Second-Round Surge Lands Orchard Lake St. Mary's 1st Finals Victory

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

June 8, 2024

EAST LANSING — Tom Brecht had waited 28 years for this moment, but he could think about only one thing in the immediate aftermath of the Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final at Forest Akers West.

“It’s cold,” Brecht said after getting a bucket of ice water dumped on him by his golfers. “I wish it was 90 about degrees out there; then it would be OK.”

It was the first time Brecht had experienced the traditional celebratory bath, which was fitting because it was also the first time he’d experienced a Finals title since taking over as the head coach of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in 1996. 

An athletic program steeped in tradition across many sports, St. Mary’s will now get to hang a championship banner for boys golf after the Eaglets closed with a strong second day to win their first title.

Trailing by one shot after Friday’s first round, St. Mary’s shot four strokes better as a team on the second day for a final total of 603 (304-299), edging runner-up Grand Rapids Christian by one stroke. 

The Eagles had entered in fourth place after shooting a first round score of 307, but shot a 297 on the second day. Richland Gull Lake was third at 609. 

All of it obviously left Brecht overjoyed and beaming with warmth in spite of the cold water dripping down his back. 

“I thought it would come,” Brecht said of winning a state title. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be coaching – maybe one or two more years. I’m just very thankful and blessed.”

Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Will Preston follows a chip.Leading the way for St. Mary’s was senior Cooper Eaton, who shot a two-day score of 144 (71-73). Sophomore Blaise Król was next with a 147 (74-73), followed by junior Ethan Mukhtar (78-78-156), sophomore Mikey Karwaski (81-75-156) and senior Ben Carroll (82-82-164). 

St. Mary’s hadn’t won a tournament going into the weekend, but close calls over the regular season turned into a breakthrough at the most important event of all.

“It’s surreal,” Eaton said. “It’s a dream come true. All the guys put it together, and it was our day. We really took care of business.”

Also taking care of business was Grand Rapids Catholic Central senior Will Preston, who like St. Mary’s broke through for the first time in what was his final high school tournament.

Preston was the individual runner-up at the last two Division 3 Finals and a part of Catholic Central’s 2023 team title.

Moving to Division 2 this year, Catholic Central didn’t qualify as a team, but Preston did individually and made good on another opportunity. 

“Obviously being runner-up two years in a row sucks,” Preston said. “But you take that experience and do your best to move and keep it coming.” 

After a 2-under round of 70 on the first day, Preston shot a 1-under round of 71 to finish at 141, one shot ahead of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice junior Leandro Pinili and three shots ahead of Eaton.

The last hole for Preston was the par-4 No. 3 hole, and he knew he was two shots ahead teeing off.

He said it didn’t change his strategy of hitting an iron off of the tee, but he sprayed that shot into the rough and had to chip out. 

Preston eventually laid three facing a chip shot near the green, but got up and down from there to secure a bogey and the title.

“I didn’t have my best stuff today, actually,” said Preston, who will play in college for Penn State. “But I was able to keep with it and had a couple of key up-and-downs later in the round. Just kept with it when I was struggling.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Orchard Lake St. Mary's Cooper Eaton celebrates after a drive Saturday at Forest Akers West. (Middle) Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Will Preston follows a chip. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

State Champs! Network: 2024 Lower Peninsula Boys Golf Finals Highlights

June 13, 2024