Performance: Eisenhower's Ariel Chang

September 20, 2019

Ariel Chang
Utica Eisenhower junior – Golf

The Eagles’ ace shot an even-par 72 on Sept. 11 at Cherry Creek Golf Club in Shelby Township to win her third Macomb County Tournament championship. Chang – also a two-time MHSAA Finals placer – finished eight strokes ahead of the field and led Eisenhower to its second straight county team title, earning the MHSAA “Performance of the Week.”

Chang is averaging 34.8 strokes per nine-hole match this season – down nearly a full stroke from a year ago – and 71.7 strokes in tournament play, an improvement for more than 1.5 strokes per event. She tied for sixth at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final as a freshmen and finished third in 2018 behind two seniors, leading Eisenhower to 13th and then 10th-place finishes, respectively. Chang made the Division 1 all-state first team as a freshman and the all-state Dream Team (made up of the best from all divisions) as a sophomore, and she’s won all three tournaments she’s played this fall.

Eisenhower coach Jerry Griesbeck first met Chang when she was in fifth grade, noticing her impressive swing and ball-striking even then. She has a special connection to her favorite golfer to follow – the LPGA’s Megan Khang is a distant cousin and earlier this month played on the U.S. team that finished runner-up for the Solheim Cup. Chang carries a 3.71 grade-point average and is considering studying business or dentistry after she’s completed high school. She has plenty of time to decide, of course, and also has big aspirations on the course before graduating – she’s shooting to become Eisenhower’s first MHSAA Finals individual girls golf champion and aiming to help the Eagles to their first team title.

Coach Jerry Griesbeck said: “While everyone marvels Ariel’s talents on the course, there is another side of her that her teammates admire most. A trait she learned from her family: Never put herself first.  Ariel is one of the biggest cheerleaders on the team, always willing to help a teammate who needs a lift, (offer) a kind word of encouragement to another, or a golf lesson to a couple of others free of charge.”   

Performance Point: “This time around I didn’t play that great because the last two times I won I shot a 69 and 72,” Chang said. “So for me, my standards, when I play I don’t really play against other people. I play against myself, and I knew that day that I could do better than that. I left a lot of putts out there. But overall at the end of the day I still won, so I can’t be mad at myself. I enjoyed it, especially that my team won also.”

Finals in my sights: “I’ve been practicing really hard, because I got so close the past two years. So I’m going to try to win states – that’s my ultimate goal for this year. I think I’ve worked a lot on my mental (game), and it’s gotten a lot better. Like when I make a bad shot, I think about my next shot and I don’t think about my bad shot before. I play a lot of tournaments, so my mental game, it gets better as I go through the experience. I want the pressure … so I can do better.”

Eagles ready to soar: “I feel like we even got better from last year. Because I know how hard my girls push and that they really, really push themselves, so they know they can do so much better. We’ve been practicing really hard – they voluntarily practice themselves, even outside of the high school practices. They have more confidence in themselves this year. I think that’s why they’re shooting better.”

Epic driving: “My driver this year, it’s been going farther. And whenever I hit … there was this one time, I was playing with this girl and she’s like, ‘Every time you hit your driver, I feel like it goes in slow motion.’ I did get a new driver. I got the (Callaway) Epic Flash. I had the Epic before, the regular one, and I got the new one – I’ve just always loved the Epic.”

Seeing me in Megan: “When she sets up her shot, she’s all focused. But when the shot is done with, she relaxes a bit and she’s more goofy. But when it’s your turn, you get down to business and you focus on your shot. … I’m so proud of her. She’s gotten a long way.”

– Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor


Past honorees

Sept. 12: Jordyn Shipps, DeWitt swimming - Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Utica Eisenhower's Ariel Chang watches one of her shots during the Macomb County Tournament on Sept. 11. (Middle) Chang lines up a putt on the way to winning the championship for the third time. (Photos courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)

After Back-to-Back Top-10 Finals Finishes, Rockford Aims To Join Title Contenders

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

September 22, 2022

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. 

West MichiganThe 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.

Aubrey Wilson putts off the rough during the Final at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University. “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 dream100@comcast.net 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.)