Wykons Sweep UPD2 Boys Championships

May 30, 2019

By Adam Niemi
Special for Second Half

IRON RIVER – West Iron County defended its home turf, sweeping the boys and girls MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 Finals on Thursday.

The Wykons' boys carded a team score of 319 at George Young Resort, located 10 miles east of Iron River.

Norway (366) took second place, followed by Hancock (362), St. Ignace (366) and Newberry (388) to round out the top five.

Trey Bociek paced West Iron County with a first-place 74. Norway's Drew Anderson (77) was second, and teammate Jeff VanHolla (78) tied with the Wykons' Nathan Thomson for third.

The team championship was West Iron’s second straight and third in five seasons.

"Obviously No. 1, very pleased," West Iron County head coach Mark Martini said. "No. 2, I think it's overlooked how both teams (boys and girls) started poorly and fought through it like a fourth-quarter football game. They fought right back, and I'm kind of proud of that. That was really good."

West Iron County's girls team won with a 433.

Norway head coach Joby Sullivan said the UP Finals bring out the best in the team aspect of golf.

"I know that some of the boys thought they weren't playing a great round of golf. But holistically, that's what’s great about these individual-dual sports is you may not be doing so well but the overall team, the big picture of it, can come around," Sullivan said. "A couple West Iron kids might have triple-bogeyed a par-3, and then one of their other kids on 15 had a bad hole. That opened the door for us to make a push down the stretch. We didn't capitalize on that, which would've been what we needed to do to make it close.

"It's exciting. When there's something that's happening, it's like the mile relay in a track meet where one team can end up winning it based on the results of that. Down the stretch, it was going to be close for that. It would've been nice to capitalize on that stretch on 13 through 18."

Sullivan said Anderson's 77 was his personal best.

"Drew came in with a 77, which was I think that's his best round ever," Sullivan said. "He was one under all the way through until a double bogey on 16 for his back-nine score. Which was great. Jeff (VanHolla) came in and played well with a 78. He had a couple putts at the end to finish out. He really played some good golf. He and Drew really did a nice job.”

The course was personally designed by the late George Young, a millionaire and passionate golfer whose design for each hole on the Iron County course was derived from the favorite holes he played from different courses around the world.

A wet course from recent rains slowed the greens and made various parts of multiple fairways a mud hazard of sorts. But the sand traps were dry and fooled golfers who landed in bunkers from a wet fairway, causing some to anticipate a heavy sand impact and instead overshoot the green.

If that wasn't enough, the woods hug most fairways. Some tee shots resulted in the echoing sound of a ball bouncing off tree branches, trunks and a heavy sigh from golfers.

The course difficulty and conditions meant Thursday was simply about limiting mistakes.

Austin Salani placed eighth for Hancock with an 85. His brother Colton tied for 12th with a 92. Brimley's Justin Carrick and St. Ignace's Reid Marshall also carded a 92.

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PHOTOS: (Top) West Iron County's Nathan Thomson fires an iron shot during Thursday's championship round. (Middle) The Wykons girls and boys championship teams. (Photos by Adam Niemi.)

Mid Peninsula's Boys Sweep UPD3 Titles, Including 1st Team Championship

By Jason Juno
Special for MHSAA.com

June 1, 2023

HYDE – The Rock Mid Peninsula boys won their first Upper Peninsula Finals boys golf championship Thursday, earning it in Division 3 at Highland Golf Club near Escanaba.

The Wolverines finished with a score of 324, 13 strokes fewer than runner-up Ontonagon.

“It’s the first time in school history for us, so we’re pretty excited about it,” Mid Pen coach Earlene VanDamme said. “The kids put a lot of work into this year.”

They did it with three golfers among the individual top five, led by medalist Bradly VanDamme, who shot a 77, and tournament runner-up Michael Englund, who carded a 78. Christian VanDamme was close behind with an 81, which was good for a fifth-place tie.

Big Bay de Noc’s Nick Desjarden watches a tee shot at Highland Golf Club. The three golfers have shot consistently around 80 all year. 

“Our top three boys were pretty equivalent. They were within one or two strokes of each other,” Coach VanDamme said. “I kept messing with the order. It didn’t matter where I put them, it always ended up that they were just all always kind of consistent.”

Bradly VanDamme said he has been shooting consistently in the 80s. He shot an 80 here during a practice round. 

“So a 77 today was huge,” he said. “I never expected to play as good as I did today.”

Fixing a key part of his game helped.

“I got off the tee well; usually that’s my struggle,” VanDamme said. “But every tee, I just thought, if I can keep this one in play and keep it in the fairway, then this course is pretty easy if you can keep it in the fairway.”

He said he was happiest about the team title.

“It’s great. All the guys are really excited. That was our goal coming into this – we didn’t care how we all individually placed, we just wanted to win as a team,” he said.

Watersmeet’s Edmond Williams putts during his round.That’s the way team leaders think.

“Bradly is a strong leader for the team,” Coach VanDamme said. “He continuously is just prepping the team, saying, ‘Come on guys, this is about the team score. We all need to do this.’”

His brother Christian VanDamme was just four strokes behind him.

“It helps that (Bradly’s) brother is on the team because he is very competitive with him,” said Coach VanDamme, who also is Bradly and Christian’s mother. “And they put a lot of extra practice in trying to better themselves, so they do practice a lot.”

Ontonagon was team runner-up for the second year in a row.

The Gladiators were led by Abi Pestka, who finished in third place and shot an 80, and Jerry Majurin, who tied Christian VanDamme with an 81.

“That’s the best the boys have done as a group,” Ontonagon coach Jim Jessup said. “Everybody was fairly close in terms of their scores.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Rock Mid Peninsula celebrates its first UP Finals championship in boys golf Thursday. (Middle) Big Bay de Noc’s Nick Desjarden watches a tee shot at Highland Golf Club. (Below) Watersmeet’s Edmond Williams putts during his round. (Photos by Jason Juno.)