As League Rivals Rise, Sturgis Works to Continue Setting Championship Pace

By Wes Morgan
Special for

September 16, 2022

At a certain point, the competition catches up. And that’s where the Sturgis High School varsity girls golf program — the winningest team at the school over the last decade — finds itself in 2022. 

Southwest CorridorA young squad without a senior on the roster is slugging it out this fall in a Wolverine Conference that now boasts plenty of parity. But with five league titles over the last eight years, the Trojans also can appreciate being in pursuit of the crown instead of being chased. 

“We know that we’re kind of on a two-year plan here to get some good things done,” Sturgis coach Ken Schau said. “Trust me, when I say two-year plan, there’s no such thing as ‘We’ll be back next year.’ No way. It’s about right now.”

When Schau took over 11 years ago, winning a conference championship wasn’t even on the first page of the to-do list. The program had stalled out and numbers were down to the point when filling out a junior varsity roster was one of the biggest chores. 

Teaching at Sturgis Middle School, Schau began evangelizing for the game. Numbers improved. Scores went from respectable to impressive. The Trojans started winning league titles, claimed a Regional championship and earned MHSAA Finals berths — four over the past 10 years. Golfers like Courtney O’Brien (Spring Arbor University) and Rachel Webb (Olivet College) furthered their careers at the college level. 

A tradition was formed, and today’s crop of players at Sturgis hold dear their roles in continuing that legacy. 

“As far as where we are now, you can’t even compare it to Year 1,” Schau said. “We’re trying to maintain what we’re doing and go from there. It’s all a numbers game in my mind. Who’s coming up in the eighth grade? I’ve always got my eye on talent coming in. Build numbers first and have that quality get a little bit better. That’s what happened. The motivation is different after that. Now you have girls that are motivated to keep things going.”

Citori Kosmerick sends an approach from the fairway. Schau’s middle school students learn about the Trojans’ success on the course whether they want to or not. Banners are hung in the classroom, and Schau is happy to talk golf whenever there’s an opening to do so. 

“There have been girls that have come through the program that the only reason they played was because I was fortunate enough to have them in class and I talked them into it,” he said. “I started talking to Courtney O’Brien in my media class, and she ends up playing. Rachel Webb was kind of the same. It wasn’t until eighth grade that she started showing some interest. I do my best to recognize golfers out there.”

This fall, it starts with captains Maddy Webb (sophomore) and Citori Kosmerick (junior), who continue to chip away at their nine-hole averages, which included a 46 for Webb and a 48 for Kosmerick at the fifth conference jamboree at Sauganash Golf Club in Three Rivers. Sturgis ended the day with a team score of 195, which was good for third place behind Plainwell (188) and Vicksburg (189). 

“For (Webb and Kosmerick), their course management is starting to get a lot better,” Schau said. “You have to bulletproof your game. If you’re a girl around the 40s, make your bad round a 48 instead of a 55. They have done a really good job of understanding the strengths of their game. They understand when it’s go time, when we have to go for this flag here and we can’t mess around and lay up. They are just getting better and better.”

“I had a lot of lessons,” Webb said of her offseason work. “I bumped up to first seed, which puts a lot of pressure on me, but I feel like I do good with pressure. My teammates definitely help me a lot. I want to shoot in the high 30s. I feel like I can get there.”

For Kosmerick, she climbed ahead of some upperclassmen last year and now finds herself in a leadership role.

“It made me a lot better because there was a lot more pressure than being the sixth seed (where she started last season),” Kosmerick said. “Our biggest goal is to take the pressure off (the underclassmen) in harder matches because we know how it was our first years.”

Otsego, Plainwell and Vicksburg have been tough to beat this season in the Wolverine, and the three squads have all shared the lead thus far. Sturgis continues to hover around fourth place, within striking distance if it can keep things rolling in the right direction. 

The Sturgis girls golf team, from left: Hannah Falkenstein, Piper Sterling, Mia Martinez, Aspen Hyska, Kosmerick and Webb. “This is the best the Wolverine Conference has been,” Schau said. “It has been a lot of fun. The goal as we progress into the postseason is more consistency and better decision making,” Schau said. Course management is huge. Even though we have some juniors, we still make some kid mistakes, so to speak. This is when we really start gearing up.”

A league outing Sept. 12 at Lake Cora in Paw Paw could be a good indication of the kind of production Sturgis is capable of down the stretch. The Trojans carded a score of 180, finishing second by a stroke to Vicksburg. It was the fifth-best score in school history with four players finishing in the 40s, including Webb’s career-best 41.

