ESCANABA — St. Ignace High School was represented by just one golfer at Thursday’s Upper Peninsula Division 3 Girls Final.
Senior Margo Brown, however, represented her school admirably by earning medalist honors with an 83 at the Escanaba Country Club.
“It’s a beautiful day,” said Brown, who will play basketball at Ferris State University next winter. “It was a little windy, but it wasn’t that big a thing. I like this course. It’s pretty open and it’s in pretty good shape. I think the rain we got last (Wednesday) night helped a little.”
This marked the third consecutive year Brown was crowned individual champion. She also won Division 3 in 2013 and captured the Division 2 title a year ago.
Bark River-Harris retained its team title with 439 strokes. Crystal Falls Forest Park went home with the runner-up trophy for the second straight year with 457, and third-place Engadine had 464 on this sunny and mild day.
“That’s a very tough task, especially in D-3 with so many good teams,” said BR-H coach Scott Farnsworth. “All of the girls improved through the season. They put a lot of time and effort into their game. I don’t put any pressure on the kids. I just stress working hard in practice. Many of the girls play during the summer. For the most part, they know and understand the game. They do the work. I just offer them guidance.”
Forest Park coach Harold Payne was pleased with the runner-up finish.
“This was absolutely a solid performance by our girls,” he said. “I’m very proud of their performance today. We have one senior who has played for a year. Our junior (Annie Taylor) who placed fifth today means a lot to our team. She keeps improving every year and our two freshmen have come a long way. Both of our freshmen hadn’t played much golf before this year. We’re very pleased, especially for having only four girls. All of them did what they were supposed to do. Our (Skyline Central) conference represents itself well.”
BR-H junior Hannah Starnes and DeTour sophomore Madison Wilke shared the individual runner-up spot at 92.
Brown stated with a double-bogey on No. 1 and finished with a 43 on the front nine. She followed with 40 on the back.
“When you have a bad hole, you’ve got to shake it off and do better on the next hole,” she said. “My irons were pretty good. My drives were decent, and I started making good putts. On the back nine I was ready to go. Number 10 was a pretty good hole. After Number 10, I knew I was going to have a pretty good back nine.”
Starnes improved by two strokes from a year ago on this course.
“The first nine holes were pretty rough, but the back nine went better,” she said. “My swing felt a lot smoother once I got into a rhythm. My second shot got better this year. I struggled with my woods last year, but I worked on that extensively and feel more comfortable with my whole game.”
Wilke added a stroke to last year’s score.
“I had a lot of bad shots,” said Wilke. “It was a lot of different things at different times, although I’m pleased to come out of here as a runner-up. I think everyone was nervous today.”
PHOTOS: (Top) St. Ignace's Margo Brown watches a shot on hole No. 6 at Escanaba Country Club on Thursday. (Middle) Bark River-Harris' Hannah Starnes sizes up a shot on No. 3. (Photos by Keith Shelton.)
ADRIAN – Avery Sluss picked up a golf club for the first time her freshmen year at Adrian Lenawee Christian. Now she’s an all-state golfer.
Sluss started playing basketball because it was a way for her and her older brother, Gavin, to connect. She’s now the leading scorer on the Cougars basketball team a year after receiving all-state recognition.
Everything she touches seems to turn to gold. She will return to the soccer field in the spring already with her college plans in place. She signed recently to play goalkeeper at Indiana Wesleyan University.
“I’ve learned so much from sports,” Avery said. “It teaches me a lot about life.”
Her coaches call her a self-motivated athlete, quiet leader and someone dedicated to her faith, her teammates, and academics. She is a 4.0 student and has played four years of varsity golf, basketball, and soccer. She’s earned all-state recognition in all three sports.
“She is very self-motivated,” said first-year Lenawee Christian girls basketball coach Emilie Beach. “She doesn’t miss workouts or practices. She pushes herself hard. She forces others to rise (around her).”
Sluss is in her fourth season on the Lenawee Christian varsity basketball team. This year her role changed from mostly a defensive specialist to scorer.
Beach said Avery hasn’t changed her positive attitude with the changes in her role on the team. She has a high basketball IQ, Beach said, which helps her on the court.
“It can be tough and frustrating, but she comes in with a great attitude each day and leads her teammates,” Beach said. “She is a quiet leader who leads by example. She is hardest on herself, and that’s where a lot of her motivation comes from.”
The Cougars have had great success on the basketball floor the last several years, and Sluss has been part of it. She’s played alongside all-staters and played at the Breslin Center. She started and played 20 minutes in last year’s Semifinal loss to Plymouth Christian Academy.
This season she’s averaging 14.5 points a game, with 16 3-pointers, and has scored at least 17 points four times.
“It’s very different, but I like the role I’m in now,” she said. “Now, it’s like you have to score. I’ve accepted it. I’m just trying my best to fulfill that role for my teammates.”
Sluss sat out the fall travel soccer season while she was recovering from a slight back injury. But she was able to hit the golf course. She shot a two-day total of 186 at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final, helping the Cougars finish second as a team. A year earlier Sluss shot an 89 and 87 and helped the Cougars finish fourth overall.
Not bad for someone who didn’t pick up a golf club until just a few years ago.
“Golf was new to me my freshman year,” she said. “Some of my friends said I should try it, so I did. I went to the range maybe one or two times before I started to play. I’ve loved it.”
As far as sports goes, soccer was her first love. She started playing at the age of 4 when a neighborhood dad gathered a few girls together and formed a team.
“We started playing in the back yard,” she said. “I’ve been playing soccer ever since. My first travel team was when I was 7.”
Sluss first started thinking about playing college soccer when she was in kindergarten.
“I’ve always wanted to play soccer in college,” she said. “I’ve dreamed about that. I’ve spent so much time on the sport that it would be silly not to. I want it to pay off with college.”
She used to play multiple positions but turned to goalkeeper at the age of 12.
“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “There are a lot of little things. The mental part of being a goalkeeper is important.”
After being named to the coaches association all-state third team last year, Sluss is primed for a big season this spring, especially with her college choice behind her.
“It is a strong Christian college, which was important to me,” she said. “It’s a lot like Lenawee Christian. Everyone on the soccer team was great when I met them, and the girls are so nice.”
Sluss has become adept at mixing sports with academics and life.
“Balance is a big issue,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, especially doing two at a time.
“My whole family, my parents (David and Kristen), they always push me to be the best I can be. I owe them a lot. Even my little sister (Addie) pushes me to do my best.”
Avery’s family moved from Toledo to the Adrian area several years ago, and the two perfectly complement to each other.
“Lenawee Christian has been a great fit for me,” she said. “All of the people are awesome, and I have grown in my faith here.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Avery Sluss gathers up the ball while playing keeper for Lenawee Christian’s soccer team. (Middle) Sluss puts up a shot during last season’s Division 4 Semifinal at Breslin Center. (Below) Sluss plants a chip on the green. (Photos courtesy of the Lenawee Christian athletic department.)