EAST LANSING – The Lower Peninsula Division 4 Girls Golf Finals this weekend at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers East featured competitions within the competition. Head-to-head battles came to a head on Saturday.
While Montague went down to the wire in edging Lansing Catholic and repeating as team champion, Ann Arbor Greenhills freshman Mia Melendez outdueled Michigan Center senior Kamryn Shannon for the individual title in a showdown that came down to the final hole.
Montague and Lansing Catholic both shot 675 over the two-day event, but the Wildcats held the upper hand by virtue of the fifth-score tie-breaker. Jackson Lumen Christi finished third (701), followed by Adrian Lenawee Christian in fourth (706) and Remus Chippewa Hills fifth (722).
The Wildcats, who ran away with the title last year in defeating runner-up Lansing Catholic by 27 shots, featured five players under 90 each of the two days this weekend.
“I can’t believe that,” Montague coach Phil Kerr said. “I’m so proud of them. I’m not surprised, but still under these conditions, you’ve got to show up and compete and these girls did.”
Shannon held a two-shot lead over Melendez following a 2-under 70 on Friday, but Melendez made several clutch putts Saturday to make her move during what amounted to a head-to-head match. Melendez chipped in for par on their final hole to wrestle away the medalist honor, while Shannon settled for bogey.
Melendez shot 71 on Saturday for a two-day total of 143, one shot better than Shannon’s 144. The newly-crowned champ called the round “intense.”
“There was a lot of, like, moments where I knew that I had to make a putt and then she had to make a putt, too, so we were just going back and forth,” Melendez said. “It was a lot, and both of us had to make a lot of big runs going next to each other.
“This particularly means a lot because it’s the state championships, and it’s always been my goal to win something like this because everybody’s going to see it and it’s a pretty big deal.”
Lansing Catholic’s Amanda Meiling finished third at 159, followed by teammate Sailor Somerville, Lenawee Christian’s Lauren Swiggum and South Haven’s Sydney Barnes all tied for fourth (164).
Montague seniors Orianna Bylsma and Gabby Moreau, who were key contributors on last year’s title team, led the Wildcats with top-10 finishes: Bylsma in seventh (165) and Moreau 10th (168).
Traverse City St. Francis’ Grace Slocum placed eighth (166) and Brooklyn Columbia Central’s Logan Bentley ninth (167).
“I’m so proud of the seniors – it’s definitely the end of an era. Ori and Gabby have been through all of it,” Kerr said. “(Their) freshman year, we were nobody. Sophomore year, it was the biggest deal that we made state and then got fourth. They won state (last year), they backed it up (this year).
“Ori shot 79 today, Gabby shot 80 yesterday – a PR by four strokes, at state. They’re just warriors. It didn’t matter what they did all year, it didn’t matter what they did last week, I knew when we showed up that those two were going to perform.”
Six years ago, Montague did not even have a girls golf team. Before last year, the school had never won a Finals title in a girls sport.
Now, the Wildcats have two championships in as many years in girls golf.
“I didn’t even play golf five years ago. I hadn’t even touched a golf club in my life five years ago today,” Moreau said. “And if you would have told me, ‘You’re going to win a state championship,’ I would have said, ‘I don’t play football.’
“I couldn’t have even imagined this. This is so surreal.”
PHOTOS (Top) Montague’s Orianna Bylsma follows her approach shot Saturday at Forest Akers East. (Middle) Ann Arbor Greenhills’ Mia Melendez lines up a putt during the second round. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
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 email@example.com 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.)