No Heartbreak This Time as Rochester Rises

October 15, 2016

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Every high school golf coach reminds his or her team that “every stroke counts.”

The exception is Rochester girls golf coach Jeff Haney, because his team has learned that lesson first-hand over the past three seasons.

Rochester missed out on making it to the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Division 1 Final by four strokes in 2013, then by two strokes in 2014 and, last year, the Falcons lost out to Traverse City West for the championship on a fifth-player score tie-breaker.

That cumulative heartbreak fueled plenty of extra desire this fall for Rochester, which certainly made every stroke count in a 21-shot victory over Novi for the Division 1 title Saturday at windswept Forest Akers East in East Lansing.

“Oh yes, because of what’s happened the past few years, it’s very easy for me to get their attention on the importance of every single shot,” said Haney, who guided the Falcons to their third Finals championship in the past nine years, and fourth overall. “These girls have all shaved strokes off their average from the start of the year, which is why we were able to win it.”

Rochester registered the lowest team scores in the 18-team field on both Friday (310) and Saturday (308), for a 618 total. Novi was second at 639, followed by Bloomfield Hills (648), 2015 champion Traverse City West (652) and Saline (661).

The Falcons were paced by senior standout and fifth-place individual Brooke Busse (73-75-148), but the real secret to their success was depth. Exhibit A was the Falcons’ fifth golfer, junior Keri Yang (83-83-166), whose total was 15 shots better than any other team’s No. 5 player.

Senior Veronica Haque (75-75-150) placed eighth overall and was followed closely by her freshman sister, Savannah Haque (79-79-158), and senior Erica Yang (84-79-163).

“I’m just very relieved that it’s over and that we did it,” said Busse, who was part of all three years of Finals-related heartbreak for the Falcons. “We knew we could do it, and we were really focused on staying positive. A big key is that we putted better (Saturday), and that’s why we shaved a few strokes off our total from the first day.”

Rochester actually extended its lead in Saturday’s final round, just the opposite of last year when unranked Traverse City West charged from five strokes back to tie for the top spot, eventually winning on the tie-breaker. Since neither Rochester nor Traverse City West had a senior in their lineup last fall, the stage was set for a rematch.

While the lower half of the West lineup struggled, sophomore Anika Dy certainly did her part for the Titans.

Dy, who placed second last year as a freshman, finished 1-under par with rounds of 72 and 71 for a 143 total, two shots better than Clarkston senior Meghan Deardorff (74-71-145) and Bloomfield Hills sophomore Mikaela Schulz (72-73-145).

Novi senior Alexa Hatz (147) shot a sizzling 3-under par 69 on Saturday – the best round of the tournament – which moved her up to fourth overall and powered her team to a surprising second-place overall finish. Also placing in the top 10 for the Wildcats was junior Abby Livingston, who shot 151 and tied for ninth.

Other individuals in the top 10 were Grand Blanc senior Cammi Lucia (149) and Ann Arbor Skyline senior Jami Laude (149), who tied for sixth, and Lake Orion senior Moyea Russell (151) and Rochester Hills Stoney Creek senior Lauren Ingle (151), who tied for ninth.

But the story of the weekend was the continued surge by Rochester, which just one week ago set the state girls golf record for postseason scoring with a 289 total at Twin Lakes Golf Course in Oakland Township.

That Regional performance was an incredible achievement for a Rochester program that has had plenty of highlights in recent years. The Falcons have finished in the top 10 at the Finals 16 times over the past 21 years, with four MHSAA titles (the others coming in 2002, 2008 and 2009) and three runner-up finishes (2005, 2007 and 2015).

Haney said it was huge to validate that Regional performance by staying hot and winning the program’s first Finals title in seven years.

“It’s a big relief to tell you the truth,” said Haney, whose team was able to handle the increasing winds on Saturday, which were more of a factor on the more open East course than Forest Akers West. “There are some great teams and great individuals in Division 1 that we battle with all the time. This team definitely earned it.”

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PHOTO: (Top) Rochester's Veronica Haque putts during Saturday's second round at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final. (Middle) Traverse City West's Anika Dy watches a drive during her round; she finished as individual medalist. (Click to see more from

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.)