By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING — The rules of golf are pretty simple — for the most part.
But for one brief moment Friday at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Golf Finals, Northville sophomore Samantha Coleman had a mental lapse. And she broke a rule.
After her third shot found the green on the par-4 ninth hole, she walked up onto the green and at the request of a playing partner, she marked her spot and moved her ball out of the putting line. When it was her turn to putt, she failed to move the ball back to its original spot. She was assessed a two-stroke penalty.
“The funniest thing is, as I walked up to the ball and while she told me to move the mark, I thought to myself, ‘Don’t forget to move it back.’ I always do,” Coleman said. “And then I was happy with par because it was a long putt. I was really proud of how I was doing. And to know that (mistake) was how I doubled — because I didn’t move it back — that was really rough.”
The mistake really got to Coleman, who had played her first 12 holes under par. That’s when her coach, Chris Cronin, stepped in.
“That’s really, really tough. And when you get emotional when you’re competing, it’s hard to concentrate and it makes it hard to finish,” Cronin said. “We talked for a long time. I basically walked with her for the last four holes. When Sam is playing, I let her play golf. She’ll normally see me every 3-4 holes. But today, I knew she needed me there to finish. We walked and talked. The one thing I told her was, ‘You’ve got to let your teammates pick you up.’ She’s thinking, ‘Well, what if my two strokes (cost us) and I told her, ‘You can’t worry about that. You’ve got to trust your teammates to pick you up.’ I think that gave her solace and comfort so she could finish the way she did.”
And what she and her teammates did was spectacular. Trailing Rochester Adams by a pair of strokes with five holes to play, Northville rallied to capture its third-straight Division 1 championship at Forest Akers East in East Lansing.
Northville shot 313 to best the Highlanders, who finished nine strokes back with a team score of 322. Grand Blanc was third with a score of 328, followed by Plymouth (330) and Rockford (334) in the top five.
Coleman finished with a 3-over 75 to lead the Mustangs, who became just the ninth program in Lower Peninsula history to win three straight girls golf Finals championships. The last to do so in Division 1 was Grand Blanc (2004-06).
Northville’s depth shined Friday, with just six shots separating its five golfers. Sophomore Avi Gill and junior Haesol Park each carded 79s, while senior Katelyn Tokarz finished with an 80 to round out the team’s scoring.
“If you look at our last two holes, that’s where we opened the gap,” Cronin said. “A lot of birdies on those last two holes. It’s awesome. Plymouth was our equal. They beat us handily a couple times this year. Adams beat us this year. Grand Blanc beat us this year. We knew it was going to be close, and I think that makes this extra special.
“That’s kind of our team’s MO. We’re able to finish strong. The girls really executed today. A good example was our No. 4 golfer, Haesol Park. She started six over after four holes. It was a rough way to start. She finished with a 79 today. That’s somebody hanging in there, grinding it out. All the girls did that. They knew that that’s what it was going to take to win today.”
After a rough start, Rochester Adams made a move and took the lead.
“I’m proud of every single girl. I mean, the way they played and battle through things,” Adams head coach Jeff Kutschman said. “The conditions were changing. We had sun and no wind for a while. Then it felt like a 25-30 mile an hour wind for a couple holes, cold and cloudy. Then it was back to sunny. The way they battled through the conditions today was outstanding.”
Sophomore Grace Wang paced the Highlanders with a round of 76. Freshman teammate Laura Liu added a 78.
Grand Blanc sophomore Kate Brody was the tournament medalist, shooting a 2-under 70. She was the only player to break par.
“It feels great that all my hard work has paid off,” said Brody, who finished third overall a year ago. “I had to stay focused, stay calm and take my time on my shots. The conditions were rough but I think I did a good job adjusting to it. I have practiced so much, put a lot of work in. I’m just glad that I could come out with the win.”
Utica Eisenhower senior Ariel Chang and Ann Arbor Skyline junior Adie Maki tied for second with a pair of 73s. Plymouth junior Bridget Boczar and East Kentwood freshman Elise Fennell each shot 74 to finish fourth. Traverse City West senior Anci Dy (75), Coleman, Brighton senior Maggie Pietila (75), Ann Arbor Pioneer senior Amaya Melendez (76), Rockford freshman Jessica Jolly (76) and Wang (76) rounded out the top 10.
PHOTOS: (Top) Northville’s Samantha Coleman follows through on a putt during the Division 1 Final on Friday at Forest Akers East. (Middle) Grand Blanc’s Kate Brody putts during her run to the individual championship. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.)