Summer Swing Fuels Traverse City Hopefuls

April 28, 2016

By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half

TRAVERSE CITY – When Todd Hursey talks about all the MHSAA Finals golf champions that have come out of the Traverse City area in recent years, he cites one common denominator.

The Traverse City Junior Golf Association, started more than three decades ago by one of the area's most respected high school coaches to promote the game and provide local school programs with more skilled golfers.

“For the most part, it’s been accomplished with a steady (flow) of TCJGA kids,” the Suttons Bay coach and TCJGA executive director said of the area's recent success.

Consider this: Four area schools have captured eight of the last 16 MHSAA Division 4 boys championships.

A year ago, Suttons Bay earned its fourth team title while Leland’s Joel Sneed successfully defended his individual crown, edging Suttons Bay’s Devin Capron by two shots.

The girls matched that double last fall as Traverse City West claimed the Division 1 team title while Maple City Glen Lake’s Nichole Cox made it back-to-back individual championships in Division 4.

And what ties it all together is that almost all of those players have roots in the TCJGA’s summer program, now in its 33rd year.

The association’s 18-hole elite tournament division – 11 tournaments in seven weeks at 11 courses – is one of its most popular offerings, giving high school golfers a chance to develop their skills and competitive edge.

“As far as getting kids ready for tournament golf, there’s nothing better,” Traverse City West boys coach Mike Schultz said. “We definitely encourage our players to participate. It’s such a no-brainer. It’s like a summer camp where you get to compete in a tournament (every four to five days). It’s a tremendous asset for the players and the coaches.”

West has, perhaps, the best representation in the TCJGA – and it’s paid off. The boys swept league, District and Regional titles last spring. The Regional triumph was the third in four years.

The girls, with five underclassmen in the lineup, followed suit, finishing the season with the school’s first MHSAA Finals golf title. Freshman Anika Dy led the Titans, placing just one shot behind the individual winner, Brighton’s Julia Dean. All the West girls are TCJGA veterans.

“I highly encourage all my girls to play in at least three of the tournaments,” Titans coach Kristen Nolan said. “What ends up happening, though, is that most will play in five or six, if not more, because, no pun intended, I want them to get into the swing of things before fall. I want them prepped and prepared for playing in tournaments.”

Traverse City Hall of Fame coach Bob Lober helped launch the junior program in 1984 for a couple reasons – to help teach kids the sport (lessons are offered, starting for those as young as 5) and to have it act as a feeder for the high school programs.

Lober’s 1996 team won a state Class A title. The Trojans had runner-up finishes in 1991, 1994, 1997 and 1999.

Schultz was one of the early products of the program. He took up golf as an eighth grader when his parents signed him up for lessons in the junior program. He went on to play four years of high school golf (1989-93) under Lober.

“I was destined to be an offensive lineman and this was the best way to make sure I had working knees when I turned 40,” Schultz said, laughing. “I thank my parents for getting me involved. The junior program is dear to my heart.”

Hursey has been a benefactor, too. Although he had some three-sport athletes on his golf team last season, which prevented them from playing consistently in the summer program, that was more the exception than the rule.

“With our first three state title teams we didn’t have a kid who didn’t play multiple years in TCJGA,” Hursey said. “You didn’t consider not doing it. Everybody did it.”

Hursey’s team is rebuilding this season. His son, Thomas, is the lone returner from the Suttons Bay lineup that won the 2015 title. West is minus three of its top five players off a seventh-place Finals team a year ago, but Schultz is encouraged by the early returns.

“Going off last year’s averages it wasn’t looking too promising,” he said. “But I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The guys have worked hard on their games. We’ve been consistently between 324 and 327. As we progress, and play more, it should get better.”

The Titans did do better Tuesday, posting a season-low 315 at the Cadillac Country Club.

Because of a lingering winter, West had just a couple days of practice at Mistwood Golf Course before its season-opener, a fourth-place finish in the East Lansing Invitational. West has since won the first two Big North Conference meets.

Keits Shoemaker and Austin Webb are the two returning players off last year’s squad. Shoemaker fired a 74 on Tuesday, Webb a 79.

“Keits has stepped up nicely,” Schultz said. “I’m hoping he gets more comfortable shooting in the mid-70s. Austin is going to be an integral part of this team. Three of his first four rounds have been under 80.”

Tyler Buchanan, Sam Schriber and Zach Perrin are coming on, too. Buchanan shot a 76 in the first tournament, Schriber was averaging 81 through the first three events while Zach Perrin, who did not play last year, chipped in an 81 Tuesday.

“I think these kids will continue to improve and grow,” Schultz said. “It should be a fun year.”

Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Traverse City West senior captain Keits Shoemaker hits his opening tee shot at the Ogemaw Heights Invitational on Friday at The Nightmare. (Middle) West senior Tyler Buchanan tees off at the East Lansing Invitational on April 18 at Hawk Hollow. (Photos courtesy of Traverse City West golf program.)

