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.)

Mid Peninsula's Boys Sweep UPD3 Titles, Including 1st Team Championship

By Jason Juno
Special for

June 1, 2023

HYDE – The Rock Mid Peninsula boys won their first Upper Peninsula Finals boys golf championship Thursday, earning it in Division 3 at Highland Golf Club near Escanaba.

The Wolverines finished with a score of 324, 13 strokes fewer than runner-up Ontonagon.

“It’s the first time in school history for us, so we’re pretty excited about it,” Mid Pen coach Earlene VanDamme said. “The kids put a lot of work into this year.”

They did it with three golfers among the individual top five, led by medalist Bradly VanDamme, who shot a 77, and tournament runner-up Michael Englund, who carded a 78. Christian VanDamme was close behind with an 81, which was good for a fifth-place tie.

Big Bay de Noc’s Nick Desjarden watches a tee shot at Highland Golf Club. The three golfers have shot consistently around 80 all year. 

“Our top three boys were pretty equivalent. They were within one or two strokes of each other,” Coach VanDamme said. “I kept messing with the order. It didn’t matter where I put them, it always ended up that they were just all always kind of consistent.”

Bradly VanDamme said he has been shooting consistently in the 80s. He shot an 80 here during a practice round. 

“So a 77 today was huge,” he said. “I never expected to play as good as I did today.”

Fixing a key part of his game helped.

“I got off the tee well; usually that’s my struggle,” VanDamme said. “But every tee, I just thought, if I can keep this one in play and keep it in the fairway, then this course is pretty easy if you can keep it in the fairway.”

He said he was happiest about the team title.

“It’s great. All the guys are really excited. That was our goal coming into this – we didn’t care how we all individually placed, we just wanted to win as a team,” he said.

Watersmeet’s Edmond Williams putts during his round.That’s the way team leaders think.

“Bradly is a strong leader for the team,” Coach VanDamme said. “He continuously is just prepping the team, saying, ‘Come on guys, this is about the team score. We all need to do this.’”

His brother Christian VanDamme was just four strokes behind him.

“It helps that (Bradly’s) brother is on the team because he is very competitive with him,” said Coach VanDamme, who also is Bradly and Christian’s mother. “And they put a lot of extra practice in trying to better themselves, so they do practice a lot.”

Ontonagon was team runner-up for the second year in a row.

The Gladiators were led by Abi Pestka, who finished in third place and shot an 80, and Jerry Majurin, who tied Christian VanDamme with an 81.

“That’s the best the boys have done as a group,” Ontonagon coach Jim Jessup said. “Everybody was fairly close in terms of their scores.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Rock Mid Peninsula celebrates its first UP Finals championship in boys golf Thursday. (Middle) Big Bay de Noc’s Nick Desjarden watches a tee shot at Highland Golf Club. (Below) Watersmeet’s Edmond Williams putts during his round. (Photos by Jason Juno.)