Vanitvelt Returns to Lead Loaded Powers

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 17, 2017

Blaise Vanitvelt has been a dominant force on the golf course this season.

But more importantly, the Flint Powers Catholic senior is enjoying playing with his younger brother and their friends – who are carding great scores of their own.

“Our starting five, we’ve all grown up playing together,” Vanitvelt said. “I just feel good when I’m out there playing. I’m happy with how the whole team is playing, really.”

Vanitvelt, who spent his junior year at Bishop’s Gate Golf Academy in central Florida, was 9-under par through three Saginaw Valley League tournaments, with scores of 69, 71 and 67. He’s leading a team that is frequently shooting in the low 300s, or better.

“We just posted a 299 at Currie Golf Course up in Midland – it’s a very challenging course,” Powers coach Bob Beach said. “I have a very good team this year.”

On the night Powers shot its 299, Vanitvelt led the way with his 67, which tied the best round of his life. His brother Ty, a freshman, and Zack Hopkins each shot 75s for Powers, while Andrew Hayward added an 82. Powers has had several other players figure into the scoring this season, including Joe Coriasso, who is headed to Mott Community College to play next season and was the medalist in the Genesee County Tournament.

Blaise Vanitvelt could see this coming. He and his teammates have put in a lot of time on the course after their regular practices. It’s something that’s been happening for several years.

“We’re all members at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc; it’s awesome,” Vanitvelt said. “Every day we go to practice for an hour, then we’ll go to Warwick, eat, and practice more. It’s a good practice course. It kind of tests a lot of different stuff for us. The practice facility is super nice there, and the guys from the Grand Blanc team are always there.

“I’ve always been looking forward to this. We go down to Kentucky to play in tournaments together. It’s nice to be on the same team.”

Being a part of this team is a major reason Vanitvelt – who was the No. 1 golfer for Powers as a freshman and sophomore – came back from Florida. It was something he advertised as the plan all along, even if he wasn’t always 100 percent sure of it.

“I told my girlfriend and told my teammates that I was coming back for my senior year,” he said. “Me and my parents had talked about it, and decided that if the academy and me agree that I need to stay, I would.

“But I wanted to be home with family for my senior year.”

A talk with his academy coaches helped validate the decision, and Vanitvelt said he returned to Michigan with a strong summer on the course. It was strong enough that Eastern Michigan University offered him a scholarship. He committed to the Eagles in the fall.

Beach said it was clear that Vanitvelt had improved when he returned, and he wasn’t surprised by it. Not just because of what the golf academy offered in terms of skill building, but because of Vanitvelt’s ability and work ethic.

“A lot of it is heart and desire -- work ethic,” Beach said. “That’s where Blaise excels. He wants to get better, he wants to be the best he can be. Blaise does have the heart for it. He has the desire, and he’s willing to work for it. He’s worked extremely hard.”

When he came back, Vanitvelt was able to step right back into a leadership role for the Chargers, and he did so not only with an improved game, but also some new learning methods to share with his teammates.

“I always try to help them out with stuff,” Vanitvelt said. “When we go to practice, I talk with coach, and we play a lot of games -- working on mental games and handling pressure. When we go back to Warwick, we always play against each other, and I try to incorporate high pressure games as much as I can. I help my brother out a ton. He does listen to me – sometimes. That’s why I was excited to come back.

“I wasn’t trying to be bossy or anything. We all can play golf on our own, and if I can help out I will. I’m always rooting for them.”

Ty Vanitvelt agreed that his brother has leant a helping hand. But mostly, he’s just happy to have him back.

“It’s really fun playing with him, especially with how good he’s playing,” Ty Vanitvelt said. “High school is different than any other type of golf, so to have my brother there, it helps a lot. When he went to school last year, he learned a lot about golf and his swing. If I’m not hitting it good, I’ll go to him. He’s very informative if I have a question. Very helpful.”

As the postseason approaches, the Chargers have high hopes but know they’ll have to be at the absolute top of their game. They moved up to Division 2 this season, and are in a Regional with St. Johns, East Lansing and DeWitt, the top three placers at the 2016 Division 2 Final. To even get to the final weekend Powers will have to finish above at least one of those teams at The Emerald Golf Course on May 31.

“We always talk about being state champs, but if we all play like we know we can play, it’s going to be hard to beat us,” Blaise Vanitvelt said. “I know our team can put up a good number and threaten them. I think we’re getting to the point, we’ve shot in the low 300s a good number of times, that I think we should be able to contend if we all play as well as we can.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Powers’ Blaise Vanitvelt tees off. (Middle) Vanitvelt leads the No. 4-ranked team in Lower Peninsula Division 2. (Photos courtesy of Blaise Vanitvelt.)

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.)