EAST LANSING — Teams that have been chasing Grand Rapids Catholic Central the past three years in the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Boys Golf Tournament got some bad news in Saturday's Final:
The Cougars won their second crown in three years, easily besting second-place Lansing Catholic by 35 strokes. GRCC shot 306 to take a 17-stroke lead Friday, and cruised to the title with a 308 on Saturday at Michigan State’s Forest Akers West.
And they may not be done dominating just yet.
The Cougars won the LPD3 title in 2021 and finished second last year, which gave the fuel for this season.
"They had a mission, and they had a goal," GRCC coach Kim Napieralski said. "They accomplished it."
They did so in part due to a team meeting after Friday's strong showing.
"We had a comfortable lead (Friday), but this morning the conversation during our team meeting was we still needed to go out and play well," Napieralski said. "We needed to finish strong, and luckily we got the job done."
That they did. Co-captain Matthew Sokorai earned the medalist honor with a 141, and co-captain Will Preston was second at 146.
"It feels great, obviously," Sokorai said of being on a team champion for the second time in three years. "But you've got to think about how you got there. Not just the ending, but there's a lot of hard work involved. It wasn't just one person. It was a whole team that played well."
More news that might keep opponents awake for another year: Both Sokorai and Preston are juniors, and the Cougars lose only one senior from this year's champion.
Still, Preston said he didn't think about winning this year's title until the latter part of the second round Saturday.
span>"We knew we were in a good spot (Saturday morning), but it wasn't until late in the round today that we really had it." he said. "When you count four scores, anything can happen."
<Lansing Catholic, also nicknamed the Cougars, was the only other team to shoot below 320 on the weekend, recording a 318 on Saturday to finish at 649. Saginaw Swan Valley was third at 652.
Lansing Catholic coach Matt Golzynski was pleased with his team's finish.
"We got off to a slow start (Friday) and it snowballed," Golzynski said. "We absolutely finished on an up note. I'm extremely proud of the work they put in this year and the job they did. It's been a great experience for us."
GRCC's precision on the course is matched by the team's close bond.
"There's no team in the state that's closer than us," Sokorai said. "We stay in hotels, we go out to eat, we do everything together. I feel like that's a huge part."
PHOTOS (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Matthew Sokorai, left, receives his individual championship medal Saturday at Forest Akers West. (Middle) Teammate Will Preston putts; he finished second individually. (Below) Lansing Catholic’s Lansing Catholic’s Tomas Rampe tees off during the second round. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.
Below is this week's segment – Animal Interference - Listen
In golf – it’s common to hear about birdies, eagles, maybe even an albatross. Or in my case, a snowman. But what if an actual animal interferes with your ball while in play?
There are two kinds of interference.
The first involves a ball still in motion. If you are putting and a squirrel darts out and stops or redirects your putt, you simply get a do-over from the original spot.
Off the green, if a moving ball is stopped or re-directed, you play the ball from where it ultimately stops.
If your ball is stopped and a seagull picks it up and carries it off – you just replace the ball to its original spot and proceed.
It doesn’t happen often, but now you know how to deal with squirrels and seagulls … in addition to birdies and eagles.
(PHOTO by Gary Shook.)