ALLENDALE – Adverse weather conditions couldn’t prevent the Grand Rapids Catholic Central girls golf team from making school history.
Despite two days of rain, wind and chilly temperatures, the Cougars overcame the elements to win their first Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final.
Catholic Central shot a 673 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State to win by 12 strokes.
Williamston finished runner-up with a 685, while 2022 champion Macomb Lutheran North (696) was third.
“It’s exciting,” Catholic Central coach Kim Napieralski said. “Just think about it. The boys had their first a couple years ago, and now the girls have their first. We’re on a roll.
“The good news about this weather is I have mudders for players. They don’t care about the conditions as much as some other teams perhaps. It was hard to get through the puddles of water, but they just kept playing.”
Lutheran North senior Lauren Timpf won the medalist honor, claiming her third individual Finals title. She became the seventh golfer in MHSAA Lower Peninsula girls golf history to achieve the feat, carding a 5-under-par 67 to finish with a two-round 141.
The Cougars’ previous best team finish at the Finals was fifth, which happened last year, but they got contributions from across the line-up to prevail.
“It’s been that way all season,” said Napieralski, who returned three of her top four golfers from a year ago. “A couple of girls at the top and then our three, four, five and sometimes even six. It could switch up any day. We go really deep as far as talent across the board.”
Junior Ava Wisinski led the Cougars with a 158 and finished sixth individually.
“I'm just so proud of my teammates," Wisinski said. “We knew it was going to be a challenge when we went into it, but we really stuck it out and it was a good fight.
“It was really wet out there, but I think we did well despite the conditions.”
Sophomore Kelly Preston also placed in the top 10 with a 159, while sophomores Margaret Deimel and Sofia Piccione and senior Katie Cook also played well.
Cook, the team’s lone senior, said it was even sweeter to win in her final tournament.
“I’ve been on the team since my freshman year, and just seeing it grow has been awesome,” Cook said. “We worked so hard to get here. We’ve had a really good season, and our depth is where we shine and we can all put together good scores on any day.
“We came into today thinking we were even with everyone around us. The conditions were awful, and half of it was playing golf, but half the battle was dealing with the conditions out there. It was really hard, but we did it. We were willing to battle through it.”
Catholic Central opened with a 334 and led Lutheran North and Williamston by 18 strokes heading into the final round.
“It was important to play well the first day and it felt good, but we came into today with the mentality that we’re going first day again,” Napieralski said. “We are all even, straight up.”
Timpf fired a first-day 74 and was tied with Spring Lake’s Zoe Dull entering the final 18 holes. Dull and Grand Rapids Christian’s Lillian O’Grady both finished with two-day totals of 149 to tie for second.
“I know I didn’t play my best golf yesterday, and I just really tried to block it out of my head and know that I am capable of going low,” Timpf said. “Since it was my senior year and last high school tournament, it just really meant the world to me to come out here. I've been working all four years to try and accomplish this goal, and to just come back from where I started today and end up winning is super special.”
Timpf recorded a double-bogey on her first hole, but recovered with four straight birdies on the back nine.
“After the first hole I thought that I’m not going to win this if I don't start making some putts,” Timpf said. “I started draining a bunch of birdie putts, especially on the back nine, and that got it going for me.
Williamston was tied with Lutheran North entering Saturday, and the two teams were still knotted on the back nine.
“What my girls did the last hour and a half is kind of a blur to me,” Hornets coach Brian Kent said. “We started making putts, we started making chips and I thought for the first time in school history we are in the top five and might get state runner-up.”
The Hornets shot a 333, the lowest in the final round. This was their first top-two Finals finish.
“I'm proud of my team,” Kent said. “I knew on day one of practice that we had a special team, but this is not what I thought. This course is tough on a good day, let alone with these conditions. We all had to play the same conditions, but they were hitting greens and fairways all day long and that's what saved us.”
Leading the way for Williamston was junior Nicole Schafer, who finished fourth overall with rounds of 77 and 73.
Freshman Paige Radebach and seniors Ellie Thorburn and Allison Kane rounded out the top four.
PHOTOS (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Ava Wisinski follows a shot during the weekend's LP Divison 3 Final. (Middle) Macomb Lutheran North's Lauren Timpf putts during her run to a third medalist honor. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
Join Elizabeth Coon as State Champs! takes a look at all of the action from the 2023 Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Finals.