christian's Adam Workman follows his shot. (Middle) The Warriors celebrate their second-straight team title, including Pinili (standing, third from left) and his younger brother Leandro (standing, fourth from right). Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)