GLADSTONE – Poor weather may have limited the Ontonagon girls’ time on the golf course this spring.
But the Gladiators made any opportunities to prepare pay off as they repeated as Upper Peninsula Division 3 champions Wednesday at Irish Oaks Golf Course.
Ontonagon's girls finished with 418 strokes, followed by Cedarville at 429 and Powers North Central with 438.
"Our girls have been shooting around 105," Ontonagon coach Adam Spaulding said. "We knew what they brought to the table. We were beating some D-1 schools in our three meets. We knew we could compete.”
Three Ontonagon golfers bettered that 105, while the fourth scorer shot 108. Senior Whitney Rule led the way with a fifth-place 102.
This marked the second straight runner-up finish for the Cedarville girls.
"The girls did good today," said Cedarville coach Rob Freel. "Runner-up, we'll take that any day. We have no seniors on either team (girls or boys), which is encouraging.
“I'm real happy with how our girls played. I'm proud of all the kids."
Cedarville junior Lily Freel regained her individual title with an 85, a comfortable 12 strokes ahead of North Central sophomore Jadie Linder. Mackinac Island junior Makenna Horricks and North Central sophomore Ava Eichhorn shared third place at 100.
"There were some rough holes," said Lily Freel, who was runner-up last year after winning the tournament as a freshman in 2017. "I had quite a few bogeys. I just kept telling myself to do the best I can and focused on the next shot. I birdied the last hole on both nines. It felt great to finish strong and win it. I was kind of disappointed last year, but that just made me work harder."
Linder was happy to be runner-up after placing third a year ago.
"The last two years have gone pretty well," she said. "The back nine went pretty rough today. I struggled with my short game. I couldn't hit my irons. Then, I figured out my irons on the front nine and started feeling better about the way my game was going.
“Lily had a phenomenal round. It means a lot to me to take second."
Rock Mid-Peninsula junior Kennedy Englund, Mackinac Island sophomore Ella Cowell and Cedarville sophomore Lauren Miller all tied Rule for fifth at 102.
PHOTOS: (Top) The Ontonagon girls golf team is pictured together after winning the Upper Peninsula Division 3 title Thursday at Irish Oaks in Gladstone. (Middle) Cedarville’s Lily Freel. (Photos by Austin Hemmingson.)
ROCKFORD – The Rockford girls golf team witnessed first-hand at last year’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final the type of scores it would take to compete for top honors in the state.
The Rams finished a laudable eighth at last year’s championship tournament, but their two-day total of 697 (338-359) put them well behind champion Northville, which posted team scores of 307 and 308 to claim a fourth-straight Finals title by 12 strokes.
Rockford entered this season with aspirations to close the gap, and it has done just that with a talented quartet of experienced golfers.
“Our top four are better than we've had in the past,” Rams girls golf coach Scott Kruisenga said. “Maybe we’re not quite as deep, but the potential for all four of these girls to be in the 70s is pretty exciting.
“We’ve been seeing those scores by Northville, and Rochester Adams and Saline, and that's some darn good golf.
“The girls last year saw some of the scores that needed to take place in order to have a shot at a state championship, and they really took it serious over the summer. They played a lot of tournament golf, and they want it and they believe they can do it.”
The extra preparation and enhanced desire has been evident with low scores and first-place finishes.
The Rams have rolled through the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red thus far with the league tournament looming next week.
A new school record was established as well when Rockford won the Kent County Classic with an impressive 306.
“We’ve played well, and it’s been fun getting to know everyone the last three years,” said junior Jessica Jolly, the team’s No. 1 golfer.
“Everyone is capable of shooting low, so when we can do our best on the same day it’s fun, and we’ve broken the school record multiple times in the past few years.”
Jolly is joined in the top four by seniors Mackenzie Davidson and Bridget Parlmer and junior Aubrey Wilson.
In addition to the Kent Country Classic, Rockford also won the O-K Red Midseason Tournament, the Sydney Carfine Memorial Tournament and the Greenville Invitational.
The Rams took second behind state powerhouse Brighton at the 36-hole Lober Classic at Crystal Mountain to open the season.
“They have really been playing up to their ability and been playing lights out,” Kruisenga said. “They’ve put a lot of hard work in, and I’ve had all four since they were freshmen so it’s been fun to see how they’ve been improving year by year.
“That has been the most exciting thing, seeing the improvement and dedication they are putting into get better.”
While the team had high expectations entering the season, Kruisenga said they have already exceeded his.
“I was thinking even if we stay the same as last year we would be a good team,” he said, “but everyone is playing better.”
Jolly has been the catalyst and broke her own school record earlier this season with a superb 67 at Quail Ridge Golf Course.
She tied for ninth at the LPD1 Final as a freshman, when Rockford finished fifth as a team, and just missed the individual top 10 last season.
“I’m pretty happy with how I’ve played, and I’ve definitely seen my average drop to the lowest it’s been since I’ve been in high school.” Jolly said. “Most of my rounds have been under par, and it’s been fun to make some birdies and get a chance at shooting pretty low.”
After struggling on the second day of last year’s Final, Kruisenga said the success his team had at the 36-hole event earlier this season should bode well for the future.
“We did that intentionally to try and get used to that back-to-back,” he said. “The girls fared really well. We lost by three or four strokes to Brighton, and we were tied going into the second day. They kept a good mental game and limited their mistakes.”
The Rams are anxious for the postseason, but refuse to take anything for granted. They want to finish the conference season strong before setting their sights on a Finals berth.
“Our first goal would be to win the postseason tournament, and then we hope to do well at Regionals and qualify for state,” Jolly said. “If we do, then we’re looking to perform well there and give ourselves a chance.”
Dean 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Rockford’s Jessica Jolly powers through a drive during last season’s LPD1 Final. (Middle) Aubrey Wilson putts off the rough during the Final at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)