By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING — Shannon Kennedy is one of the most accomplished high school golfers the state of Michigan has ever seen.
She’s also one heck of a basketball player.
So when she stared down perhaps the most important putt of her high school career Saturday afternoon at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 Girls Golf Final, she had just one thing on her mind.
“I got up to that putt and, honestly, it looked like a basketball hoop,” said Kennedy, a senior at Bloomfield Hills Marian. “I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m missing this. I had the feeling it was going in.”
Without a doubt, Kennedy made the birdie putt on the 16th hole, which forced a playoff with Grand Rapids Christian senior Ryann Breslin. Kennedy then went on to defeat Breslin in a one-hole playoff, ripping her tee shot nearly 300 yards and tapping in for a championship-clinching par putt.
The title was Kennedy’s third, tying her with five others for most Lower Peninsula girls golf championships won during a career.
“I love this hole,” said Kennedy, speaking of the 319-yard par-4 first hole at Forest Akers East. “It kind of fits my eye. I planned on drawing it off that tree back there, and that’s exactly what I did.”
In addition to adding to her individual hardware, Kennedy helped her Marian team claim its second-consecutive team championship. The Mustangs shot 312 as a team and had four golfers shoot 82 or better, all finishing among the top 20.
Kennedy’s 2-under 70 led the way.
“That’s how you have to win these,” Marian assistant coach Dave Sass said. “You can have a really good player like Shannon Kennedy, but if you don’t have four other supporting cast members, then you’re not going to win it. Everyone did a great job. I’m proud of them.”
Senior Lauren Sass just missed medaling, firing a 79 and finishing 12th overall for Marian. Senior Sarah Kuredjian had an 81, and junior Ashley Carroll was close behind with her round of 82.
Breslin was at or near the top of the leaderboard all day long. She finished with a pair of birdies to card a 70. That gave her a 1-stroke lead in the clubhouse.
But Kennedy had one hole to play. And she made the most of it. Her drive on No. 16 just missed the fairway, and her approach shot missed deep right and landed on the cart path. After receiving relief, she hit a pitch to within 20 feet before sinking the putt.
“It was the best up and down I’ve ever had in my life,” she said.
Macomb Lutheran North posted a team score of 327 to finish runner-up. The Mustangs finished second to Marian at the Catholic High School League championships as well, and struggled to a third-place finish in their region.
“We played great all season, and then at the Regional we had our worst day,” Lutheran North head coach John Bergmann said. “So we bore down this past week and said, ‘You know what, we deserve better than this.’ We put a lot of work in over the last 8-9 days. I’m very happy with their performance today.”
Freshman Lauren Timpf led her team with a 1-under 71. She narrowly missed joining Kennedy and Breslin in the playoff. Sophomore Taylor Elias had a 76, and sophomore Aileen Cosentino and senior Julia Zauel added an 88 and 92, respectively, to cap the scoring for Lutheran North.
Grand Rapids South Christian, led by freshman Ashley Thomasma’s 75, finished third overall at 330. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood was fourth with a 340, followed by Flint Powers Catholic (346).
Frankenmuth’s Ella Smith also shot a 76 and tied for fifth among individuals. Grosse Ile’s Lily Bargamian and Whitehall’s Karli Vanduinen each shot 77 to tie for seventh overall, and Cranbrook’s Ashley Cong, Powers Catholic’s Jolie Brochu and Ada Forest Hills Eastern’s Hailey Curry all had 78s to round out the top 10.
PHOTOS: (Top) Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Shannon Kennedy putts for the win on the playoff hole at the Division 3 Final on Saturday. (Middle) East Grand Rapids’ Ryann Breslin chips onto the green during the playoff. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
ADRIAN – Avery Sluss picked up a golf club for the first time her freshmen year at Adrian Lenawee Christian. Now she’s an all-state golfer.
