FORE: Harbor Springs Ace Back for More

October 9, 2020

By Tom Spencer
Special for Second Half


Golf etiquette dictates that golfers should always yell "fore" upon hitting a shot that carries the risk of hitting another golfer. As long as one yells "fore," the golfer did all she or he could to warn the other golfers. 

Golfers also are supposed to convey this message to others in as polite a manner as possible.

“Four” though is the polite warning golfers should heed as they participate in the Division 4 golf championship at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West on Oct. 17. 

 The school record-holder from Harbor Springs is not likely to exclaim “four” – but she is looking to at least claim “four” —  as in consecutive MHSAA Finals championships.

Jacque O’Neill won the individual title last fall as a junior. She’ll be looking to repeat that feat as well as help the Rams win a third team championship in four seasons after they finished Division 4 runners-up in 2019. O’Neill, now a senior, was a freshman on the 2017 Division 4 champion Harbor team and a sophomore on the 2018 championship squad.

Shouting the word “fore” once usually suffices, although it's acceptable to shout it repeatedly if the shot is sailing toward another group of golfers.

No one would blame O’Neill is she shouted four repeatedly.

But be clear. O’Neill isn’t sounding this warning. Her golfing is.  

In addition to seeking a fourth straight team or individual Finals championship, she is likely to be selected to the Division 4 all-state team for a fourth-straight year. She is  coming off a third-straight Regional individual championship. 

Her hopes for a team title this October lie in four as well. Harbor has a pretty good idea whom of its golfers will fill the top three scoring spots. The fourth will go to one of the newer players. The fourth may make the difference as the Regional champions seek another Finals championship.

“My goal is certainly to win another state championship, but I wouldn’t say that I feel a lot of pressure,” O’Neill said. “I’m just looking at it as another chance to show my ability, and hopefully break my new record. 

“Any nerves I feel after that usually changes to excitement, and it is one of my favorite feelings.”

O’Neill put her name in history books this fall. She shot a school-record 73 at the Cheboygan Country Club.

“She works for everything,” said her coach Pete Kelbel.  “She practices all the time.

“If she plays a round and her putting his bad, guess where she is practicing ... on the putting green.”

Kelbel is taking the Rams to their eighth-straight Finals. He’s won two titles with his record-setting senior’s older sister, Calli O’Neill. Calli, now on the golf team at Aquinas College, and Jacque have benefited from strong family support and three golf professionals, one of whom is especially closely tied.

Brian O’Neal, the girls’ father, is a golf pro. He was once named to Golf Digest’s “Best Teachers”  list in Michigan. Jacque has received guidance from another golf pro, Shaun Bezilla, Harbor Point’s head golf professional and director of instruction. And, her high school coach, Kelbel, is a golf pro at Walloon Lake Country Club.

“I want to express my extreme gratitude for being a part of such an amazing program with such great teammates,” the younger O’Neill said.  “Being on the golf team these past four years has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I am very excited about my next chapter. But it is very hard to say goodbye to this one. 

“I have met so many amazing people, and I have such great memories,” she continued. “So thank you to everyone who has made this journey so great. I also want to thank Shaun Bezilla for helping me get my game to where it is today along with Pete Kelbel for all of his help in making me the player that I am today. As well as everyone at Boyne Highlands for their support. I would not be where I am today without the help from these people and many more.”

As she prepares for another Final, she is focused on all the family support she receives.

“Calli was one of my teammates in the past, and she has always pushed me to work harder and practice more,” Jacque noted. “She has definitely helped me fall in love with the game of golf because it is something that we love to do together. 

“My dad has helped me develop my game throughout the years and pushed me to work harder,” she went on.  “My mom, Connie, is my biggest supporter and comes to all my matches. She is always encouraging me. Having a family that all loves golf certainly helps! My extended family has also always encouraged me and helped me along the way, which means the world to me.”

Harbor Springs athletic director Anna Rigby is proud of the golf program’s history. She is looking for another good result at this month’s Finals.

“I've developed an incredible sense of pride watching the program be so successful year after year,” she said. “For Jacque to consistently achieve that level of success in a sport like golf speaks volumes to her fortitude and commitment to the game. 

“I'm feeling good about what we'll see from her in the Finals again this year.”

Kelbel has his own “fore” warning for everyone. Although it is really more of a fact of the matter.

“Jacque can’t get enough golf,” he said.  “She has kept growing and getting stronger throughout the year and improved her strength as swimmer.

“She’d play if you tied her up like a mummy,” he continued.  “She just deals with it and she wants to shoot a school record every time she plays.”

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.

PHOTO: Harbor Springs’ Jacque O’Neill fires an approach during the 2019 Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley. (Click to see more from

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