IRON RIVER – Manistique’s Macy Green was a really good softball player before she switched to golf full time just last year.
Teammate Nora Cunningham has been playing for a couple of years, and she won a few tournaments this season.
“And they’ve been highly competitive with each other all year,” their coach, Tim Noble, said.
The juniors carried that friendly competition through to the Upper Peninsula Division 2 Final at Young’s Golf Course on Wednesday. They were within a stroke of each other – at the top of the leaderboard. Green was medalist with a 102, and Cunningham shot a 103 to tie for second with Bark River-Harris’ Hannah Larson.
Cunningham said her back nine was OK, but she struggled on the front. “So that was a bummer, but I’m happy that Macy did what she did,” she said. “She really pulled through and did great.”
Green golfed with the No. 2 golfers, and she didn’t expect to win from there.
“It’s kind of shocking, honestly,” she said.
She said she improved a lot this year, and the same was true of her day Wednesday.
“I struggled a lot with drives the first nine holes, but in the back, I improved a lot. I think that’s what helped,” Green said.
Ceara LaBlanc of Brimley was fourth with a 106, and Pickford’s Isa Franklin was fifth with a 107.
The Munising girls won the team title with a score of 454. West Iron County was second at 469.
Logan Peters led the Mustangs with a 108, which was good for seventh overall.
Munising has four seniors who have been playing since they were freshmen.
“They’ve been improving year by year,” Munising coach Bette Immel said. “This year they wanted to come out and win it. We came in second place last year. So they thought now with senior leadership we would be able to do it, and we were fortunate to be able to come out today with the win.”
The sun and perfectly blue skies were a constant on the challenging course Wednesday.
“It was extremely long,” Immel said. “The greens were freshly cut this morning, so the kids said it was hard to land a ball on them, and putting was real tough. A little windy but not too bad. But definitely the putting was the difference today, I believe.”
Cunningham wasn’t arguing about the greens.
“The greens are very hard to get used to,” she said. “And there’s woods, and there’s water. But the greens are definitely one of the most challenging of the courses that we played this year.”
PHOTOS (Top) Munising’s Jenna Matson tees off on the first hole during Wednesday’s U.P. Division 2 Final at Young’s Golf Course. (Middle) Manistique’s Macy Green tees off at No. 17 on the way to winning the individual championship. (Photos by Jason Juno.)
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.)