Preview: Champs, Now Challengers Again

June 4, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Last season’s Lower Peninsula Boys Golf Finals ended up among the most predictable in recent memory – Battle Creek Lakeview, Lansing Catholic and Kalamazoo Hackett all entered ranked No. 1 in their respective divisions, and all emerged as champions.

Will this weekend’s MHSAA Finals end up similarly as expected? Those reigning champions all are ranked again among the top three, but with plenty of competition looking to spoil their repeat attempts.

Below are some expected team and individual favorites at each Final. First-round play tees off at 9 a.m. Friday, with the final round beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. Click for a full list of Finals qualifiers and Regional results

DIVISION 1 at Forest Akers East

Top ranked: No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central, No. 2 Rockford, No. 3 Battle Creek Lakeview.

Battle Creek Lakeview: Last season’s champion and the runner-up in 2012 returns only two golfers from a year ago, but they were key contributors – junior Matt Alderink tied for 10th individually and sophomore Andrew Walker finished only three shots outside the top 10 at the Final. Freshman James Staab was the low scorer at the Regional at El Dorado, tying for fifth, as the Spartans finished second to Rockford. Depth is a strength of this lineup – the top four at the District finished within six shots of each other, while all five scored within eight strokes of their teammates at the Regional.

Detroit Catholic Central: The 2010 champion tied for third a year ago and was one of four teams in LP Division 1 to break 300 at Regionals, and also shot in the 290s at its District. The Shamrocks’ second and third-lowest scorers from last year’s Final are back – junior Glenn Piot and senior Domenic Mancinelli, They tied for fifth individually at the Mystic Creek Regional, although DCC finished second to White Lake Lakeland despite shooting 297 as a team. Freshman James Piot led the way at the Regional, tying for second with a 73. Glenn Piot and senior Dan Ault finished first and tied for fifth, respectively, as the team won its District at Tanglewood with a 294.

Rockford: The Rams are seeking their first MHSAA boys golf championship after finishing 12th last year. Rockford has only one senior – but he could lead a championship effort. A.J. Varekois finished third individually at the 2013 Final, finished third at his District and won his Regional last month. Junior Joel Pietila tied for fifth at the Regional, and along with juniors Michael Cooper and Josh Stephan and sophomore Kevin Kamis, also played in last season’s championship tournament. Rockford, like DCC, was one of four teams to break 300 at Regionals, shooting 298.

Other individuals of note: Four more top-10 finishers from last season’s Final join Varekois and Alderink; White Lake Lakeland senior Alex Kleckner initially tied for first place in 2013 and finished runner-up after a three-hole playoff, while Saline senior Ian Martin, Canton junior Donnie Trosper and Plymouth senior John Tatti all tied for sixth. Trosper is back as an individual qualifier. Playing as his team’s lone representative as well is Ann Arbor Huron freshman Brandon Petzak – he won his District and finished fourth at his Regional. A number of others shot in the low 70s at Regionals – but Lakeland senior Jake Kneen is someone to keep an eye on after he carded a 68.

DIVISION 2 at Forest Akers West

Top ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, 2. DeWitt, 3. East Lansing.

Cranbrook-Kingswood: The 2012 champion hopes to win its second MHSAA Final in three seasons and was one of five teams in this division to shoot 301-305 at Regionals. Three of the Cranes’ top four scorers from last season’s third-place Finals finisher are back. Juniors Dylan Deogun and Todd Fridline and senior Robbie Van Voorhis all three finished among the top eight at the District, and all five in the lineup finished among the top 13 at the Regional – which was won by freshman Devin Deogun.

DeWitt: The Panthers were the low scorers at Regionals of all Division 2 teams, shooting a 301, and will be looking for a big comeback this weekend after trying for seventh a year ago (they won LP Division 2 in 2010 and 2011). Junior Owen Beyer tied for 10th at last season’s Final and for third at a strong Regional at Prairiewood as DeWitt edged host Otsego and East Lansing by three strokes to finish first as a team. All five golfers shot within 11 strokes of each other, with senior Cody White taking fifth. He and junior Mike Coscarelli also were part of the 2013 Finals lineup.

East Lansing: The Trojans are seeking their first MHSAA title since 2000 without a senior in the lineup this weekend – but with two of the top three back from last season’s fourth-place finish and after shooting 304 to finish just behind DeWitt at their Regional. Junior Joe Croom is one the pair returning from last season, and he finished third individually at the Regional. Junior Matt Rogerson also is back after shooting the team’s low Finals score in 2013.

