Montague Repeats to 'End Era,' Greenhills Freshman Begins Another in Finals Debut

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

October 17, 2021

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.”

Ann Arbor Greenhills golfLansing 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.”

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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.)

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.)