Skyline's Favorite Status Stands with 1st Finals Win

By Tom Lang
Special for

June 12, 2021

EAST LANSING – Ann Arbor Skyline was ranked No. 1 all season, which meant bringing high expectations into the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Boys Golf Finals as the prohibitive favorite.

And with a lineup that boasted two freshmen, the Eagles delivered at Michigan State’s Forest Akers West.

Skyline recorded a two-day total 594, placing ahead of runner up Detroit Catholic Central (603), plus Traverse City West and Forest Hills Northern (each at 613).

Three of the Eagles’ five players had never been to the Finals before. 

“So, they really didn’t understand what all the hype was, which kind of served as a good thing, to not know exactly what they were getting into,” said Skyline head coach Ashley Mantha. “But once they got here, they understood what I was talking about. Fortunately, our (program has) been here before so I could share with the newbies on what to expect.”

Skyline had four players place among the individual top 25 to pace the field. Freshman Ieuan Jones was part of a three-way tie for runner-up to medalist Davis Codd of Brighton, followed by Skyline brothers Vibhav and Vimal Alokam at T13 and T23, respectively, plus Mitchell Strickland at T23.

“Usually we’re the underdogs (coming into a state final), so there a big role reversal today,” Mantha said. “We’ve never been in this situation so how do we prepare for people coming for us, so to speak?

“Each player has like a key phrase I can use to get them in the right head space. We talk about things like how they play with their buddies, or I say ‘Washtenaw,’ just little things that kind of bring them back down to their own game.”

Mantha pointed out how the win was truly a team victory as Skyline counted a normally fifth-player score toward Friday’s first round.

“Luke Richard, my junior, shot his best season score on Friday in the five spot,” she said. Normally he’s in the high 70s but he got a 74 for us, which counted because my No. 1 shot his worst score (on Friday). You can talk about how we should play, but he really played to the moment.”

On the individual side, Brighton’s Codd had spent the last two weeks at an NHL prospects hockey camp in Erie, Pa. – and had to return there immediately Saturday night to play in a game Sunday in front of several NHL pro teams’ scouts. 

Yet that didn’t stop the high school golfer from returning to Michigan twice to become co-medalist at his Regional and finish the season at Forest Akers.

Brighton golfAnd did he ever finish it in style.

Codd came back from 12th place after Friday’s first-round score of 73 to shoot 5-under par 67 on day two (140 total), to win the individual championship.

“Going into this day I had a game plan to go out there and make as many birdies as I could,” Codd said. “The entire day I didn’t look at the leaderboard once. After I walked off that green (No. 13) I kind of figured it out (that I’d won). But I had the same game plan all day, to go and attack the hole.”

Attack he did.

Codd birdied his first four holes (Nos. 14-17), and after some up-and-down play midway through the round, he stepped up to the last hole, the par-5 13th, and ripped a drive down the long, skinny fairway to within wedge length. He made a two-putt birdie to top off his final round as a high school player, who happens to double as a professional hockey player for the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit. Prior to joining the Spirit, he finished Division 1 golf runner-up as a freshman and sixth as a sophomore, and he was able to compete again this golf season because the Spirit have not played in over a year.

Codd out-paced three others who tied for runner-up at 143 – Murphy Kehoe of Traverse City West, first-round leader Jack Zubkus from Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, and Jones of Skyline.

“When you start off with four birdies in a row, that gets the wheels going around and sets a pace,” Codd said. “But I had just a different level of focus on those first four holes, and when that happened, I felt like it was my day, and my day to win, so it was great to start that way.”

Codd said he didn’t get in a practice round for Finals, so he didn’t set any expectations for himself. 

“I just went out there to try and enjoy my last two rounds as a high schooler, and it worked out,” he said.