Other individuals of note:  All but the champion from last season’s top 10 are back in the field, led by Hamilton junior Nick Carlson who finished second in 2013 and shot a 69 at his Regional. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern sophomore Spencer Schab (third), Grand Rapids Christian senior Ben Van Scoyk and Croswell-Lexington senior Austin Carter (tied for fourth), Detroit Country Day senior Rishi Patel (sixth), Pontiac Notre Dame Prep senior Jack Zohoury and Otsego junior Logan Haight (tied for seventh), New Boston Huron senior Tyler Olsen (eighth) and Grand Rapids Christian senior Tommy Reitema (tied for 10th) join Beyer in pursuit of individual contention. Remember as well Richland Gull Lake senior Tyler Van Dermolen, who missed the top 10 last season but shot a 68 at his Regional.

DIVISION 3 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University

Top ranked: 1. Lansing Catholic, 2. Jackson Lumen Christi, 3. Hanover-Horton.

Hanover-Horton: The Comets also bring back three players after finishing fourth last season, and junior Kenzie Brockie tied for eighth individually in 2012 when the team finished runner-up. He and junior Brock Spink just missed the individual top 10 last season, and junior Fred Vann also played; those three and junior Kyle Clark and freshman Dakota Fleming give the Comets a lineup capable for making a run not just this season but next. Spink won the Regional ahead of three Lumen Christi players.

Jackson Lumen Christi: The Titans saw a four-year championship run end in 2013, but return loaded for another run with three back after falling to second place. Seniors Jacob Anuszkiewicz and Patrick Campbell and junior Henry Hitt all shot 77s to tie for second at the Regional as all five Lumen Chrisit players finished among the top 12. All five finished among the top 11 at the District on their home course, Cascades, as Lumen Christi edged Hanover-Horton by two strokes.

Lansing Catholic: Last season’s champion returns three of its top five from that day including reigning individual runner-up Brent Marshall, now a senior. Juniors Niko Voutsaras and Adam Elias also were part of the championship lineup. Sophomore Owen Rush took Marshall to a playoff for first at the District this spring, and Rush and junior Patrick Gillespie joined champion Marshall among the top five at the Regional. Coach Charlie Furney has led the Cougars to four championships and two runner-up finishes over the last 12 seasons.

Other individuals of note: Unlike Divisions 1 and 2, Division 3 appears wide open from an individual standpoint with Almont junior Gavin DePauw (tied for fifth) joining Marshall as the only top-10 finishers back from last season. Flint Powers Catholic freshman Blaise Vanitvelt is a name to watch, and Grand Rapids South Christian senior Nick Vander Horst and Williamston senior Parker Ottarson are a few others that could jump up from a balanced field.

DIVISION 4 at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley

Top ranked: 1. Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, 2. North Muskegon, 3. Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central.

Oakland Christian: The Lancers’ 328 was the second-lowest Regional score in LP Division 4 and should be a good indication that the 2011 champions are ready to make a big jump from last season’s tie for seventh. Four of last season’s five Finals golfers return, and all four are seniors – John Van Noord, Aaron Kostich, Spencer Haupert and Austin Miller; Van Noord also played as a freshman on the MHSAA championship team. He, Haupert and junior Jimmy Kern all finished among the top five at the Regional at Westwynd, their home course.

Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central: The reigning champion has an entirely new lineup from the one that placed three among the top 10 individuals in claiming the team title in 2013. But the Fighting Irish won their District by 23 strokes with senior Evan Brennan finishing first among individuals, and then claimed the Regional title by eight with freshman Nick Jasiak taking first after defeating two others in a playoff.  

Lincoln Alcona: The Tigers are ranked fifth and posted the lowest Regional score in LP Division 4, 324, with a lineup of five seniors. Four of the five also played on the team that finished 10th at last season’s MHSAA Final. Alcona won its District by 16 with Lucas Weichel taking the individual honor, then won the Regional by nine with Walker Kelly, Weichel and Josh Mead all finishing between fourth and sixth in the individual standings.

Other individuals of note: Leland junior Joel Sneed finished 11th at last season’s Final and is the highest-placing individual back for this weekend. He also shot a 68 at his Regional to go low for all of LP Division 4 and make himself the favorite. Pentwater junior Sam Wagner tied for 12th last season and also could be in the mix. Suttons Bay junior Devin Capron wasn’t far behind those two at the 2013 Final and shot a 70 last month to finish second to Sneed at their Regional at Spruce Run.

PHOTO: The rest of the top-10 placers at last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Boys Golf Final clap for champion Ryan Bayer of Comstock Park. All but Bayer will return for this weekend’s championship tournament. (Click to see more at

Hockey Players Transferring Winter Puck Skills to Spring Golf Swings

By Tom Lang
Special for

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.

Hartland’s Ian Kastamo (16) takes a faceoff against Brighton this winter. 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.

Mona Shores’ Nicholas Taylor fires an iron shot. 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

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.)