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.)

St. Francis Turns Slight Friday Lead Into Memorable Championship Sweep

June 8, 2024

BIG RAPIDS – Traverse City St. Francis freshman Casey Jackson assigned some of the credit for his teammates’ Lower Peninsula Division 3 championship success this weekend to their matching bucket hats, which proved a key accessory during Saturday’s drizzly second round at Katke Golf Course.

But the Gladiators’ first Finals championship since 2008 was more a product of scores falling along with the raindrops.

They improved from 14th a year ago to first this weekend by building a three-stroke lead on Jackson Lumen Christi during Friday’s first round and extending it to an 18-stroke victory by the end of Saturday, finishing with a two-day 640 as the Titans finished at 658 and Grand Rapids West Catholic and Grand Rapids Covenant Christian tied for third at 668.

St. Francis carded a 328 on Friday but cut that to 312 during the second round, in part on the surge of junior David Ansley. He shot an 80 on Friday to tie for seventh individually, but came back Saturday with a 72 to set up a tie-breaker for medalist with Elk Rapids sophomore Baron Vollmer – and clinched it by dropping what he estimated to be a 20-foot putt.

All told, four of five Gladiators cut strokes from their first to second rounds. Freshman Casey Jackson dropped a stroke to tie for ninth at 80-79-159, and junior Josh Slocum carded 85-77-162 to tie for 16th individually. Sophomore William Gibbons also cut two strokes to finish at 88-86-174, and senior Owen Jackson remained consistently solid at 83-84-167.

“I’ve grown up with these guys for years now, and it just feels so surreal because we did what we wanted to do this season,” Jackson said. “It feels like our chemistry is so good together, and we worked for this so hard.”

The Gladiators put plenty of distance between themselves and the field, with their Saturday score made more impressive by the fact only Lumen Christi (327) and Tawas (329) joined St. Francis in breaking 330 – not only for the second round, but the entire weekend.

Elk Rapids’ Baron Vollmer sends his ball out of the sand. “That was our job today, go out and try to put a little pressure,” St. Francis coach Jim Hornyak said. “We only had a two-stroke lead and wanted to put some pressure and make the other teams have to come and get us, and hopefully cause some issues.

“(My team) just played awesome today.”

That was finished off by Ansley, who thought he had a good chance to climb the individual standings after shooting 80 on Friday, but probably not enough to win it all.

At the end, Ansley sank the long putt to finish the St. Francis championship sweep.

“That last putt, I didn’t expect it to go in. I just hit it as hard as I could almost and hoped that it went in,” he said. “I was like, I already won a team championship, I have nothing to lose. So I was like whatever, let’s just hit it and hope it goes in.”

The top 11 individuals all finished within seven strokes of the lead. Millington junior Brad Coleman finished third, just two strokes back.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Traverse City St. Francis’ David Ansley putts during Saturday’s second round at Katke Golf Club. (Middle) Elk Rapids’ Baron Vollmer sends his ball out of the sand. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)