Lacrosse Finals Move to U-M Among Headlines as Spring Sports Ramp Up

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 9, 2024

The Girls & Boys Lacrosse Finals will be played at University of Michigan Lacrosse Stadium for the first time, one of the most notable changes for this season as sports ramp up for more than 100,000 athletes anticipated to participate this spring for Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools.

The MHSAA sponsors postseason competition each spring in baseball, girls and boys lacrosse, girls soccer, softball, girls and boys track & field, boys golf (Lower and Upper Peninsula) and girls golf (UP), and girls (LP) and boys (UP) tennis.

The U-M Lacrosse Stadium opened for competition in 2018 and seats 2,000 spectators. The Girls Lacrosse Finals will be played Friday, June 7, with Division 1 at 4 p.m. and Division 2 at 7 p.m. The Boys Lacrosse Finals will be played the following day, June 8, with Division 2 at 11 a.m. and Division 1 at 2 p.m.

Girls lacrosse also has a significant format adjustment this season, as games will be played with four 12-minutes quarters instead of the previous two halves, in part to allow coaches more opportunities to provide direct instruction during a game. Two more rules changes are expected to improve flow of play – players awarded a free position outside of the critical scoring area no longer must come to a stop and settled stance before self-starting, and false start penalties outside the critical scoring area have been eliminated.

Several more rules changes will be noticeable this spring:

In boys lacrosse, a change was made to enhance player safety. Play will stop immediately any time a player’s helmet comes off, and that player may not return until the next dead ball after play continues.

Fair and legal starts are a continued emphasis for track & field, and a rule change will allow for movement before the start of the race as long as a competitor does not leave their mark with a hand or a foot after the “set” command, or make forward motion before the starting device is activated.

A significant rule change in softball alters pitch delivery mechanics. The pitcher may now have both feet off the ground at the same time when releasing the ball as long as both feet remain within the 24-inch width of a pitching plate and the pitcher does not replant the pivot foot before delivering the pitch.

Another change in softball requires that a playbook/playcard be worn on the wrist or kept in a back pocket to reduce distractions. If worn by the pitcher, the equipment must be worn on the non-pitching arm. Similarly in baseball, a wristband with plays or instructions will be permitted but must be a single, solid color, and for pitchers may not contain the colors white or gray or be otherwise distracting. Baseball players must wear this wristband on the wrist or forearm, and pitchers may wear one only on their non-pitching arm.

Also in baseball, a rule change allows for one-way communication devices worn by the catcher to receive instructions from the dugout while on defense, for the purpose of calling pitches. The coach must be inside the dugout/bench area to use the communication device.

Golfers now are required to participate in at least four competitions for the high school team prior to representing that school team in an MHSAA Regional or Final. Those four regular-season competitions may be 9 or 18-hole events.

In tennis, for the first time in Lower Peninsula play, a No. 1 doubles flight from a non-qualifying team will be able to advance from its Regional to Finals competition. To do so, that No. 1 doubles flight must finish first or second at its Regional, and the No. 1 singles player from that team also must have qualified for the Finals individually by finishing first or second in Regional play.

On the soccer pitch, two officiating-related changes will be especially noticeable. Officials now may stop the clock to check on an injured player without that player being required to leave the match – previously that player would have to sub out. Also, categories for fouls have been redefined: careless (which is a foul but does not receive a card), reckless (a foul with a yellow card) and excessive force (foul with red card). 

The 2023-24 Spring campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Golf and Boys Tennis Finals during the week of May 27 and wraps up with Girls Soccer, Baseball and Softball Finals on June 15. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:

Districts – May 23-June 1
Regional Semifinals – June 5
Regional Finals, Quarterfinals – June 8
Semifinals – June 13-14
Finals – June 15

LP Boys Regionals – May 28-June 1
UP Girls & Boys Finals – May 29, 30, 31 or June 1
LP Boys Finals – June 7-8

Boys Lacrosse
Pre-Regionals – May 10-15
Regionals – May 16-29
Quarterfinals – May 31 or June 1
Semifinals – June 5
Finals – June 8

Girls Lacrosse
Pre-Regionals – May 16-18, or May 20
Regionals – May 22-June 1
Semifinals – June 5
Finals – June 7

Girls Soccer
Districts – May 22-June 1
Regionals – June 4-8
Semifinals – June 11-12
Finals – June 14-15

Districts – May 23-June 1
Regionals – June 8
Quarterfinals – June 11
Semifinals – June 13-14
Finals – June 15

LP Girls Regionals – May 15-18
UP Boys Finals – May 29, 30, 31 or June 1
LP Girls Finals – May 31-June 1

Track & Field
Regionals – May 16-18
Finals – June 1