For the second straight year, Cheboygan finished one slot away from qualifying for the Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Division 3 Final as a team.
However, the Chiefs finished the year with so much hardware, records and intangibles they really won’t miss competing this weekend at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University.
And they’ll be there in spirit, supporting senior Katie Maybank, who qualified as an individual. She’ll be competing in the Finals for the fourth straight year. She did so twice with her team and last season on her own.
Cheboygan is walking away from this season with six trophies – two more than the previous three years combined. And they tied and the broke school records along the way.
After carding a school-record 374 at their 2022 Regional, they matched that score to win the Alpena Invitational in mid-September, and they went to on to break the record with a 365 to win their own invitational the following week – that victory at their home event also a first.
The season ended for the team in miserable fall weather Oct. 10 in the Regional at St. Ives in Stanwood, as Cheboygan scored a 411 to finish sixth and 19 strokes out of qualification.
Maybank – who set the individual program record of 74 in leading that 2022 Regional effort – would prefer to have her teammates with her as she did her first two years at the Final. She’s hoping to break the individual top 10 this time.
“I am obviously bummed we didn’t make it as a team,” she said. “We all know we could have done it.
“We all know it was very possible with the team we had this year,” she continued. “I know they’re all supporting me and rooting for me when I go into states – I am very excited.”
Maybank had a practice round Thursday at The Meadows, which is the same course her brother PJ Maybank III played when he became the first – and still only – golfer in Cheboygan’s history to win a Finals championship.
PJ was only a sophomore when he won, and he did not compete for Cheboygan his remaining two years of high school. He is now playing golf for the University of Oklahoma.
Katie Maybank is hoping to play college golf as well after growing up in a golfing family and not starting to compete until her freshman year.
“My brother has played since he could walk, and it has always been his thing,” she recalled. “Then I started during COVID, and we just played a lot together and our whole family golfs.”
Cheboygan coach Sean McNeil went with Maybank to the Final knowing it will be tough next season without her and other seniors Emily Clark, Ella Kosanke, Emerson Eustice and Taten Lake. Clark and Kosanke also competed at the Final two years ago along with Lilly Wright, now a junior.
Wright will likely be the only senior on the team next year with the Chiefs also counting on sophomore Bea Schultz and freshmen Elise Markham and Gabriel Melonas to return.
“This is going to be a tough year to watch these five girls leave,” McNeil admitted in the presence of his seniors. “I was basically learning how to be a coach as they were learning how to golf.
“It is really going to be a tough year to let go.”
This is McNeil’s second year as the team’s head coach. He succeeded Nate King, who is still helping out. McNiel was an assistant coach previously at Cheboygan along with current swing coach and father of both PJ and Katie, Pete Maybank.
The record-setting, hardware-accumulating season was in their sights before it started, according to Markham. The team bonded right away with an overnight stay at Crystal Mountain for the Bob Lober Invite hosted by Traverse City Central.
“Our first meet I feel like is where we really clicked,” Markham said. “We started to get to know each other and knew we were going to have a good season.”
Just getting to the Lober Invite became the consensus favorite part of the season, aside from the success. Long van rides from Michigan’s east coast with their coach at the wheel led to team bonds the girls say should last a lifetime.
“All the car rides were really fun,” Eustice offered enthusiastically. “We listen to music and play games – it’s just really fun.”
Those trips provide a bonus, according to Clark.
“The car rides definitely helped with positive vibes before the meets,” she said. “We go in and we’re already happy because we leave at 5 in the morning.”
Kosanke agreed. “We did a lot of bonding in our car rides,” she said.
The Chiefs believe they will be friends for life with golf a big part of their lives. Jenna Weber, a 2022 graduate of Cheboygan, was a junior on the team during Maybank’s freshman year. They had never met before. They are best friends today.
“You definitely can make lifelong friends through golf,” Maybank stated as her teammates nodded and smiled in agreement.
Weber summed up this year’s team.
“They’re all so funny,” the graduate said. “They are always laughing.
“Even if they play bad, afterwards they are laughing and they are so positive.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Cheboygan shows off the hardware the team earned this season. Back row, from left: Emily Clark, Ella Kosanke, Coach Sean McNiel, Emerson Eustice and Taten Lake. Front row, from left: Gabrielle Melonas, Katie Maybank and Elise Markham. (Middle) Maybank will play in her fourth Final this weekend. (Photos by Tom Spencer.)
Join Elizabeth Coon as State Champs! takes a look at all of the action from the 2023 Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Finals.