Rain Delay Can't Stop Flint Powers' Charge

June 10, 2018

By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half

BATTLE CREEK – The Flint Powers Catholic boys golf team gained plenty of experience playing after extensive weather delays this season.

That experience paid major dividends during the second round of the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals on Saturday.

Shortly after the first groups hit their tee shots at Bedford Valley Golf Course, the cracks of thunder brought out the horn calling players off the course. The next five-plus hours found golfers, coaches and spectators huddled in and about the clubhouse as heavy rains hit and put day two of the Finals in jeopardy. After a nearly six-hour delay, the rain came to an end and the Division 2 golfers finished just before darkness fell to cap a highly-competitive two days of golf.

Flint Powers came out on top with a two-day total of 600 to edge Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (603) and East Grand Rapids (608).

The lengthy delay was something the Powers golfers had experience with as they endured a four-hour delay during the regular season on their way to winning a tournament at Katke in Big Rapids.

“I’m so thankful we went through that because the boys handled it very well up there, and they were able to take that and carry it over and handle it today,” said Powers Catholic coach Robert Beach. “They just kicked back and relaxed, and we tried to have a little fun. We went out and had lunch and got back here and had to wait a little bit longer, but once that horn sounds, they’re in competitive mode.”

Powers strung together four strong scores after the delay as sophomore Grant Tucker shot a 72, senior Matt Knight carded a 73, senior Zach Hopkins shot a 74 and sophomore Ty Vanitvelt added a 76.

Heading into Saturday’s final round, the Chargers trailed Friday’s leader, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, by five strokes. Notre Dame Prep shot a 300 on the first day, followed by East Grand Rapids with a 301 and Forest Hills Northern with a 302. Following right behind Powers Catholic was DeWitt with a 306, Gaylord and Richland Gull Lake with 308 and Byron Center with 309 – in all, seven teams were within nine strokes of the lead.

“This is my 30th year of coaching, and I’ve never seen it this close,” Beach said. “I’ve never seen so many teams that had a chance going into today. I was talking to the other coaches, and we were all hoping and praying. Our kids worked so hard, every team worked so hard to get here, all I wanted was just a chance today. I’m so thankful all these kids got a chance to experience the second day of the state tournament.”

For the Powers seniors, the title was extra sweet after they finished second at last year’s state meet.

“We had the mindset going into today that if we were able to play, we would pull it off,” Knight said. “It’s pretty cool to see that happen. It’s a big turnaround in one year and a great way to go out as a senior.”

Fellow senior Hopkins finished the tournament with rounds of 73 and 74 to lead the Chargers with a 147 total, eight shots off the lead. Although the delay was a challenge, the opportunity to capture the title made the wait worth it.

“The delay was a little annoying,” Hopkins said. “We didn’t know if we would play today. I’m happy that we ended up playing. The course itself was actually not as wet as I thought it would be.

“That’s all we wanted all this year. I’m happy we finally accomplished it.”

Mason’s Alex Jordan also made the most of the long delay. Jordan put together two solid rounds to win the medalist honor with a 139. Nick Krueger of Spring Lake placed second with a 141 followed by Andrew Kolar of Forest Hills Central with a 142 and Tanner Moore of Byron Center and Charlie DeLong of DeWitt with both at 143.

Trailing by two strokes entering the second day, Jordan relaxed and spent time with people close to him.

“It was nice being with my mom and my coach,” Jordan said. “Being able to talk with them and not get impatient just thinking about it. I was able to distract myself a little bit. I did a good job of staying patient. When I came back I had an eight-foot putt for birdie, and I knocked it in on the first hole.”

After shooting a 69 on Friday, the birdie putt sent Jordan on to a score of 70 after the weather delay. Jordan’s strategy was the same as it was for the first round.

“I just tried to do the same things I did yesterday,” Jordan said. “I played a very similar round as far as making decisions and where I placed the ball, and it worked.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Powers coach Robert Beach and golfer Grant Tucker confer during Saturday’s second round at Bedford Valley. (Middle) Mason’s Alex Jordan watches one of his shots. (Click to see more from 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.

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 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.)