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?”
It’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.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)
ROCKFORD – The Rockford girls golf team witnessed first-hand at last year’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final the type of scores it would take to compete for top honors in the state.
The Rams finished a laudable eighth at last year’s championship tournament, but their two-day total of 697 (338-359) put them well behind champion Northville, which posted team scores of 307 and 308 to claim a fourth-straight Finals title by 12 strokes.
Rockford entered this season with aspirations to close the gap, and it has done just that with a talented quartet of experienced golfers.
“Our top four are better than we've had in the past,” Rams girls golf coach Scott Kruisenga said. “Maybe we’re not quite as deep, but the potential for all four of these girls to be in the 70s is pretty exciting.
“We’ve been seeing those scores by Northville, and Rochester Adams and Saline, and that's some darn good golf.
“The girls last year saw some of the scores that needed to take place in order to have a shot at a state championship, and they really took it serious over the summer. They played a lot of tournament golf, and they want it and they believe they can do it.”
The extra preparation and enhanced desire has been evident with low scores and first-place finishes.
The Rams have rolled through the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red thus far with the league tournament looming next week.
A new school record was established as well when Rockford won the Kent County Classic with an impressive 306.
“We’ve played well, and it’s been fun getting to know everyone the last three years,” said junior Jessica Jolly, the team’s No. 1 golfer.
“Everyone is capable of shooting low, so when we can do our best on the same day it’s fun, and we’ve broken the school record multiple times in the past few years.”
Jolly is joined in the top four by seniors Mackenzie Davidson and Bridget Parlmer and junior Aubrey Wilson.
In addition to the Kent Country Classic, Rockford also won the O-K Red Midseason Tournament, the Sydney Carfine Memorial Tournament and the Greenville Invitational.
The Rams took second behind state powerhouse Brighton at the 36-hole Lober Classic at Crystal Mountain to open the season.
“They have really been playing up to their ability and been playing lights out,” Kruisenga said. “They’ve put a lot of hard work in, and I’ve had all four since they were freshmen so it’s been fun to see how they’ve been improving year by year.
“That has been the most exciting thing, seeing the improvement and dedication they are putting into get better.”
While the team had high expectations entering the season, Kruisenga said they have already exceeded his.
“I was thinking even if we stay the same as last year we would be a good team,” he said, “but everyone is playing better.”
Jolly has been the catalyst and broke her own school record earlier this season with a superb 67 at Quail Ridge Golf Course.
She tied for ninth at the LPD1 Final as a freshman, when Rockford finished fifth as a team, and just missed the individual top 10 last season.
“I’m pretty happy with how I’ve played, and I’ve definitely seen my average drop to the lowest it’s been since I’ve been in high school.” Jolly said. “Most of my rounds have been under par, and it’s been fun to make some birdies and get a chance at shooting pretty low.”
After struggling on the second day of last year’s Final, Kruisenga said the success his team had at the 36-hole event earlier this season should bode well for the future.
“We did that intentionally to try and get used to that back-to-back,” he said. “The girls fared really well. We lost by three or four strokes to Brighton, and we were tied going into the second day. They kept a good mental game and limited their mistakes.”
The Rams are anxious for the postseason, but refuse to take anything for granted. They want to finish the conference season strong before setting their sights on a Finals berth.
“Our first goal would be to win the postseason tournament, and then we hope to do well at Regionals and qualify for state,” Jolly said. “If we do, then we’re looking to perform well there and give ourselves a chance.”
Dean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at email@example.com with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Rockford’s Jessica Jolly powers through a drive during last season’s LPD1 Final. (Middle) Aubrey Wilson putts off the rough during the Final at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)