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.)

Medalist Scott Leads Escanaba Charge Back to Top of UPD1 Leaderboard

By Jack Hall
Special for

May 29, 2024

CHAMPION – Escanaba is back on top in high school girls golf after winning the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 championship Wednesday at the Wawonowin Country Club. 

The Eskymos won their fifth Finals title since 2016 by defeating last year's champion, Kingsford, by 22 strokes (399-421). Negaunee was third, 23 strokes back (422).

“It's been an up-and-down season,” Escanaba coach Jake Berlinski said. “It's a short season. The girls have worked so hard and in the end of it, we came through. The girls played great when it mattered the most. That's all you can ask for.”

Escanaba was led by sophomore Kamrie Scott, who won the medalist honor by shooting an 83. She was eight shots clear of runners-up Grace Maki (Kingsford) and Abby Dart (Houghton), who both carded 91s.

“This course, there are some holes that are tough, but I think I played it pretty well,” Scott said. “I was hitting them straight, and my putting was good, so things were going well. I was just going for the pin today. I was making putts, so it was working.”

Maki battled over the final four holes to earn a share of the runner-up honor for the Flivvers, and for herself, personally.

“I love this course,” Maki said. “I had some struggles. I had some 6s out there, but I did my best. My best hole was actually No. 2, which I birdied.”

Negaunee's Kennidy Glasheen and Marquette's Abby Luke finished tied for fourth, both with 96s. It was the last U.P. Finals for Luke, who made an impression with a hole-in-one at the 2023 championship tournament held on the ultra-tough Sage Run Golf Course.

Kingsford’s Ela Rizzo sends an approach shot during her round Wednesday. The only other sub-100 score this time around was turned in by Escanaba senior Maddie Wilson, who carded a 97 to finish in the sixth spot. It was her fourth UP Finals, and by far her highest finish on the leaderboard.

“It feels good, but it's a little bit sad,” Wilson said. “I'm glad we were able to pull away for our last year. Personally, for me, I just tried to stay really positive, and not get myself down during a bad shot. And especially tried not to get tired toward the end, because walking 18 holes is a lot. And I really focused on my putting today, which I feel helped me in the long run.”

Kingsford came out of nowhere in 2023 to win its first girls golf U.P. title in school history, and this year the Flivvers rallied down the stretch to take second place ahead of Negaunee. The Miners occupied second spot for most of the round before the Flivvers ended up with the runner-up trophy by one stroke.

“We saw the course was playing tough, across the board; top to bottom, scores were a little higher than normal,” Kingsford coach Ryan Pepin said. “The girls battled right to the end. We weren't sure how it was going to finish up. We're really proud of them. Great season.”

Pepin had just four golfers this year (three seniors and one sophomore), but they still managed to win the majority of their matches in the Great Northern Conference during the regular season.

“Our girls performed well,” Pepin said. “We went to battle every time with only four. Our seniors had great careers, the last two years, especially.”

Negaunee coach Dustin Hongisto said it was a great day for his group of Miners.

“I felt they played awesome,” Hongisto said. “They were just kind of a step back from these (top) teams all year, but all five of them played awesome today. I was really proud of my No. 1 girl, Kennidy. She shot her low round of the year. The fact that they lost by one at the end was a bummer, but I'm proud of them.”

Scott says it felt great to win the individual medalist honor, but she was even happier that the whole Escanaba team pulled through.

“I'm really proud of us,” she said. “We worked really hard this year, and it paid off. Just staying positive, and I think that helped us.”

Fellow Eskymos senior Sophia Derkos, playing in her fourth U.P. Final, summed it up.

“We work really good as a team,” she said. “We're very positive toward each other. There's a lot of hazards on this course, like waters and trees. I was just trying not to hit 'em in it, and it was hard, but we made it!

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PHOTOS (Top) Escanaba’s Lilly VanDamme lines up a putt during the Upper Peninsula Division 1 Final at Wawonowin Country Club. (Middle) Kingsford’s Ela Rizzo sends an approach shot during her round Wednesday. (Photos by Jack Hall.)