Team of the Month: Houghton Boys Golf

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 24, 2022

The Houghton boys golf team won its 10th Finals championship this season, and sixth Upper Peninsula Division 1 title over the last 10 seasons. Two of those other four seasons, the Gremlins finished runners-up. With a run like that, more success isn't going to surprise anyone.

But this spring’s team exceeded expectations.

The outdoor portion of Houghton’s boys golf season lasted about five weeks. The Gremlins’ home course, Portage Lake, opened May 9, and the team’s first outdoor practice was that day. But by June 1, the Gremlins were shooting in the 320s as a team and clinching another Division 1 title – earning the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” honor for May with that first day of June an exclamation mark on another fantastic season.

“Some of our other teams have had more golf talent. But these guys have worked hard and gotten better and better and kept improving and exceeded expectations a little bit,” said Houghton coach Corey Markham, who also leads the perennially state-contending hockey program. “It’s an awesome group.”

After finishing UPD1 runner-up and five strokes back of champion Marquette in 2021, Houghton took back the top spot this time shooting a 329 at Sage Run to edge Marquette by five strokes. Sophomore Marino Pisani (78) and junior Camden Markham (83) finished second and tied for eighth, respectively, in the individual standings. Juniors Cooper Leonard (84) and Ryan Schmierer (84), and senior Ryan Vlahos (85) – who also was back from the 2021 group – rounded out the winning lineup.

Corey Markham noted how his three returnees helped the lineup find more consistency this season. Marino dropping his scores into the 70s also was a big plus. “He puts in the most time and just lives golf,” Markham said.

Boys golf teams in Michigan could begin practice March 14 and competition March 21. The Upper Peninsula as a whole, due to winter weather, generally gets going later – but Markham said teams in the southern U.P. have even a two or three-week head start on those at the northern tip of the peninsula.

Markham called what his team can do with practice over that first month “minimal” – for obvious reasons – and also as it shares indoor space with the softball and baseball teams also waiting for the weather to turn. The golf team does some work on rules and with video, and uses a simulator to bring back some of the muscle memory from the previous summer.

The Gremlins played in two tournaments during the last week of April – nearly two weeks before that first outdoor practice. They finished third in both of those events and in another May 10 the day after they’d finally gotten outside. But soon after the run started, and Houghton clinched the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference championship on the way to finishing with another Finals title.

“Our biggest success is due to our junior program at our golf course,” Markham said. “You get kids out, and they play a lot in the summer. Their basics and their background are the reasons they’re able to step in and start doing well with a short season.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2021-22 

April: Plainwell girls soccer - Read
West Bloomfield girls basketball - Read
Cadillac girls skiing - Read
Hartland hockey - Read
Midland Dow girls basketball - Read
Reese girls volleyball - Read
Birmingham Groves boys tennis - Read

Houghton Boys Extend Reign, Negaunee's Meyer Wins With 'Round of My Life'

By Jack Hall
Special for

May 31, 2023

HARRIS – The Houghton High School boys golf team cruised to a repeat of its 2022 MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 championship Wednesday, while a newcomer “came out of nowhere” to win the individual medalist honor.

The Gremlins took the top spot in the 12-team tournament by six strokes over runner-up Sault Ste. Marie, with Marquette, Calumet, and Negaunee in a three-way tie for third place. The Gremlins had a score of 323, the Blue Devils were second with 329, with the next three in that logjam at 331.

It was a remarkable accomplishment for the Gremlins, who had to deal with heavy snow on the ground deep into May this spring.

“It feels great,” Houghton senior Cam Markham said. “Amazing. Two years in a row that we've done this. It's a huge accomplishment. Just practicing when you can, even it's in the gym, hitting balls into nets. Getting better when you can. There's simulators at some local places around town, so we'll go to those, too, when there's snow on the ground.”

Individually, Negaunee sophomore Holden Meyer shot 75 on the challenging Sweetgrass Golf Course in northern Menominee County to take an unlikely medalist spot.

“I feel like I'm out of this world right now, I'm not gonna lie,” he said. “The course is in good shape, everything is really nice. I didn't think this was going to happen on any course. I played basically the round of my life.”

Negaunee’s Holden Meyer.So, how did Meyer do it?

“I kept the ball on the fairway all day,” Meyer said. “The sand traps are really hard here, so I tried to stay out of that. I only hit one of them all day, so that was a really big help.”

He held on by one stroke when Marquette senior Brock Taylor missed a birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have forced a playoff round.

“Early on in the day, I was playing OK, but then I had a couple of hiccups,” Taylor said. “I was able to bring it back together at the end. But, I missed it by just that much.

“I've kind of struggled, so I'm happy with the way I played today. Our team has been rock-solid all year long. But for me, man, couple of missed putts, couple of dumb decisions, and that was the difference."

Houghton junior Marino Pisani and freshman teammate Jack Sayen finished tied for fourth place after shooting rounds of 80.

In fact, there were a total of seven golfers who finished at 80, also including Kaleb Chiplewski (Marquette), Danny Loukus (Calumet), Odin Medrick (Sault Ste. Marie), Cooper Pigeon (Iron Mountain) and Nicklas Duran (Kingsford).

Markham was in contention until the bottom dropped out late in the round. He settled for a 19th-place finish after shooting an 82.

“I couldn't pull through at the end, just really struggled on those last four holes.” said Markham, who's main sport is hockey – he was named Mr. Hockey as the state's top high school player in March.

Beyond that seven-way tie for fourth place at 80, there was another eight-way tie for eleventh place at 81. That's 15 golfers with virtually the same score.

Junior Shane Wallin led Escanaba, finishing with an 81.

Marquette’s Brock Taylor follows a drive.“It wasn't bad,” Wallin said. “A couple of three-putts, but it went well. On No. 18, I hit a 4-iron and missed an eagle putt but got a birdie. So that was good.

“We didn't do horrible. I wish we would've won a couple of the other tournaments that we went to. They were really close with Marquette. But we had a good season.”

Westwood sophomore Tanner Annala was able to avoid that 15-golfer logjam at 80 and 81 by finishing his round with a 79, good for third place overall.

There were some moral victories, too. Take Gladstone senior Austin Bagwell, who played baseball for the last three seasons and chose golf this time. While he finished 55th out of the 61 golfers on the course Wednesday, he said it went well.

“I think we all had fun,” Bagwell said. “I parred my first-ever hole at Sweetgrass, so that was pretty cool. Everything went downhill from there.”

One of the smallest schools in Division 1, Baraga, ended up in eighth place with a 349 as a team score. The co-op with L'Anse High School puts the Vikings over the 264-student cutoff that divides Division 1 and Division 2.

“I can play with a lot of these kids,” said Baraga junior Cage Osterman, who was among those tied for 11th with an 81. “A lot of them are really good, too. I felt good, I just missed a couple of shots. My driving was good. I only missed two fairways today. I just couldn't putt. The short game was not there today.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Houghton’s Marino Pisani lines up a putt during his round Wednesday at Sweetgrass. (Middle) Negaunee’s Holden Meyer. (Below) Marquette’s Brock Taylor follows a drive. (Photos by Jack Hall.)