In the third spot is junior Aspen Hyska, who fired a career-best 44 at Lake Cora. Classmate Hannah Falkenstein plays as the fourth seed. Mia Martinez (sophomore) competes in the fifth slot, and freshman Piper Sterling is the Trojans’ six seed. 

“Aspen Hyska worked very hard in the summertime, going from a mid-50s player to around 50,” Schau said. “Falkenstein is our little robot of the group. She hits the ball 150 yards of the tee and does it again and again. She chips and putts and throws up a 52 every time she steps on the course. Mia Martinez is another girl who did a great job over the summertime. There’s an athlete coming out in Mia. I did not know what was going to happen at the six seed and knew it was going to be an open competition. Our freshman (Sterling), a lefty, stepped up. She’s a nice surprise.”

The Trojans also claimed a victory at their inaugural Team Choice Invitational at Klinger Lake Country Club, beating out runner-up Portage Central by 14 strokes. Webb was medalist with a 94, and Kosmerick placed second one stroke back.

“It was nice for the girls to win their own Invitational,” Schau said. “Klinger Lake is always a tough course to play with very thick rough and fast greens. We like it though as we feel it makes us better later in the season."

Wes MorganWes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Sturgis’ Maddy Webb finds her putting line. (Middle) Citori Kosmerick sends an approach from the fairway. (Below) The Sturgis girls golf team, from left: Hannah Falkenstein, Piper Sterling, Mia Martinez, Aspen Hyska, Kosmerick and Webb. (Photos courtesy of the Sturgis girls golf program.)

Pederson Wins Memorably, Ontonagon Ascends Again in 'Phenomenal' Fashion

By Jason Juno
Special for

May 30, 2024

ESCANABA – Big Bay de Noc’s Camryn Pederson carded an 89 on Thursday to win the Upper Peninsula Division 3 Final individual champion and become the first U.P. champion to clear 90 since 2019.

“It feels really good,” she said. “I tried my best to golf as good as I could today, and I’m really glad that it came out the way it was. It’s a good way to end my senior year.”

She said she liked the open course that was low on hazards at the Escanaba Country Club. And she did most things well during her round Thursday.

“I think I minimized my putts. I only one or two-putt most of the holes,” Pederson said. “And my drives were really good.”

She became the second golfer from Big Bay de Noc to win a U.P. Finals individual golf title. Samantha Guertin won Division 3 in 2006 with a 90.

Pederson’s team was seeking its first title since 2005 after finishing runner-up last year, but finished second to a school where girls golf has pretty much always been strong – Ontonagon.

Ontonagon celebrates its latest girls golf Finals championship.When the MHSAA first separated the U.P. Finals into separate classes, Ontonagon won the first 10 Class C-D championships, from 1978 to 1987. When Class D got its own U.P. championship tournament, the Gladiators girls won the first four, part of a five-year run of titles from 1994 to 1998. When classifications changed again in 2001, and the name of the smallest group of schools changed from Class D to Division 3, Ontonagon didn’t stop winning, racking up seven more Finals championships.

On Thursday, the Gladiators made it eight wins in Division 3 and 23 overall.

Two of their golfers finished under 100 – runner-up Madyson Pantti carded a 94, and Sam Bailey had a 98. All five finished among the top 10 individuals. Summer Stites’ 100 was good for a fourth-place tie, and Olivia Lockhart and Shayna Stites tied for 10th with 108s.

It was the first U.P. Finals golf championship for all of them, including coach Jim Jessup. The Gladiators’ last team wins came with back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019.

Ontonagon repeated as Copper Mountain Conference champion this year. The Gladiators had finished third last season at the U.P. Division 3 Final and outshot Big Bay de Noc on Thursday by eight strokes, 400-408. Ontonagon shot 36 strokes better than at last season’s Final, and every golfer shot under 110, which Jessup called “phenomenal.”

“I think the girls just worked really hard to better themselves,” he said. “Their stroke play was better, their consistency was better.”

Pantti improved her score by eight strokes from last year’s Final. The junior will have another shot at an individual championships in 2025, but she had a lot to be proud of this time with her runner-up finish that led the Gladiators to a team title.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “It was something that we’d been looking forward to all season. We’ve done good in a lot of our meets, and I thought this was a really good year for us.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Big Bay de Noc's Camryn Pederson follows her drive on No. 4 on Thursday at Escanaba Country Club. (Middle) Ontonagon celebrates its latest girls golf Finals championship. (Photos by Jason Juno.)