By Tom Lang
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING – Division 1 girls golf is experiencing a youth movement.
Okemos sophomore Allison Cui won the MHSAA Final individual title in that division Saturday by shooting the second of a pair of 73s for a weekend 146 and three-stroke edge over junior Anci Dy of Traverse City West, who shot 76-73-149 for the 36-hole tournament at Forest Akers West on the Michigan State University campus.
Freshman Kate Brody of Grand Blanc was the first-round leader with a 72 but finished at 150 total, good for third place ahead of two golfers at 151 to round out the top five – Utica Eisenhower junior Ariel Chang and Plymouth sophomore Bridget Boczar.
“I’m just absolutely ecstatic,” Cui said. “I never thought that I’d be able to get this. I knew I had potential to, but for it just to all come together and have it work out in the end is amazing. So, to win it this year means a lot to me.”
Last season Okemos played in Division 2 and Cui tied for first place as just a freshman, but succumbed in a playoff to then-senior Kay Zubkus, who is now playing golf at Oakland University.
Cui said this win could be credited to solid putting, and good course management.
“I was able to pretty much two-putt from a lot of spots, even if I was far away from the hole,” she said. “But I also think it was about course management, playing smart and knowing where to hit the ball in good places to miss. I think that really helped lower my score.”
Cui was a participant in Augusta National’s Drive, Chip & Putt national finals in 2017, and Brody is heading to Georgia in April as the most recent winner of the DCP Regional contested at Oakland Hills Country Club.
When comparing her experience at Augusta National with wearing the Finals title medal around her neck, Cui replied: “Honestly, they’re both such different experiences, but this win and doing that are about the same.”
No. 1-ranked Northville won the team title for a second consecutive season, also with the help of youth like junior Katelyn Tokarz and freshman Samantha Coleman. Led by senior captains Sedona Shipka (who tied for ninth overall) and Sufna Gill, the Mustangs pulled away from the field by shooting 322-324-646. Taking second was Grosse Pointe South, with scores of 336-342-678, followed by Plymouth (352-338-690) in third, and Grand Blanc and Okemos each totaling 692.
“All year one of the challenges has been to meet the expectations the girls set for themselves last year, because almost every tournament we went to people told us we were going to be the state champions again. So maintaining our focus throughout the season,” said Northville coach Chris Cronin, pointing to the reasons for his team’s successful repeat run. “And I think the other thing these girls do is they just compete, from start to finish. Whether it was the first tournament of the year to the last tournament of the year, to 9-hole matches, they always compete. So, I think that’s the one thing that’s made us successful.”
Shipka said she took her role as co-captain seriously as the team prepared for another title run.
“For me this year has all been about the team, all about the girls, just making sure they’re happy,” she said. “And making sure they’re where they need to be to be successful.”
Gill, who placed fifth at the Division 1 Final last year, said the team dynamic is what led to a second season of elite success.
“I think we’ve all worked really hard,” Gill added. “We’ve all played together. We win as one, we lose as one and I think we’ve definitely been consistent and we’re just really proud of ourselves and our teammates for carrying us the whole season.”
An additional highlight was enjoyed by Macomb Dakota sophomore Helen Buk, who sank a hole-in-one on the 155-yard 12th hole.
PHOTOS: (Top) Okemos’ Allison Cui lines up a putt Saturday on the way to winning the Division 1 individual championship at Forest Akers West. (Middle) Northville’s Sedona Shipka also putts Saturday while helping the Mustangs to the team title. (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 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.)