By Steve Vedder
Special for Second Half
ALLENDALE – Shannon Kennedy had no trouble sleeping the night before her drive for a second MHSAA Finals title in three years.
The Bloomfield Hills Marian junior held a two-shot lead after the first round of the Lower Peninsula Division 3 championship at The Meadows. But instead of fretting over the many pitfalls which cause golfers to stumble, Kennedy promptly sealed her title Saturday with an even-par round of 73, including a clutch birdie on No. 18.
"I slept pretty well," said Kennedy after finishing with a two-day total of 143, three shots better than Flint Powers Catholic two-time all-stater Jolie Brochu. "You just have to go out and play your game. I felt like I was going to win."
Kennedy's individual championship sparked Marian to the team title, its first. The Mustangs finished with a 689, three shots better than reigning champ Powers. Marian shot a 335 the first day to lead the Chargers at that point by 11 shots.
Kennedy also had won the Division 2 championship as a freshman and finished third a year ago. She said she was confident the team would be in the hunt for a championship with a chance at upsetting a Powers team which lost only one golfer from 2018. After Marian captured the Catholic League championship late in the season, Kennedy said a whisper about winning a state crown grew into a real opportunity.
"We always knew it was a small possibility. We didn't talk too much about it until we got here and we thought, 'Hey, we can do this thing,’" she said.
Marian co-coach Cathie Fritz agreed with Kennedy that winning this weekend was a possibility. Fritz and co-coach Leon Braisted teamed up to win five Finals titles with five second-place finishes at Birmingham Seaholm until moving to Marian four years ago.
"We've got girls who work hard," Fritz said. "Marlo Hudson is our only senior, Shannon has worked hard the last 12 months and we've got multiple juniors who we knew would keep us in the hunt."
Marian's three juniors – Lauren Sass, Laura Emerson and Sarah Kuredjian – all broke 100 on Saturday. Hudson had rounds of 79 and 91.
Detroit Country Day finished third with a 711, Marshall was fourth at 712 and Big Rapids rounded out the top five with a 731. Powers entered the tournament ranked No. 1, while Marian was second and Big Rapids – which has four top-10 finishes since 2016 – was No. 3.
Other top individuals this weekend included Marshall's Karlee Malone, who was third with a 153. Madeline Blum of Marysville was fourth with a 160, and three golfers tied for fifth at 163: Haslett's Sydney Dausman, Grand Rapids Christian's Ryann Breslin and Big Rapids' Hope Thebo.
Braisted said Kennedy's individual title was no surprise to him.
"It's not about her; she's very humble," he said. "She's that precise. It's important to her to win, but she really wanted the team to win."
Powers coach Jim Snow said there is often a small gap between high expectations and actually winning a championship.
"Golf is a funny game. You don't always win just because you're favored," he said. "There can be weird bounces or a putt won't fall. To win a championship, things have to fall into place. That's just the nature of the business. You have to be precise and if you're not, you don't win.
"We played hard and just lost to a good team."
PHOTOS: (Top) Marian’s Shannon Kennedy follows through on an approach during Friday’s first round of the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final. (Middle) Powers’ Jolie Brochu follows one of her drives. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.)