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.)
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.
The 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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)