For Love of Game, Hudsonville Ace Plays Thru Injury to Finish Season at Finals

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

October 20, 2021

HUDSONVILLE – Ella Thomasma’s love of the game was worth the pain. 

The Hudsonville junior persevered through a serious knee injury to finish her season among the best golfers in the state. 

Thomasma competed at this past weekend’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals as an individual qualifier and placed 47th overall. She carded rounds of 89 and 90 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State for a two-day total of 179.

And Thomasma made the field, and then played those back-to-back 18-hole rounds, with a torn right knee ligament suffered six months ago.

“It was so rewarding to finish the season, and it’s pretty cool to be able to say I made it the entire way,” Thomasma said. “No one would probably do what I did, that would be my guess, but I just love golf and I didn’t want to miss my junior year.”

Thomasma suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in March during high school soccer tryouts and was done for the rest of that season.

Doctors encouraged Thomasma to have surgery, but she opted out due to her desire to play golf this fall.

“The doctor told me I should do it when the injury happened, but I told him that I couldn’t do that,” Thomasma said. “I had to wait until golf season was done because I knew I wanted to play golf.”

Hudsonville girls golf coach Joe DeSmit knew Thomasma was committed to playing despite the injury.

“When it happened, she said she wasn’t getting surgery until after the season so she knew right away she was going to try and go as long as she could,” he said. “She even went out West with Young Life and had to do hikes. We talked about getting a medical clearance to use a cart, but she didn’t want any part of it.”

Hudsonville golfThomasma emerged as the Eagles’ top golfer this fall despite the overwhelming pain she experienced often.

“It’s been pretty bad, and it hurts all the time, but I wasn’t going to stop golfing,” Thomasma said. “I think walking was the hardest part for me. It wasn’t hitting the ball, it was walking all the courses – and some of them were tough to walk. It just made it tougher.”

Thomasma wore a brace on the knee to alleviate some of the pain. 

“When I was swinging (the club), it was fine, but I would hit my shot and then be like, ‘Dang, I have to walk to the next shot now,’” Thomasma said. “It was tough, but I did it.”

DeSmit was proud of Thomasma for her grit and determination.

“I just think it’s awesome what she did this year, and she’s just a grinder,” he said. “I could tear up about it because she just gutted it out all year. 

“It’s a testament to her for grinding through it and putting her team ahead of herself and saying that she was going to play to help the team.”

Hudsonville competed at the Regional earlier this month at Crystal Mountain and finished fifth as a team. The top three teams from Regionals advance to Finals.

Thomasma, however, qualified as an individual after firing a 92 to tie for ninth – and earn the third of three qualifying spots for golfers whose teams do not advance as a whole.

“I knew if I was going to wait to have surgery, I wanted to make it as far as I possibly could and I did it,” Thomasma said. “The conditions at the state finals were tough, but I didn’t play awful so I’m not complaining. I wish I would’ve played better, but I didn’t end up too bad.”

Thomasma received a special honor at the end of the season.

“She was given the Eagle Award, which is given to an athlete that you want to replicate (from) our program,” DeSmit said. “Not many kids would do that, and she’s just tough.”

Thomasma, who said her meniscus was probably torn as well because of the delay, was scheduled to have surgery this week.

Dean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for four 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 with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTOS (Top) Hudsonville’s Ella Thomasma sends a drive during Saturday’s second round at The Meadows. (Middle) Thomasma, playing the Finals with a torn ACL, puts a putt close to the cup. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

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 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.)