St. Francis Turns Slight Friday Lead Into Memorable Championship Sweep

June 8, 2024

BIG RAPIDS – Traverse City St. Francis freshman Casey Jackson assigned some of the credit for his teammates’ Lower Peninsula Division 3 championship success this weekend to their matching bucket hats, which proved a key accessory during Saturday’s drizzly second round at Katke Golf Course.

But the Gladiators’ first Finals championship since 2008 was more a product of scores falling along with the raindrops.

They improved from 14th a year ago to first this weekend by building a three-stroke lead on Jackson Lumen Christi during Friday’s first round and extending it to an 18-stroke victory by the end of Saturday, finishing with a two-day 640 as the Titans finished at 658 and Grand Rapids West Catholic and Grand Rapids Covenant Christian tied for third at 668.

St. Francis carded a 328 on Friday but cut that to 312 during the second round, in part on the surge of junior David Ansley. He shot an 80 on Friday to tie for seventh individually, but came back Saturday with a 72 to set up a tie-breaker for medalist with Elk Rapids sophomore Baron Vollmer – and clinched it by dropping what he estimated to be a 20-foot putt.

All told, four of five Gladiators cut strokes from their first to second rounds. Freshman Casey Jackson dropped a stroke to tie for ninth at 80-79-159, and junior Josh Slocum carded 85-77-162 to tie for 16th individually. Sophomore William Gibbons also cut two strokes to finish at 88-86-174, and senior Owen Jackson remained consistently solid at 83-84-167.

“I’ve grown up with these guys for years now, and it just feels so surreal because we did what we wanted to do this season,” Jackson said. “It feels like our chemistry is so good together, and we worked for this so hard.”

The Gladiators put plenty of distance between themselves and the field, with their Saturday score made more impressive by the fact only Lumen Christi (327) and Tawas (329) joined St. Francis in breaking 330 – not only for the second round, but the entire weekend.

Elk Rapids’ Baron Vollmer sends his ball out of the sand. “That was our job today, go out and try to put a little pressure,” St. Francis coach Jim Hornyak said. “We only had a two-stroke lead and wanted to put some pressure and make the other teams have to come and get us, and hopefully cause some issues.

“(My team) just played awesome today.”

That was finished off by Ansley, who thought he had a good chance to climb the individual standings after shooting 80 on Friday, but probably not enough to win it all.

At the end, Ansley sank the long putt to finish the St. Francis championship sweep.

“That last putt, I didn’t expect it to go in. I just hit it as hard as I could almost and hoped that it went in,” he said. “I was like, I already won a team championship, I have nothing to lose. So I was like whatever, let’s just hit it and hope it goes in.”

The top 11 individuals all finished within seven strokes of the lead. Millington junior Brad Coleman finished third, just two strokes back.

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PHOTOS (Top) Traverse City St. Francis’ David Ansley putts during Saturday’s second round at Katke Golf Club. (Middle) Elk Rapids’ Baron Vollmer sends his ball out of the sand. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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