Already in Select Company, South Lyon's Tapp Has Chance to Chase Finals History

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

September 1, 2022

SOUTH LYON – Nobody could’ve blamed anyone at the 2019 MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Girls Golf Final if they looked at the scoreboard and thought, “Where did THAT come from?”

Greater DetroitIt’s hard enough for anyone to win an individual state title, but South Lyon’s Gabby Tapp managed to do so.

It’s even harder to win one as a freshman, but Tapp did just that.

If only the story had stopped there.

Tapp won as a freshman, only a few months after playing a full 18-hole round of golf for the first time.

Yes, the first time in her life.

“I would just go to the range and I got lessons, so I would work on my swing,” she said. “But I didn’t really play a whole lot.”

All of which made that Finals title as a freshman even more stunning.

“At that time, we didn’t have the online scoring, so I didn’t know how I was doing compared to everyone else,” Tapp said. “I remember getting off that 18th green and my coach came up to me and said, ‘You won.’ I was like, ‘What?’ That’s when I kind of realized I could go somewhere with (golf).”

Indeed, since that improbable triumph as a freshman, all Tapp has done is prove that it was no fluke.

Tapp tied for sixth at the LPD2 Final as a sophomore, and then won her second individual Finals title last year as a junior by shooting a two-day score of 144 (70-74) at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley.

Tapp was named to the all-state Super Team following last year and enters this fall as a legitimate Miss Golf Award candidate.

Despite two Finals individual titles, three top-10 finishes and contributing to a Finals team championship, everything did not come as easily as it may have seemed.

Tapp putts during her 2019 championship run at Forest Akers East. Her sophomore season in 2020 included that team championship and a top-10 individual finish, but also some difficulties.

“I felt like I was getting in trouble anywhere possible and I didn’t really know my swing,” she said. “But I felt like I had to go through that to get where I’m at now. Now I know what it’s like to struggle like that and come out of it stronger.”

Tapp did come out those struggles stronger, rebounding with a junior year that ended with her returning to the top of her division.

In October, she’ll try to join rare company by winning a third individual Finals title. Only 13 have accomplished the feat, and only six in Lower Peninsula competition.

Tapp figures to be a favorite again because she has gotten only better as her high school career has progressed, particularly with the driver.

“I have gotten a lot better off of the tee,” she said. “Driver was never really a strong suit of mine. I wasn’t sure which direction I was going to go. I’ve definitely improved that. Length and accuracy. I would say that’s helped me a lot because now I can reach par-5s in two a lot and have irons coming into those.”

South Lyon coach Dan Skatzka said that in addition to Tapp’s driving, her short game has also gotten better, which has complemented the mental fortitude she has always possessed.

This fall, Tapp broke the school record for a 9-hole score when she shot a 31, adding to her decorated career. Last season, she shot back-to-back rounds of 67 and 66 to twice break the school record for lowest 18-hole score.

“We’ve had a lot of great players at South Lyon,” Skatzka said. “About one-third of the seniors we’ve had here have gone on to play college golf. Gabby holds all the records. She basically has broken all the records.”

Tapp is still figuring out her college future, but she does want to play golf at the next level.

One thing is certain: After a great high school career, Tapp definitely can go somewhere in the game of golf.

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) South Lyon’s Gabriella Tapp blasts through a drive during last season’s LPD2 Final at Bedford Valley. (Middle) Tapp putts during her 2019 championship run at Forest Akers East. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

Pederson Wins Memorably, Ontonagon Ascends Again in 'Phenomenal' Fashion

By Jason Juno
Special for

May 30, 2024

ESCANABA – Big Bay de Noc’s Camryn Pederson carded an 89 on Thursday to win the Upper Peninsula Division 3 Final individual champion and become the first U.P. champion to clear 90 since 2019.

“It feels really good,” she said. “I tried my best to golf as good as I could today, and I’m really glad that it came out the way it was. It’s a good way to end my senior year.”

She said she liked the open course that was low on hazards at the Escanaba Country Club. And she did most things well during her round Thursday.

“I think I minimized my putts. I only one or two-putt most of the holes,” Pederson said. “And my drives were really good.”

She became the second golfer from Big Bay de Noc to win a U.P. Finals individual golf title. Samantha Guertin won Division 3 in 2006 with a 90.

Pederson’s team was seeking its first title since 2005 after finishing runner-up last year, but finished second to a school where girls golf has pretty much always been strong – Ontonagon.

Ontonagon celebrates its latest girls golf Finals championship.When the MHSAA first separated the U.P. Finals into separate classes, Ontonagon won the first 10 Class C-D championships, from 1978 to 1987. When Class D got its own U.P. championship tournament, the Gladiators girls won the first four, part of a five-year run of titles from 1994 to 1998. When classifications changed again in 2001, and the name of the smallest group of schools changed from Class D to Division 3, Ontonagon didn’t stop winning, racking up seven more Finals championships.

On Thursday, the Gladiators made it eight wins in Division 3 and 23 overall.

Two of their golfers finished under 100 – runner-up Madyson Pantti carded a 94, and Sam Bailey had a 98. All five finished among the top 10 individuals. Summer Stites’ 100 was good for a fourth-place tie, and Olivia Lockhart and Shayna Stites tied for 10th with 108s.

It was the first U.P. Finals golf championship for all of them, including coach Jim Jessup. The Gladiators’ last team wins came with back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019.

Ontonagon repeated as Copper Mountain Conference champion this year. The Gladiators had finished third last season at the U.P. Division 3 Final and outshot Big Bay de Noc on Thursday by eight strokes, 400-408. Ontonagon shot 36 strokes better than at last season’s Final, and every golfer shot under 110, which Jessup called “phenomenal.”

“I think the girls just worked really hard to better themselves,” he said. “Their stroke play was better, their consistency was better.”

Pantti improved her score by eight strokes from last year’s Final. The junior will have another shot at an individual championships in 2025, but she had a lot to be proud of this time with her runner-up finish that led the Gladiators to a team title.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “It was something that we’d been looking forward to all season. We’ve done good in a lot of our meets, and I thought this was a really good year for us.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Big Bay de Noc's Camryn Pederson follows her drive on No. 4 on Thursday at Escanaba Country Club. (Middle) Ontonagon celebrates its latest girls golf Finals championship. (Photos by Jason Juno.)