By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
JENISON – The Jenison girls golf team is playing with heavy hearts this season.
Teammates and coaches are mourning the loss of the Wildcats’ No. 1 player, Sydney Carfine, who would have been a senior this fall.
The 17-year-old Carfine was tragically killed on the night of June 14 in a two-car crash in Ottawa County.
“It was like disbelief, like this can’t be real,” Jenison girls golf coach Linda Reimink said. “I was up north, and I knew that I had to get home and get together with our team. It was very emotional and just devastating for everyone.”
Carfine’s death shook the Jenison community and took its toll on her teammates, who had to deal with the loss of their fun-loving, outgoing and talented teammate.
“It was definitely hard for all of us, and the day after we got together to see each other and talk about it,” senior Amanda Smaby said. “I think as a team we’ve come together more because of it because we all loved Syd, and it’s making our season more meaningful.
“We’re looking at it as inspiration instead of keeping us from having a great season because that’s what Syd would want. Just to enjoy golf because she made it fun and she loved golf.”
Carfine was expected to be a leader on this year’s squad, and was looking forward to her final year of high school.
“She sent a long text to the team at the end of the school year how this was going to be our year and how she wanted to do sweatshirts with last names, and we’re going to carry through on that,” Reimink said. “We also have smiley faces on our shirts in honor of Syd because that was her motto: ‘Just smile.’”
While Carfine’s unexpected death has been hard to comprehend, senior Sophie Hoekstra said she thinks of her often on the course.
“One way I cope with it is I just remember that she is watching over me,” she said. “When I make a bad putt, she’s up there laughing at me, and when I have a good shot I say in my head, ‘At least you were here to see it.’
“It’s not too different because I know that she’s still here, but at the same time it’s really different because we don’t get to see her smile or get our hugs anymore. She was always so positive and always made friends with everyone she was with.”
Carfine began playing golf at a young age. Her mother, Jennifer, golfed at Michigan State University, and her late grandfather, Mike Mieras, was a PGA Professional at Hidden Valley Golf Course.
Carfine was a dedicated student of the game and worked hard to improve in all aspects.
She made the varsity team as a freshman at Byron Center and helped the Bulldogs reach the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final.
Carfine moved and transferred to Jenison, where she emerged as one of the top players on the team and in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black the past two seasons.
Despite her prowess on the golf course, Reimink said Carfine kept her sport in perspective and was dedicated to success in the classroom as well.
“She was really competitive, and when she got on the golf course she was competing, but also giggling about boys or something going on in school,” Reimink said. “It wasn’t all business, and she was way more than a golfer. She really cared about how well she did in school. When she had a freak out moment, it wasn’t about golf – it was about school. She was really committed and worked hard on her studies. She was very creative with her writing and art.”
Reimink said the team is doing its best to cope, but Carfine’s absence at practices has been noticeable.
“I think all the girls internally have handled it differently, but Amanda and Sydney always had individual competitions and that competitive nature against someone on the team she is going to miss big time,” Reimink said. “I feel like in practices, (Sydney) was really focused on her game, and we’re going to miss that. She was such a competitor and had big hopes for a really good year.”
Smaby said Carfine brought out the best in her and her teammates.
“It’s definitely a different environment now without her because she always added so much and was the leader of our team,” she said. “She always gave us a passion to want to do better, and she would make practices fun.
“She was the one we could talk to about anything. She made jokes and made everything a little lighter mood. It’s sad to think about, but the impact she made on our team and our program was just incredible.”
After struggling through back issues as a sophomore, Carfine qualified as an individual for the Division 1 Final last season and had aspirations to play golf in college.
“Her junior year, that was her number one goal,” Reimink said. “To get back to state.”
Carfine was honored last week during play at the annual Jenison Invitational. It was renamed as the Sydney Carfine Memorial Tournament.
There will be a moment of silence for Carfine at the Wildcats’ home football game Sept. 6.
Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Jenison’s Sydney Carfine would have been a senior this fall. (Middle) The Jenison girls golf team stands together last season, including Carfine, far left. (Photos courtesy of the Jenison girls golf program.)
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 email@example.com 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.)