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 [email protected] 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.)

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.”

Click for full results.

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.)