Byron Center's Elzinga on Track to Contend for Rare Back-to-Back Finals Title

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

August 23, 2023

BYRON CENTER – Macie Elzinga will attempt to accomplish a rare feat this season as she embarks on her senior year.

West MichiganThe Byron Center standout is looking to join an elite group of golfers who have won multiple individual MHSAA Finals championships.

Elzinga blazed to an impressive five-stroke win over 2019 and 2021 medalist Gabriella Tapp of South Lyon at last year’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final at Forest Akers West Golf Course in East Lansing.

Only 10 Lower Peninsula golfers have won back-to-back Finals titles. Shannon Kennedy of Bloomfield Hills Marian was the most recent in 2019 and 2020.

“I always expect to win, and I'm really hoping I do again this year,” Elzinga said. “Two of my best friends are in Division 1, and we are moving up to Division 1 this year, so the competition is definitely better than it was last year. But I know that if I play my game and play to the best of my ability, then I can make something special happen. That's the goal.”

Elzinga shot rounds of 72 and 76 en route to her 2022 Finals victory while helping earn the Bulldogs a fourth-place finish.

“I wanted to win badly, and I knew I was capable of it,” Elzinga said. “I had come up barely short the year before and got third. I was coming off a really good season so I definitely knew that I had a chance to win it, and that was my expectation.”

Her stellar overall game was on display as she managed the course with accuracy off the tee and a deft short game.

“Everything was going well for me, but the biggest thing was I think I missed less than five fairways the whole tournament so that was definitely big,” Elzinga said. “I was driving the ball really well and putting well, which helped me seal the deal.”

Byron Center girls golf coach Jon Van Ryn believed his No. 1 player had the skill set to be in the mix.

“I knew that she had it in her to be one of the top contenders in the state, but I was just so impressed with how poised she was throughout the whole tournament,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised by the win, but I knew she was capable of that as well.”

Elzinga, who has committed to Bowling Green State University, became the first golfer in Byron Center history to win an individual Finals title.

Elzinga celebrates her individual championship at Forest Akers West. “I definitely love my school and the community, and it was definitely cool to be the first golfer to win a state championship,” she said. “I’m glad I could win something like that for the school.”

Elzinga’s quest to repeat will be more difficult as Byron Center moves up to Division 1.

She will more than likely be challenged by two of her friends and area rivals, Rockford’s Jessica Jolly and East Kentwood’s Elise Fennell.

Fennell finished runner-up last year in Division 1, while Jolly finished in a tie for third.

“We’ve grown up around the game together, and it’s definitely a lot of fun playing against them,” Elzinga said. “All three of us were talking to the same colleges for school.” 

Van Ryn also has high aspirations for Elzinga despite the jump to Division 1 this fall.

“My expectations for her are to hopefully see her take a state title again, and I would love to see the team take a state title along with her,” he said. “We moved up a division, so it's going to be tough. We have a lot of competition, but she loves all the other strong golfers and has a good friendship and rivalry with all of them.”

Elzinga made an immediate impact upon arriving at Byron Center and helped lead the team to a Finals appearance as a freshman in 2020.

She didn’t finish among the top 10 individually that year, but was a key cog in Byron Center’s best finish (runner-up) the following season while placing third as an individual.

“I’d known her for several years before that, so I knew when she came in that she immediately was going to be one of our top players,” Van Ryn said. “She definitely came right in and filled that No. 1 spot right away and never looked back.

“She just makes very few mistakes and is always thinking multiple shots ahead. She keeps her ball right down the middle of the fairway and she has a phenomenal short game. She's just a very intelligent and skilled golfer.”

Elzinga has played well so far this season with a pair of third-place finishes at the Kent County Classic and Sydney Carfine Memorial Invitational, where the Bulldogs finished runner-up to Rockford.

She is one of three returning golfers after the team graduated five from a season ago. But despite the departures, Elzinga has confidence in the team’s ability to contend.

“We’ve built a pretty good program around here since I’ve been here, and I’ve already been surprised by this year’s team,” Elzinga said. “Everyone worked really hard in the offseason, and the girls we have coming up from the JV are just as good. I think we have a chance to do something special this year as well.”

Dean HolzwarthDean 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 protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTOS (Top) Byron Center’s Macie Elzinga sends a putt toward the hole during last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final. (Middle) Elzinga celebrates her individual championship at Forest Akers West. (Top photo by High School Sports Scene; middle photo courtesy of the Byron Center athletic department.)

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