By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS -- Spencer Schab has a different approach to the game of golf this season.
The Forest Hills Northern senior isn’t taking things as seriously as in past years.
“I thought of it as, this is my senior year, it’s my last high school season, so why put so much pressure on myself and make it less enjoyable?,” Schab said. “I’m just going to go out and have fun.”
Schab’s change of attitude has served him and his team well.
The Huskies entered this week’s MHSAA District Tournament ranked No. 2 in Division 2, behind only Ottawa-Kent Conference Bronze rival Ada Forest Hills Eastern.
Schab, a two-time Lower Peninsula Division 2 all-state first team selection, has felt the pressure to produce low scores in recent years.
“The last couple years I’ve put too much weight on my shoulders to play well,” Schab said. “I’ve found that when I’m more focused on having a good time, like talking to my playing competitors, I end up playing better. This year has been fun.”
Schab has been a mainstay as the Huskies’ No. 1 golfer, but coach Brian Telzerow said his teammates have helped to ease the tension.
“He’s been the go-to guy so to speak and he’s always played in the No. 1 spot, but the nice thing about this year is all five guys who play can easily be the lowest score of the team,” he said. “Spencer doesn’t feel like he has to be the lowest guy, and so I think he is enjoying the game a little bit more because of that.”
Forest Hills Northern has a talented cast of seniors to accompany Schab in the top four. They include Phil Lodzinski, Chase Lebster and Brian McHale.
Josh Belfer is another senior, along with two freshmen.
The experience of the seniors has sparked the team’s success. It’s a group that has played together the past four years and has a strong bond on and off the course.
“That’s my favorite part about the team,” Schab said. “We’re all such good friends, and it makes the experience so much better for all of us because we’re a tight-knit group. We were friends before we were on the team, and being on the team has only strengthened our friendship.”
Lodzinski said the closeness among the seniors helps drive them to perform their best.
“We’re all best friends, and I think you try a little harder when you have friends on the team because you don’t want to let them down,” he said. “We have a good time together, and that makes it an enjoyable experience overall.”
The seniors played key roles in last year’s third-place finish at the Finals. They’re pulling together once again in an attempt to make a repeat trip.
“These seniors have played with each other for four years,” Telzerow said. “They know each other, they like each other and they have a good connection. They have a sense of we’re doing it for each other, just not for our own accomplishments.”
The ability to stay consistent also has been an important aspect, according to Lodzinski.
“We’ve had at least three or four scores in the 70s every tournament, and that comes with our maturity,” he said. “Compared to our freshman and sophomore years, we’re a lot better at managing ourselves on the course, and it’s led to better scoring and more consistency.”
All of the seniors recently graduated, and Schab said the stresses of the past few months have finally subsided. It has allowed time to focus solely on golf.
“I had a lot of extracurricular activities going on earlier in the year with AP exams and graduation, but it’s time to focus on practice and sharpening up for the postseason,” said Schab, who averaged 38.2 strokes for nine holes during the conference season. “Overall, I’m happy with how well I’m playing considering my shift in focus.”
Telzerow said Schab is starting to peak at the most important time of the spring.
“He’s starting to play better,” he said. “I think he did this last year where he kind of had a lull in the middle of the season and then really came on strong in the postseason. He shot 72 at the post-conference tournament and he’s the kind of guy that can go low very easily.”
The Huskies finished runner-up to conference champion Forest Hills Eastern. The two engaged in a competitive tussle throughout the season, and Telzerow hopes it pays off.
“We knew coming in that both of us had high-caliber players and we would be battling each other constantly,” he said. “And that happened. We both want to do well in Districts and Regionals. Our hope is to finish strong at the state tournament, but we recognize that you have to get there first.”
Districts begin today for the Huskies, and expectations are high. A lofty finish at the Finals would be a fitting ending to outstanding high school careers.
“Our whole goal is to win a state championship,” Lodzinski said. “We’re planning on working hard to make it to state and making a run at the championship.”
Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.
PHOTO: Forest Hills Northern's Spencer Schab follows through on a swing. (Photo courtesy of Forest Hills Northern yearbook staff.)
Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.
Below is this week's segment – Animal Interference - Listen
In golf – it’s common to hear about birdies, eagles, maybe even an albatross. Or in my case, a snowman. But what if an actual animal interferes with your ball while in play?
There are two kinds of interference.
The first involves a ball still in motion. If you are putting and a squirrel darts out and stops or redirects your putt, you simply get a do-over from the original spot.
Off the green, if a moving ball is stopped or re-directed, you play the ball from where it ultimately stops.
If your ball is stopped and a seagull picks it up and carries it off – you just replace the ball to its original spot and proceed.
It doesn’t happen often, but now you know how to deal with squirrels and seagulls … in addition to birdies and eagles.
(PHOTO by Gary Shook.)