“It’s pretty special to be a part of this Brighton program,” Codd added about the team that took seventh place Saturday. “I was just so fortunate to have my coach, Jimmy Dewling, such a great golf mind and such a great friend, to guide my golf career these last few years and I can’t thank him enough. And I’ve had great teammates over the years. We weren’t the best my first couple of years, but the character in that group set this program on where it’s headed. It’s been a couple of great years in this program.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Ann Arbor Skyline's Vibhav Alokam lines up a putt during Friday's first round. (Middle) Brighton’s Davis Codd connects with one of his putts during Friday’s first round. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

Pinili Aiming to Add Medalist Honor as Brother Rice Seeks Finals 3-Peat

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

June 8, 2023

The phrase the “third time is a charm” might often be trite and overplayed, but it also couldn’t apply more to Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice senior golfer Lorenzo Pinili.

Greater DetroitTwo years ago as a sophomore, Pinili finished as the individual runner-up at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final, five shots out of first at Bedford Valley in Battle Creek.

Last year, Pinili was the runner-up again at Grand Valley State, valiantly rallying from an opening-round score of 76 to shoot a 68 on the second day at The Meadows, but still ending six shots behind.

Both years, Brother Rice won the team title, so Pinili still left happy.

But no doubt, he hopes the third time will be the charm from an individual point of view when he competes at this weekend’s Division 2 Final at The Fortress in Frankenmuth.

“This year, I definitely have a lot more motivation to finish first,” he said. “It’s a lot of patience. That’s what it is. I just have to trust my game and not really force anything. That’s what most people try to do. If they know they want to get a win or know they want to play well, they’re going to start forcing shots that’s out of their comfort zone or do stuff they don’t really do.”

Pinili, who will play collegiately at Michigan State, has been hitting a lot of good shots throughout a golfing life that started when he was 2 years old. 

In fact, while Pinili has no recollection of the moment he took up the game, his father Rommel has reminded him constantly throughout his life.

“He said that I picked up a stick while the TV was on and I tried to copy what was on TV,” Pinili said. “From there, he gave me a plastic club, and he gave me real balls. He thought I was making good contact. From there, he gave me real metal clubs, and I was able to hit balls. There’s actually a video on YouTube that you can find of me hitting golf balls at the range when I was 2. From there, it’s been with me my whole entire life.”

Pinili said if there’s one area of his game that has evolved more than any other since he began high school, it’s performing when the stakes are the highest.

The Warriors celebrate their second-straight team title, including Pinili (standing, third from left) and his younger brother Leandro (standing, fourth from right

Brother Rice associate coach David Sass echoed those sentiments about Pinili’s enhanced ability to stay even-keeled mentally under pressure.

“He has a tendency to have such a high level of expectation for his game, that can kind of prohibit him from looking beyond a simple mistake,” he said. “He’s been really good about doing that lately. Golf is very hard, and it’s really about managing your mistakes. Perfection is basically unattainable in golf. If he stays patient, understands that, picks his spots on when to be aggressive, is aggressive in that moment, and then plays it smart during moments he shouldn’t be aggressive, I think he’s got an incredible chance to win this thing.”

One of the biggest competitors for Pinili this weekend could be someone in the same household.

Leandro Pinili, a sophomore, finished in a tie for ninth last year at the LPD2 Tournament, and definitely helps push Lorenzo to greater heights in the game.

“We share a lot of passion with the game together, and sometimes it gets a little too competitive just because he wants to beat me and I can’t let him beat me,” Lorenzo said. “It’s really nice having someone besides me who understands the side of golf that I understand. It’s also really fun being able to play with my brother and compete with him. I really love it, and that’s one of the biggest things I’m going to miss about Brother Rice golf.”

And no doubt, Brother Rice will definitely miss Lorenzo Pinili when he finishes his high school career on Saturday at a course he is looking forward to playing because it will require precise shots.

“I think it will separate the best from the rest of the pack,” he said. “You really can’t get away with anything out there.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Brother Rice's Lorenzo Pinili, right, tees off during the 2022 LP Division 1 Finals as Grand Rapids Christian's Adam Workman follows his shot. (Middle) The Warriors celebrate their second-straight team title, including Pinili (standing, third from left) and his younger brother Leandro (standing, fourth from right). Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)