The weather forecast this weekend calls for too much rain. But let’s hope that stays away, as the forecast for the four Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Finals has a chance to be historic.
Three of last season’s individual medalists are back, and two are playing for a third championship – something only six golfers in Lower Peninsula girls golf history have achieved. On the team side, two of the four top-ranked favorites entering Friday’s first rounds are seeking their first team titles, and another is seeking to repeat.
Play begins both Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m., and live scoring is available through iWanamaker. See the Girls Golf page on MHSAA.com for programs for all four divisions. Below is a glance at several team and individual contenders expected to be in the championship mix:
LP Division 1 at Forest Akers West
Top-ranked: 1. Brighton, 2. Plymouth, 3. Northville
If rankings are right, the best from the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West are going to match up one more time this fall. Brighton was first, Northville second and Plymouth third in league match play, Plymouth and Northville switched spots at the league postseason tournament, and then Brighton-Plymouth-Northville was the order at the Regional at Salem Hills in Northville. Brighton was second at last year’s Final to Rochester Adams, which is ranked No. 4 heading into this weekend.
Brighton: Four of last season’s runner-up five are set to play again this weekend, led by seniors Lauren Forcier and Abbie Pietila, who finished 18th and 22nd last season. Brighton carded a 322 at Salem Hills to win by seven strokes, with Pietila tied for second, Forcier fifth and senior Madison Martens sixth. Junior Anelise Gatti also returns to the starting lineup from last year’s Final.
Plymouth: The Wildcats finished 10th a year ago but second in 2021, and they too will bring back four golfers from last season’s Finals lineup. Senior Brooke Morris tied for 10th a year ago and tied for second as well at Salem Hills last week as sophomore teammate Annie Flavin was the medalist with a 75. Senior Sydney Mazur and junior Regan Brydges also are returning, and Morris and Mazur also were part of that second-place team when they were sophomores.
Northville: The Division 1 champion four straight seasons from 2018-21 finished fourth a year ago and graduated its top three from Finals weekend. But senior Meera Sankar and junior Sanya Singhal have been bolstered by a strong group, with freshman Naaz Gil finishing 10th at the Regional.
More individuals of note: Although Morris is the only individual above who finished among the top 10 at last year’s Final, eight players total are back from the top 10 (actually top 12 because of ties). East Kentwood senior Elise Fennell tied for fourth as a freshman, tied for seventh as a sophomore and was runner-up last season finishing just one stroke off the lead. Rockford senior Jessica Jolly tied for ninth as a freshman, tied for 13th as a sophomore and finished third last fall. Adams senior Katie Fodale is back after finishing fifth, Okemos junior Alena Li and Adams senior Laura Liu tied for sixth last year, and Farmington senior Venetia Chap and Rochester High junior Madison Yang joined Morris tied for 10th. And there is a past champion in this field as well – Byron Center senior Macie Elzinga won the LPD2 championship in 2022 after finishing third the year before. Fennell won the Regional last week at Betsie Valley in Thompsonville ahead of Jolly and Elzinga, carding a 67. Joining her and Flavin among Regional champs were Chap, Troy Athens senior Ava Weeks, Liu and Li.
LP Division 2 at Forest Akers East
Top-ranked: 1. Farmington Hills Mercy, 2. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 3. DeWitt
Coming off its first Finals championship since 2001, Mercy is the favorite to repeat. But Cranbrook should provide plenty of competition after winning Division 3 in 2021 and finishing runner-up last season. They finished 1-2 last week at the Regional at Farmington Hills Golf Club, Mercy prevailing by six strokes. DeWitt moved up three spots in this week’s poll and is seeking its first Finals title since the first fall Lower Peninsula girls golf season in 2007.
Farmington Hills Mercy: Juniors Maeve Casey and Lila Polakowski and senior Abby Slankster are back from last season’s Finals lineup, Casey having finished fourth. She also won last week’s Regional as all five Marlins placed among the top 20 against a field that also included No. 10 Grosse Pointe South. Slankster tied for third and Polakowski was sixth at the Regional.
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood: Seniors Mackenzie Behnke, Sienna Ilitch and Anya Samsonov and sophomore Sydney Behnke all are back from last season’s Finals lineup – and after Mackenzie Behnke tied for ninth in LPD3 – and she and Ilitch were part of the 2021 championship lineup as well. Ilitch was second, Behnke tied for third and Sydney Behnke was eighth at the Regional as all five golfers placed among the top 16.
DeWitt: The Panthers made their move in part after defeating then-No. 3 Mason and No. 7 Dexter at the Regional at El Dorado in Mason, with junior Courtney Novak finishing second and senior Jordyn Crawley tied for fifth. They and junior Cate Piesko and senior Laynie Hanlin were part of the lineup that finished ninth at last year’s Final.
More individuals of note: With Elzinga playing in Division 1, Casey is the highest returning placer from last year’s Final, followed immediately by Coopersville senior Lauren Davis, who came in fifth. Portage Northern senior KT Leiwand finished eighth in 2022 and joins Davis as an individual qualifier this time. Leiwand was the runner-up and Davis tied for fourth in 2021 as well. Joining Casey as Regional medalists last week were Carleton Airport junior Sophie Bucki, Dexter sophomore Avery Manning, Richland Gull Lake sophomore Charlotte Boudeman, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer senior Paige Anderson and Midland sophomore Lauren Deckrow.
