Preview: 2020 Champions Could Lead Title Chases Again

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 14, 2021

Be prepared for an encore or two, or more, at this weekend’s Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Finals.

Three 2020 team champions were top-ranked by iWanamaker heading into this postseason, and three of last season’s individual champions (plus a fourth from 2019) also will be back in the fields at The Meadows of Grand Valley State, Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley and Michigan State’s Forest Akers West and Forest Akers East.

The Finals have returned to a two-round, two-day format after COVID-19 precautions led to a one-round championship tournament a year ago. See below for a number of teams and individuals who could be in contention, and check out the MHSAA Website for full lineups and more.

LP Division 1 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State

Top-ranked: 1. Northville, 2. Plymouth, 3. Okemos.

Northville is seeking to become the eighth – and second in Lower Peninsula history – to win four straight Finals championships. But Plymouth is always in the mix, with fourth, third and second place finishes the last three seasons, and the Wildcats are seeking their first championship since claiming back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. Okemos was fourth in Division 1 in 2019 and third in Division 2 a year ago, and is seeking its first championship to go with a program-best runner-up run in 2013.

Northville: The Mustangs bring back plenty of championship experience. Four golfers will return from last year’s title-winning team, when all five finished among the top 19 individual placers. Junior Samantha Coleman led the way tying for sixth, and she and senior Megha Vallabhaneni tied for fourth as Northville placed second as a team at last week’s Regional at Washtenaw Golf Course.

Plymouth: The Wildcats should be carrying momentum into this weekend after finishing five strokes better than Northville to win that Washtenaw Regional. Senior Bridget Boczar brings star power to the top of the lineup after placing eighth as a freshman and tying for fourth individually both of the last two seasons. She was the individual champ last week and Plymouth’s top four at the Regional all are returnees from the 2020 Finals lineup, as senior Grace Boczar was third at Washtenaw and sophomore Brooke Morris was eighth.

Okemos: Two-time Finals champion Allison Cui has been one of the state’s best for three seasons, winning the Division 1 individual title as a sophomore and Division 2 as a junior and finishing runner-up in Division 2 as a freshman after a tie-breaker. Back in Division 1, she was second at her Regional as Okemos edged Brighton by three strokes to win at Davison Country Club. She’s one of three golfers back from last season’s Finals lineup, and freshman Alena Li followed her tying for third at the Regional.

More individuals of note: An accomplished field should make this weekend’s Final a classic, as four more top-10 finishers from last season join Boczar and Coleman plus Cui from Division 2. Grand Blanc junior Kate Brody is the reigning champion after finishing third as a freshman, and she shot a 67 to edge Cui by four strokes at their Regional. Ann Arbor Skyline senior Adie Maki tied for second last season, East Kentwood sophomore Elise Fennell tied for fourth and Rockford sophomore Jessica Jolly tied for ninth. Fennell also was a Regional champ, along with Livonia Stevenson senior Hailey Mydock, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek senior Addie Delcamp and Troy Athens junior Olivia Hemmila.

LP Division 2 at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley

Top-ranked: 1. South Lyon, 2. Haslett, 3. Richland Gull Lake.

South Lyon was runner-up in 2019 and won its first championship in 2020, and the Lions enter this weekend after tying for the second-lowest Regional score in the division. Haslett and Gull Lake both are seeking their first top-two team finishes in this sport, after coming in fourth and 11th, respectively, last season. Byron Center shot a Division 2-low 339 to win its Regional ahead of Battle Creek Lakeview and Gull Lake.

South Lyon: All three Lions back from the 2020 Finals lineup placed among the top 12 at the Regional at Groesbeck last week, with junior Gabriella Tapp the medalist. She was the Finals individual champion as a freshman and tied for sixth last season. Seniors Sophia Joseph and Logan Foust were ninth and tied for 12th, respectively, at the Regional and also return from the 2020 run.

Haslett: The Vikings finished second at Groesbeck, nine strokes back, but with three top-15 individuals – and only one senior in the starting lineup. Junior Sydney Dausman was third and sophomore Mina Yoo seventh at the Regional after both finished among the top 18 at last year’s Final, and they are two of four returning from last season’s lineup.

Richland Gull Lake: The Blue Devils will bring three seniors back to the Finals after Annie Betts and Lauryn Jerke tied for sixth and finished 10th, respectively, at the Regional at Island Hills. Betts tied for 15th at the Finals a year ago.

More individuals of note: Aside from Tapp being a past champion, this field could be relatively wide open with Port Huron Northern junior Madison Bajis (who tied with Tapp for sixth) the only other top-10 finisher returning to Division 2 from last season. Bajis was second at her Regional to Grosse Pointe South senior Sabel Imesch, while Midland Dow junior Abby Wilson, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern junior Ashleigh Duflo, Portage Northern sophomore KT Leinwand and Dearborn Divine Child senior Julia Lizak also won Regional titles.

