Huskies Finish Strong to Reign Again

October 19, 2019

By Tom Lang
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – This threepeat was very sweet.

Carrying the heavy load of a No. 1 ranking all season after two consecutive years winning the Lower Peninsula Division 2 title, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern pulled away during the second round Saturday to secure its third consecutive MHSAA Finals championship at Forest Akers East on the campus of Michigan State.

Northern led South Lyon by only two strokes going into the final round (337-339) – an insignificant margin in team golf, which tabulates four individual scores. The past two years Northern had much larger cushions over the competition.

But Northern broke away to win this third title with a team total 337-311-648.

“We talked a lot about that before the second round,” coach Kent Graves said about having no room for error. “In years past we haven’t had to do that; we just had to get through it. Today we really had to focus, and they did, and it was a big win for us.

“I just love the kids. I’m just so proud of them. Not the fact that they won three in a row, but just that grit that they had coming back ... to focus and crush it today. I’m very proud of them.”

Northern was led by Lilia Henkel at 78-75-153, Anna Fay at 82-75-157, Ava Frost with 88-77-165 and Rylee Walters at 89-84-173 as all four scored better in round two.

Henkel tied for second individually with Emlin Munch of Traverse City Central, while Fay placed fourth overall.

“For us, I think being here three times was the difference” Graves said about the difference between the first and second rounds. “All five of our girls played in the final last year. You just can’t discount experience. To know where you’re at and know what you’ve got to do on the second day. I think they just went out and did it.”

Gabriella Tapp, a freshman from South Lyon, was not on most people’s radars, yet played two consecutive rounds of 75-75 to win the medalist title. She led by one stroke after the first round over teammate Katherine Potter, who finished 76-83-159 for fifth place individually as the pair powered the Lions to a team runner-up finish. South Lyon (674) was ranked No. 5 coming into the weekend.

“That’s a quality team. There’s some good players there,” Graves said.

Taking third place was Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central with a team total 711. Farmington Hills Mercy took fourth at 730, while Birmingham Groves and Fenton rounded out the top five teams, both finishing with 732.

Graves said Northern’s third consecutive title was due to a complete team effort – especially being under the microscope all season.

“They’ve got pretty good heads on their shoulders. My top two players – Lilia and Anna – play golf 12 months of the year. They play in a lot of big tournaments. The ones I’m really proud of, and I say this every year, you really don’t win this thing with just your No. 1 and No. 2; everybody has a good one and two. It’s players like Ava Frost that came back and shot a 77 today at our three spot. Rylee and Bailee Walters, our twins, came back at 84 and 87 today. That’s where you win it, at those three and four scores.”

So, could there be a fourth consecutive championship in Northern’s future?

Henkel and Fay return, with three juniors who are waiting their turns.

“These three girls have been out here for two days with us, walking the course and they know what it takes, and they definitely want to be a part of this next year,” Graves said. “And I’ll tell you what; they’re pretty good players. They’d be in the top three for almost every team in our conference.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Forest Hills Northern’s Ava Frost putts during Friday’s first round of the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final. (Middle) South Lyon’s Gabriella Tapp pops a chip toward the green. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

After Back-to-Back Top-10 Finals Finishes, Rockford Aims To Join Title Contenders

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

September 22, 2022

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. 

West MichiganThe 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.

Aubrey Wilson putts off the rough during the Final at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University. “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 dream100@comcast.net 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.)