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.)

Be the Referee: Animal Interference

By Paige Winne
MHSAA Marketing & Social Media Coordinator

September 20, 2023

Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.

Below is this week's segment – Animal Interference - Listen

In golf – it’s common to hear about birdies, eagles, maybe even an albatross. Or in my case, a snowman. But what if an actual animal interferes with your ball while in play?

There are two kinds of interference.

The first involves a ball still in motion. If you are putting and a squirrel darts out and stops or redirects your putt, you simply get a do-over from the original spot.

Off the green, if a moving ball is stopped or re-directed, you play the ball from where it ultimately stops.

If your ball is stopped and a seagull picks it up and carries it off – you just replace the ball to its original spot and proceed.

It doesn’t happen often, but now you know how to deal with squirrels and seagulls … in addition to birdies and eagles.

Previous Editions

Sept. 13: Feet Rule on Soccer Throw-In - Listen
Sept. 6: Volleyball Jewelry - Listen
Aug. 30: Football Rules Similarities - Listen
Aug. 23: Football Rules Differences - Listen

(PHOTO by Gary Shook.)