LPD3 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State
Top-ranked: 1. Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 2. Macomb Lutheran North, 3. Williamston
Grand Rapids Catholic Central has never finished first or second at a Finals, but placed fifth last season and is forecast to overtake Lutheran North, who won last season’s championship six strokes ahead of Cranbrook. Williamston also is seeking a first top-two Finals finish and placed 10th last season. Those three have occupied the top three spots in the state rankings, in that order, for the last five weeks.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central: Three of the Cougars’ top four from last season’s Finals lineup return this weekend, with junior Ava Wisinski back after tying for fourth individually and sophomore Kelsey Preston having tied for sixth in 2022. Katie Cook also was part of that lineup and is the only senior among this year’s top five. Preston was fourth, Wisinski fifth and Cook eighth as GRCC won a Regional at Winding Creek in Holland that also featured No. 4 Grand Rapids South Christian and No. 5 Spring Lake.
Macomb Lutheran North: Three of last season’s championship-winning five are back, led by back-to-back medalist Lauren Timpf as she looks to complete her high school career with one more title. She was the medalist, junior Saige Rothey third and sophomore Garry Cardenas seventh as the team bested No. 6 Detroit Country Day and No. 8 Bloomfield Hills Marian at the Regional at Huron Meadows Metropark in Brighton last week. Rothey finished 13th at last year’s Final, and Cardenas also was in the lineup.
Williamston: The Hornets followed four top-nine finishers to claim the Regional title at Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club, where No. 9 Pinckney finished second. Four of Williamston’s top five are back from last year’s Final, led by junior Nicole Schafer, who finished 12th in 2022 and was runner-up at the Regional last week. Senior Ellie Thorburn was next at the Regional in fourth, freshman Paige Radebach tied for fifth and junior Athena Hart was ninth. Senior Allison Kane also was in last season’s Finals lineup.
More individuals of note: This field is loaded with nine golfers back from last season’s top nine plus ties. But Timpf still will be tough to catch. She seeking to become just the seventh player in Lower Peninsula history to win three Finals individual titles, and she won her Regional by 13 strokes. Grand Rapids Christian sophomore Lillian O’Grady joined Wisinski in fourth last season, Pinckney senior Alivia Ligrow joined Preston tying for sixth, Grand Rapids South Christian senior Ashley Thomasma is back after finishing eighth and Behnke was joined in ninth last fall by Freeland junior Averie Pumford and Ludington senior Emma McKinley. O’Grady, Ligrow, Pumford and McKinley also were Regional medalists last week, as was Vicksburg senior Brooklynn Ringler.
LP Division 4 at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley
Top-ranked: 1. Lansing Catholic, 2. Brooklyn Columbia Central, 3. Kalamazoo Christian
Lansing Catholic followed up back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2020 and 2021 with a third place last season, and the Cougars enter as favored to win a first Finals championship since 2012. Columbia Central and Kalamazoo Christian both are seeking a first top-two Finals finish, having placed seventh and fourth, respectively, last fall.
Lansing Catholic: Senior Sophie Hauser tied for ninth last season and leads four returners from last year’s Final, where sophomores Brynn Anderson and Julia Sambaer and sophomore Addi Rule also finished among the top 30. They dominated last week’s Regional at Glenbrier in Perry with Hauser the medalist, Rule fourth, Anderson tied for fifth and Sambaer tied for eighth. Hauser, Anderson and Sambaer also played on the 2021 team, and Hauser was in the 2020 lineup.
Brooklyn Columbia Central: After junior Logan Bentley qualified and placed as an individual in 2021, her team joined her at the Final last year – and all five of those golfers are back for this run. Bentley moved up from ninth as a freshman to finish individual runner-up last season, and she won last week’s Regional at Rustic Glen in Saline with senior Iliana Fowle fourth, sophomore Kelsey Fausz sixth and juniors Marrisa Berro and Ashley Yang tying for seventh.
Kalamazoo Christian: The Comets graduated two from last season’s fourth-place Finals finisher but also had three sophomores in the lineup who are the team’s top three this fall. Junior Jordyn Bonnema finished seventh individually last season and was second at last week’s Regional at Katke in Big Rapids to junior teammate Kennedy Gernaat, another returner. Also back is junior Scarlett Hindbaugh, who was seventh at the Regional.
More individuals of note: Ann Arbor Greenhills junior Mia Melendez is another of the most notable individuals playing in any division this weekend as she’s also seeking to become the seventh to win a third Lower Peninsula Finals individual championship – but runner-up Bentley and 2022 third-place junior Grace Slocum from Traverse City St. Francis also are back to apply plenty of pressure. Melendez shot 149, Bentley 150 and Slocum 151 last season at The Meadows. Melendez, Slocum and Sandusky senior Helene Mare Long joined last week’s Regional medalists noted above.
PHOTO Brooklyn Columbia Central’s Logan Bentley watches a tee shot during last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
Join Elizabeth Coon as State Champs! takes a look at all of the action from the 2023 Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Finals.