In 2nd Season, Martians Golf Takes Off

October 14, 2015

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

GOODRICH — The team to beat in this year's regional had been the runner-up in the MHSAA Division 3 girls golf tournament the last three seasons.

Another contender had five championships and 25 top-10 finishes at the MHSAA Finals on its resumé.

And Goodrich?

Well, a year ago, while Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood and Flint Powers Catholic already had early-season tournaments under their belts as they prepared for another run to the finals, all Goodrich's program had was a single piece of paper sitting in the school office. Goodrich never had a girls golf team, but had two talented sisters in the school who hoped there was enough interest to form a club team in 2014.

"We just put a sign-up sheet in the office," Goodrich junior Sydni Harding said. "They made daily announcements. Finally, we had six. Once I saw that, it was like, 'Sweet, we've got a team.'"

Time was of the essence, because school had already started and the highly compressed girls golf season had already been going for several weeks. Before Jason Bescoe was hired as coach, sisters Sydni and Taylor Harding took their new teammates out to the Flint Elks Club to introduce them to a sport that most of them had never played.

"We were like, 'OK, just get hitting, we'll work on the swing mechanics later,'" Sydni said. "We needed to get ready and be prepared. We practiced like that for a few weeks. (Bescoe) brought in a couple of swing pros and really worked with us. They just practiced. Practice makes you better. They got the rhythm down and everything."

By season's end, Goodrich finished a respectable fifth of 14 teams in the MHSAA Regional at The Emerald in St. Johns, with Taylor Harding qualifying individually for the finals.

It was a great start for a team that didn't exist when the season started.

But there would be much more in store for the Martians in 2015.

In its first full season, Goodrich entered the postseason ranked No. 7 in Lower Peninsula Division 3 and qualified for this weekend’s MHSAA Final in East Lansing by placing second in a tough regional tournament at Holly Meadows Golf Course in Capac.

Goodrich finished only two shots behind third-ranked Cranbrook Kingswood, the Division 3 runner-up the last three years, and 29 shots ahead of ninth-ranked Powers, which failed to qualify for only the third time in the last 25 years.

"Going from nowhere to top 10 in the state is phenomenal," Sydni said. "We have a tough division. It's smaller, but you've got a lot of good girls who can compete. When we saw that we were ranked, we said, 'This is something special. Let's take advantage of it.'"

The Martians have exceeded all reasonable expectations for such a fledgling program, but they aren't settling for just showing up at Forest Akers West Golf Course.

"I think it's awesome we're going as a team," senior Taylor said. "We have one of the best teams. I'm so excited. I want to win so badly. I think we could definitely win; I really do believe that. If everyone's on their game and everyone puts in enough time and effort, we really could."

The Harding sisters led Goodrich to the finals, tying for first place with 78s in the regional before Taylor won a one-hole playoff.

"I definitely wanted to win," Taylor said. "If I had to come in second to anybody, I would gladly have it be her — and vice versa."

"At first, it was nerve-racking," Sydni said. "Then we got up to the first tee and we were like, 'Whatever happens, happens. I'm happy if I win; I'm happy if you win. So let's just go out and play, pretend it's just us messing around.'"

Having two outstanding golfers at the top of the lineup certainly helps, but the Martians wouldn't be going to Forest Akers West as a team this weekend without massive improvement by girls who had little to no golf experience before last fall.

"The reason for our success this year isn't because of Sydni and Taylor; they've always been good," Bescoe said. "It's the work ethic of the rest of the team, the way they strove to bring themselves to what Sydni and Taylor are. They're close. Sydni and Taylor improved by a few strokes, but the other ones improved by dozens of strokes. I'm so proud of them."

The most notable success story is senior Megan Reimel. Reimel shot in the 140s last year, but worked on her game and shot 83 to finish 11th in the regional and third on Goodrich's team. Senior Aaron Monroe shot 91 to place 17th in the regional. Freshman Elizabeth Gibbs' 94 didn't count in the team score, but she was still in the top half of the field, placing 24th out of 54 players.

"We started last year, and we were just happy to have five players, to be totally honest," Taylor said. "This year, I'm so happy that our third and fourth golfers have really picked it up. Really, everyone's improved. We're the only ones who played golf. We recruited softball players and volleyball players."

The only Goodrich player with high school golf experience before the formation of the team was Taylor Harding, who spent her freshman and sophomore years on the boys golf team. She made the Martians' varsity lineup for districts and regionals as a sophomore.

"I was younger and the boys were definitely intimidating," she said. "The distance helped me coming to the girls team. I think I'm better with the rules. That was a big thing for boys season."

Taylor Harding is also the only Goodrich player with experience in the MHSAA Finals. She finished eighth individually last year, rebounding from a first-round 86 to close with a 78.

"I was very nervous, but it ended up being really well worth it," Taylor said. "I learned a lot about myself and my golf game. I definitely improved. Just being there with all the girls who are your skill level is extremely helpful. It's always better when you play with someone better than yourself. I really wasn't expecting anything out of it. I just wanted to play the best I could, go out there and play."

Bescoe isn't concerned that his other four golfers have no experience in finals.

"I don't think it matters," he said. "They're fearless. I think the other schools who haven't been there may be at a disadvantage, but our girls have the head for it. They're fearless. They go get it."

Perhaps Goodrich's rapid rise shouldn't be such a surprise. Goodrich is a golfing community, with a public course and country club within the school district's borders. Boys golf has been a strong sport at the school for years, as the Martians won the 1977 MHSAA Class C championship and have finished in the top 10 on 24 occasions.

As an athletic program, Goodrich has won seven MHSAA championships across three girls sports since the start of the 2002-03 school year.

The goal for Bescoe is to keep the program growing after the Harding sisters graduate. Goodrich has 10 players on its team.

"It's always a goal to build and grow," he said. "Our objective this year is to grow the program. We have to get younger kids involved in order to keep this success going. Our going to the state tournament will hopefully inspire some of the other kids to jump on board."

Regardless of how the Martians perform this weekend, Bescoe has reasons to be proud of his players beyond their talent on the golf course.

"My favorite part about the girls is how nice and polite they are," he said. "After every tournament, as a group they go up and thank the other coach, thank the staff in the pro shop. That really is what makes me most proud of them. They realize that every golf course they play on, someone is letting them play on it for free. I'm glad they realize that."

Bill Khan served as a sportswriter at The Flint Journal from 1981-2011 and currently contributes to the State Champs! Sports Network. 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.

PHOTO: Goodrich’s players stand together in front of the scoreboard after last week’s MHSAA Regional, from left – junior Sydni Harding, senior Megan Reimel, senior Taylor Harding, senior Aaron Monroe and freshman Elizabeth Gibbs. (Photo courtesy of Renae Reimel.)

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