Relaxed Approach does FHN's Schab Good
May 27, 2016
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.)
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.
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.
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.)