Sluss started playing basketball because it was a way for her and her older brother, Gavin, to connect. She’s now the leading scorer on the Cougars basketball team a year after receiving all-state recognition.
Everything she touches seems to turn to gold. She will return to the soccer field in the spring already with her college plans in place. She signed recently to play goalkeeper at Indiana Wesleyan University.
“I’ve learned so much from sports,” Avery said. “It teaches me a lot about life.”
Her coaches call her a self-motivated athlete, quiet leader and someone dedicated to her faith, her teammates, and academics. She is a 4.0 student and has played four years of varsity golf, basketball, and soccer. She’s earned all-state recognition in all three sports.
“She is very self-motivated,” said first-year Lenawee Christian girls basketball coach Emilie Beach. “She doesn’t miss workouts or practices. She pushes herself hard. She forces others to rise (around her).”
Sluss is in her fourth season on the Lenawee Christian varsity basketball team. This year her role changed from mostly a defensive specialist to scorer.
Beach said Avery hasn’t changed her positive attitude with the changes in her role on the team. She has a high basketball IQ, Beach said, which helps her on the court.
“It can be tough and frustrating, but she comes in with a great attitude each day and leads her teammates,” Beach said. “She is a quiet leader who leads by example. She is hardest on herself, and that’s where a lot of her motivation comes from.”
The Cougars have had great success on the basketball floor the last several years, and Sluss has been part of it. She’s played alongside all-staters and played at the Breslin Center. She started and played 20 minutes in last year’s Semifinal loss to Plymouth Christian Academy.
This season she’s averaging 14.5 points a game, with 16 3-pointers, and has scored at least 17 points four times.
“It’s very different, but I like the role I’m in now,” she said. “Now, it’s like you have to score. I’ve accepted it. I’m just trying my best to fulfill that role for my teammates.”
Sluss sat out the fall travel soccer season while she was recovering from a slight back injury. But she was able to hit the golf course. She shot a two-day total of 186 at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final, helping the Cougars finish second as a team. A year earlier Sluss shot an 89 and 87 and helped the Cougars finish fourth overall.
Not bad for someone who didn’t pick up a golf club until just a few years ago.
“Golf was new to me my freshman year,” she said. “Some of my friends said I should try it, so I did. I went to the range maybe one or two times before I started to play. I’ve loved it.”
As far as sports goes, soccer was her first love. She started playing at the age of 4 when a neighborhood dad gathered a few girls together and formed a team.
“We started playing in the back yard,” she said. “I’ve been playing soccer ever since. My first travel team was when I was 7.”
Sluss first started thinking about playing college soccer when she was in kindergarten.
“I’ve always wanted to play soccer in college,” she said. “I’ve dreamed about that. I’ve spent so much time on the sport that it would be silly not to. I want it to pay off with college.”
She used to play multiple positions but turned to goalkeeper at the age of 12.
“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “There are a lot of little things. The mental part of being a goalkeeper is important.”
After being named to the coaches association all-state third team last year, Sluss is primed for a big season this spring, especially with her college choice behind her.
“It is a strong Christian college, which was important to me,” she said. “It’s a lot like Lenawee Christian. Everyone on the soccer team was great when I met them, and the girls are so nice.”
Sluss has become adept at mixing sports with academics and life.
“Balance is a big issue,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, especially doing two at a time.
“My whole family, my parents (David and Kristen), they always push me to be the best I can be. I owe them a lot. Even my little sister (Addie) pushes me to do my best.”
Avery’s family moved from Toledo to the Adrian area several years ago, and the two perfectly complement to each other.
“Lenawee Christian has been a great fit for me,” she said. “All of the people are awesome, and I have grown in my faith here.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Avery Sluss gathers up the ball while playing keeper for Lenawee Christian’s soccer team. (Middle) Sluss puts up a shot during last season’s Division 4 Semifinal at Breslin Center. (Below) Sluss plants a chip on the green. (Photos courtesy of the Lenawee Christian athletic department.)