St Johns Says Good-Bye as Repeat Champ

June 10, 2017

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

ALLENDALE – St. Johns boys golf coach Paul Sternburgh referred to it as a storybook ending.

And that’s exactly how it will read for a man heading into retirement and his band of departing seniors.

Sternburgh is retiring after 37 years as a coach, and his team sent him out with another title at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final.

The Redwings repeated as champions Saturday afternoon at The Meadows at Grand Valley State with a two-day team score of 603.

St. Johns bested runner-up Flint Powers Catholic, which finished with a 627.

“You just can’t write a script better than this – to go back-to-back,” Sternburgh said. “Getting the first one is hard enough, but to repeat. Granted, we had the same guys back and had a lot going for us, but I couldn’t be any happier or any more satisfied. It just doesn’t get any better. You ride into the sunset with a smile on your face.”

Sternburgh retired from teaching in 2007, but continued coaching.

Senior Eric Nunn said it was “really special” to end both his high school career and his longtime coach’s with another Finals crown.

“The dude loves us more than anything, and he’s been with me and Zach for four years now and he is always telling us how special and talented we are,” Nunn said. “I’m so happy that we could get it for him again.”

Nunn and teammate Zach Rosendale were the catalysts in the victory.

The Michigan State-bound Rosendale wrapped up his banner prep career with an individual Finals championship.

He fired a closing-round 2-under-par 70 to defeat East Lansing’s Tony Fuentes by four strokes.

Rosendale shot 72 on the first day and finished at 142. He trailed by three strokes entering the final round, but emerged as the only golfer to go under par.  

“I just had the mindset that I’m chasing,” said Rosendale, who recorded four birdies. “I have to play well, because I never know how anyone else is doing. I think they are playing well, so in my head that makes me want to play better.

“I play really well in the wind. I keep my ball low, so I think that was a key factor. Everything was working well. I was hitting the ball well off the tee, and my putting could’ve been better, but lag putting was great. I think keeping the ball low really won me the tournament.”

Sternburgh said Rosendale’s play was indicative of his entire season.

“He’s Mr. Consistent, and he has been all year,” he said. “I think his highest score all year was 75, and his low was 66. He hits everything consistent, and he doesn’t spray the ball. He’s a very solid putter and accurate with hitting greens. There is nobody that has come through St. Johns who is as steady and consistent as Zach has been.”

The Redwings also received stellar scores from others.

Nunn posted a pair of rounds in the 70s (71-76) and tied for third. Seniors Jack Bouck (80-78) and Nate Brown (77-81) each had a 158, while junior Zeke Ely finished with a 165.

St. Johns, which won the program’s first Final a year ago, carded a 298 on the first day to gain a 14-stroke cushion.

“We worked hard on keeping it in play and played better than I expected, although I wasn’t as surprised about the 298 this year as I was last year,” Sternburgh said. “I was more surprised by the lead. You just don’t get a 14-stroke lead like that.”

The Redwings squeaked out a four-stroke win over East Lansing last season, but this one was less stressful.

“Last year was nerve-wracking because we didn’t know where we stood, and it was so close,” Nunn said. “This year with the live scoring and Coach telling us where we were so we were all pretty calm (today). To go out like this, all four seniors and coach, just means a ton.”

The Redwings drew motivation from a loss at last week’s Regional. They finished runner-up to Flint Powers Catholic on their home course, but reversed the outcome when it mattered most.

“We didn’t play bad as a team (at Regionals), we just didn’t play great and to our full potential,” Rosendale said. “But I’m glad on the big stage, we actually did it. Our team played well, and it’s definitely the best way to go out.”

The Chargers placed ninth last year in Division 3, but moved to Division 2 this spring. A strong final-round score of 310 enabled them to jump from fifth place after the first day to runner-up.

“I was glad to see the wind come up because we play our absolute best golf in the wind,” Flint Powers Catholic coach Robert Beach said. “I know it sounds ridiculous and goes against logic, but I know my team. And when the wind came up, I thought we had a good chance to move up in the standings and they pulled it off.”

Junior Zack Hopkins finished among the individual top 10 with a 154 (79-75) for the Chargers, while senior Joe Coriasso was one stroke back at 155 (77-78).

“We beat St. Johns last week so our boys knew we had a chance, but St. Johns played lights out,” Beach said. “We played good, they played great. We tip our hat to them, but I’m always thrilled to take home a trophy and put another banner up in the gym.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Grosse Ile’s Jack Tucker and St. Johns’ Zach Rosendale play together during Saturday’s second round of the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final. (Middle) East Lansing’s Tony Fuentes watches one of his shots out of the brush at The Meadows. (Click to see more from

Hockey Players Transferring Winter Puck Skills to Spring Golf Swings

By Tom Lang
Special for

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.

Hartland’s Ian Kastamo (16) takes a faceoff against Brighton this winter. 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.

Mona Shores’ Nicholas Taylor fires an iron shot. 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

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.)