By Ryan Stieg
Special for Second Half
MARQUETTE — There was a brisk wind blowing Wednesday afternoon on the Northern Michigan University Golf Course, but the tough conditions didn’t have an effect on the Escanaba girls team.
The Eskymos fought their way through the cold and won their second straight Upper Peninsula Division 1 title – and their efforts delighted Escanaba coach Brian Robinette.
“The girls just really went out and performed today,” he said. “We needed to show up as a team today, and we definitely did that. This was a highly successful season. The girls kept improving and had great attitudes, and they’re an easy team to coach because they like golf.
"It’s easy to coach someone who likes the sport they’re in. They were really dedicated and serious about the game, and it showed out there today.”
At the 10-team meet, the Eskymos finished with a comfortable 18-stroke lead over Houghton (351 to 369) to repeat as champs. That wasn’t all for Escanaba though as Paxton Johnson was medalist for the second year in a row, shooting a 75.
When asked if she was used to constantly winning tournaments, Johnson put that thought to rest quickly.
“You never get used to this,” she said with a laugh. “It feels great every time. My wedges worked out great for me today, and I just liked how I did.”
For the second-place Gremlins, it was a disappointing outcome, but coach Ruth Ryynanen felt her team left it all on the course.
“The day went pretty well,” she said. “We’ve played here before, and I think that helped us a bit. One of our girls (Kaaren Liston) had a personal best with a 77, and that was wonderful to see. She is always trying harder and does her absolute best.
“We have a good group coming back next year and I have five girls who didn’t even get to play today that have been practicing hard and could step up for us.”
Marquette took third place with a score of 390, and Redettes head coach Ben Smith thought they had a great day overall.
“Since we played at two different sites (the boys were at Marquette Golf Club), I didn’t get to see a lot of them, but from what I know, (the girls) played really well,” he said. “Ellie (Hicks) shot an 85, and I’m happy for her because that’s a great way to end her junior year. Today was just a great day for them to come together, and I hope that they can build on that.”
Menominee also finished with a score of 390, but had to settle for fourth due to a disqualification.
Individually, Liston took second place, Hicks finished third, and the Escanaba trio of Sam Henderson (91), Megan Dagenais (92) and Darby Beckon (93) took fourth through sixth, respectively.
PHOTOS: (Top) Escanaba’s Sam Henderson, left, finished fourth individually while Houghton’s Kaitlyn McKay just missed placing among the top 10 individuals. (Middle) Aspen Micheln watches one of her shots for third-place Marquette. (Photos by Rachel Oakley.)
Join Elizabeth Coon as State Champs! takes a look at all of the action from the 2023 Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Finals.