Performance: Notre Dame's Danielle Staskowski

October 24, 2018

Danielle Staskowski
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep senior – Golf

The Fighting Irish ace capped her career Saturday at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers East with her third Division 3 Finals individual championship – becoming just one of five Lower Peninsula girls to achieve that feat. She shot a two-day 152 and won a one-hole playoff to clinch the title, and led Notre Dame Prep to tie for fifth as a team in earning the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”

Staskowski has thrived in pressure situations. As a freshman, she won a playoff to claim the final individual qualifying spot from her Regional – and went on to take fourth at the Final. She missed most of her tennis season the following spring and then a summer of golf with a broken rib – but she came back in the fall and won her first MHSAA Finals also in a one-hole playoff while leading her team to a runner-up finish. She cleared the Finals field to win by eight strokes as a junior – shooting career-best rounds of 72 both days – in helping the Irish finish 13th.  Staskowski owns school records for low 9 (34) and 18-hole scores and 9 and 18-hole averages. This season she averaged 37.3 strokes for nine-hole matches and 77.7 for 18.

This fall’s success followed a highlight-filled summer that included a run to the Round of 8 match play at the Michigan Women’s Amateur in August. Staskowski finished runner-up at the Oakland County Invitational in September and won her Regional with a 75 on the way to shining again in East Lansing. On the same day she won her third title, friend Anika Dy from Traverse City West also won her third straight Division 1 championship as together they became the first to win three titles since another friend, Maple City Glen Lake’s Nichole Cox, won three straight in Division 4 from 2014-16. Staskowski is committed to continue her career next year at Central Michigan University. She carries a 3.4 grade-point average and is considering studying biomedical engineering.

Coach Kyle Lilek said: “Dani has been playing golf for about 15 years. She practices every day, has taken lessons from a variety of swing coaches, and even taken lessons from a mental coach. She has always worked hard at her game and dedicated herself to golf. However, at her freshman year tryout she stepped up to the tee, and due to nerves, duffed her tee shot; I always remember that story, because as talented as she is, she's still a teenage girl who deals with the same obstacles as anyone else ... and overcomes them all. … Dani thrives when presented with obstacles, and her high school golf career is proof of that fact. She has played and won three playoffs in the past four years. … This is what she does, and she thrives when presented with direct competition. It can seem overwhelming and super-human to achieve at Dani's level the way she does, but I never forget how human she is. … Dani is just a large heart with limbs. Her empathy, compassion, and friendship is what made her a leader and captain on the team, not her skill. She's the type of girl to console a frustrated teammate, even after winning a state title. I've always been proud of Dani; I've been proud of her skill, proud of her competitive spirit, but I've been most proud of her heart. She's a three-time state champion because of her fiercely competitive spirit, and because of her caring heart. I will miss her next year, but I'll always be proud of her, and I'll always have her back.”   

Performance Point: “After I made my putt on Saturday, and my team running onto the green, is always something I'm never going to forget. All the support from them, that's something that will always stick out. … What's funny about it actually is that I grew up golfing with Anika (Dy) and with Nichole Cox, so it's a crazy thing to think because we all did the same golf camp when we were younger. So me and my dad were laughing about it – we said, ‘I guess the camp works out pretty well.’ It's such an amazing thing to accomplish (three championships) with my best friends. We've been talking about it all week, and just bringing up old memories from camp and just stuff like that. It's been a pretty cool couple of days just getting to talk with (Anika) and experiencing this together.”

Mastering the mental game: “The biggest thing for me is treating everything the same. Whether it's a really big international tournament, or it's a regular tournament for high school, treating everything the same and never feeling like I have an advantage over anybody else and just going into it like everybody has a chance to win this. I work with Jason Novetsky, who is a really great mindset coach, and we work on stuff with that all the time – on trying to keep my mind in it, and focused, and not on the future and the outcome. I think that's been a big help for me. … Golf is so day to day. You just have to always remember that anybody can win it, anybody could have the round of their life, to always play every shot the best you can. I think that's what really just keeps me in the moment and helps me out.”

On to the next shot: “I’ve learned how to deal with things that don't go well on the course better now. I wouldn't say I used to panic when things went wrong on the course, but I've learned to really use the mindset that the next shot is so important. If you hit it into a pond or if you hit it into something where you weren't expected to hit it – the rough or in a bunker – you just play that shot, and then move on and try to birdie the next hole. Moving on from something that didn't go as planned is something I'm doing a lot better, and just remembering that it's a game.”

It’s always been golf:  “I've been playing golf my entire life. It's just always stayed that thing that I love, because I never let it turn into a chore. Every time I go out and play, it's fun. If I'm trying to beat myself, or if I'm trying to beat the course … it's just something that's always fun to me. I'm always happy to be out there playing, never felt like I have to go and practice, that I have to go do this. I think that keeping it fun for me has been why it's still my thing. I never go on a golf course and don't want to be there. With my mindset coach, another thing we talk about all the time is you don't have to go play golf; you get to play golf, which is something I keep in my head all the time. I've had the opportunity to go out and play golf all the time, and it's fun for me, and I'm going to take that opportunity and I'm going to keep it fun. Plus, I grew close to a lot of girls in the golf community, so usually when I'm at tournaments, it's with the people that I really like to be around and that have the same goals as me. It just keeps it really fun and light-hearted.”

More than a team: “My golf team is my family, and if they need anything any time, they know they can call me, they can come to me and I'll do anything in my power to support them and be a good captain. If they need swing advice and they want help with it, I'll help them out with it. Or if they need notes from a course that I have, I'll walk them through it or we'll go out and play a round together and I'll give them advice. Even outside of golf too; we're best friends on the golf course, and we're best friends in the hallway. That was a really big thing for me when I became one of the captains last year; we are a team, but I want us to also be a family. I just wanted to have a group of girls that could rely on each other even when we're not playing our sport, outside of school. … I wanted it to be a really friendly, family-like environment, and I think that's what happened this year, which was really exciting for me.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Past 2018-19 honorees

October 18: Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4:
Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep's Danielle Staskowski fires a shot during Saturday's second round at Forest Akers East. (Middle) Staskowski follows one of her iron shots during Friday's first round. (Top photo by Jason Schmitt.) 

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.)