LP Division 3 at Michigan State’s Forest Akers West

Top-ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 2. Macomb Lutheran North, 3. Goodrich.

Two-time reigning champion Bloomfield Hills Marian also is back after finishing third (and ahead of Goodrich) at their Regional, and Lutheran North, No. 7 Flint Powers Catholic and No. 4 Grand Rapids South Christian have been in the title mix regularly over the last four seasons. Cranbrook will be playing for its second Finals title in this sport and first since 2001, while Lutheran North was the champion most recently in 2017.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood: The Cranes shot a Division 3-best 324 to win their Regional at Pontiac Country Club, with all five golfers finishing among the top eight individually. Four of those five were part of the lineup that finished fourth at the Finals in 2020, where now-senior Ashley Cong tied for ninth individually. She was third at last week’s Regional, with senior Natasha Samsonov coming in second.

Macomb Lutheran North: The Mustangs were second at the Pontiac Regional behind Cranbrook paced by three finishers among the individual top 10. Sophomore Lauren Timpf shot a 74 to win the Regional after finishing third at last year’s Final, and junior Aileen Consentino tied for sixth topping a lineup with only one senior.

Bloomfield Hills Marian: Also at Pontiac, Marian finished third and will make the trip to the Finals with a nearly new lineup after graduating four from last year’s championship team. The lone returnee, senior Ashley Carroll, finished fifth at the Regional and junior Colleen Hand was fourth.

More individuals of note: Five of last season’s top 10 are slated to return this weekend, beginning with Timpf and including Cong, Grand Rapids South Christian sophomore Ashley Thomasma (fourth in 2020), Grosse Ile junior Lily Bargamian (tied for seventh) and Whitehall senior Karli VanDuinen (tied for seventh). Also winning Regionals last week were VanDuinen, Grand Rapids Christian senior Sara Muir, Plainwell junior Renae Jaeger, Freeland freshman Averie Pumford and Grosse Ile sophomore Hanna Hargrove.

LP Division 4 at Michigan State’s Forest Akers East

Top-ranked: 1. Montague, 2. Remus Chippewa Hills, 3. Jackson Lumen Christi

Montague posted its first top-two Finals finish last season in winning the Division 4 title by a mighty 27 strokes, and the Wildcats shot the second-lowest score among all Division 4 teams at last week’s Regionals. Chippewa Hills will be playing for its first top-two finish, while longtime power Lumen Christi will be playing for its first Finals title since winning Division 3 back-to-back in 2003 and 2004. Lansing Catholic, last season’s Finals runner-up, shot the best Division 4 Regional score last week by 23 strokes, a 331.

Montague: The three returning players from last year’s championship lineup were Montague’s top three scorers at the Regional last week at Katke in Big Rapids. Senior Orianna Bylsma was the Regional medalist and tied for fifth individually at the 2020 Final. All five Wildcats finished among the top 11 at the Regional, with senior Gabriella Moreau, sophomore Mackenzie Goudreau and senior Claire Meacham placing fourth, fifth and tied for sixth, respectively.

Remus Chippewa Hills: The Warriors are back after tying for ninth at the Final last season and finishing second to Montague last week at Katke. All four players who carded scores at the 2020 championship tournament are back, and four golfers finished among the top 12 at the Regional led by freshman Madison Allen in third and senior Kerstin Stadtfeld tied for sixth.

Jackson Lumen Christi: The Titans’ 355 last week was one stroke behind Montague’s for the third lowest at any Division 4 Regional as they finished second to Lansing Catholic at Cascades in Jackson. All five golfers finished among the top 12 including junior Ashley Hilderley in second and senior Caroline Hilderley tied for seventh. Ashley Hilderley is one of three scorers back from last year’s 13th-place Final team finisher.

More individuals of note: Michigan Center senior Kamryn Shannon will be aiming for a repeat championship after winning last season’s Division 4 Final, and she won the Regional at Hills of Lenawee last week by 15 strokes. Lansing Catholic senior Amanda Melling tied for ninth at least season’s Final and won the Regional at Cascades topping a Cougars lineup that saw all five finish tied for seventh or higher individually. Royal Oak Shrine junior Sydney Buchanan also tied for ninth last season and finished third at her Regional last week. Other Regional champions were Ann Arbor Greenhills freshman Mia Melendez, Pinconning senior Tori Shark and Grandville Calvin Christian junior Andrea Diemer.

PHOTO Okemos' Allison Cui sends a putt during her run to the 2019 Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.) 

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.)