Rochester Adams, East Kentwood's Fennell Claim Finals Wins by Narrowest of Margins

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

October 21, 2023

EAST LANSING – Conditions were chilly and rainy, but the down-to-the-wire drama at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Golf Final was enough to warm up anyone with adrenaline. 

And this was true both from a team and individual medalist perspective at Forest Akers West. 

In the team portion, it became apparent on the back nine that the championship was a two-team race between 2022 champion Rochester Adams and No. 1-ranked Brighton. 

Back-and-forth the teams went until they were tied going into the last hole. 

From there, it was Adams which did just enough to squeak by, pulling out a one-shot win with a final score of 669 to repeat as champion. Had the teams tied, Brighton would have won with the fifth-score tiebreaker. 

The next closest score behind Brighton’s 670 was produced by Plymouth, which took third with a 683.

Rockford (693) and Rochester (695) rounded out the top five. 

Plymouth was in first with a seven-shot lead over Adams and an 11-shot lead over Brighton after the first round. But while Adams was 15 shots better and Brighton 22 shots better in the second round, Plymouth was 13 shots worse. 

“The last 10 holes were up and down and back and forth,” Adams head coach Jeff Kutschman said. “I think it was the girls just sticking to their game. Just fighting all the way to the end and fighting for every stroke.”

Rochester Adams celebrates its repeat Finals championship.The Highlanders were led by senior Laura Liu, who shot a pair of 75s to tie for fourth individually with a final score of 150.

Senior Katie Fodale shot a 158 (82-76) to tie for eighth with Brighton senior Abbie Pietila.

The repeat crown capped off a season that saw Adams struggle during the first couple of months but come on in the end when it counted most.

Adams performed better to win its Regional at Twin Lakes and entered the Final healthier than it had been all season, especially since Fodale didn’t hit a golf ball for months until roughly two weeks before the season started after suffering a shoulder injury. 

“She got a lot better throughout the season,” Kutschman said. “Peyton Sage, our No. 5, played great down the stretch and helped us win the league and the Regional. They all just did what they needed to do today and yesterday. I think experience helps a lot.”

Brighton finished runner-up to Adams for a second-straight year, although this one was a lot more crushing than finishing 47 shots behind the Highlanders last fall.

In addition to Pietila’s performance, Brighton was led by senior Madison Martens, who shot a 74 in the second round after shooting an 86 in the first.

“It’s golf,” Brighton head coach Paul Parsell said. “A lot of times it can go your way, and this day it didn’t go our way. I’m super proud of all the girls that battled hard. Starting out in fifth place and getting it down to the last putt.” 

The individual title also came down to the last hole and putt.

East Kentwood senior Elise Fennell ended up claiming the crown by one shot over Byron Center senior Macie Elzinga and Rockford senior Jessica Jolly, shooting a pair of 70s for a final total of 140. 

Fennell’s last hole was the third hole on the course, a par 4, and said she was fully aware of what was going on and what she needed to do.

“I was watching scores, and I wanted to know,” Fennell said. “I figured par or birdie (would win).”

Headed to college golf for Illinois State, Fennell won the title this year by a stroke after finishing one shot behind Kate Brody of Grand Blanc last year.

“It feels amazing,” Fennell said. “It’s kind of been bothering me all year wanting to get it done.”

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PHOTOS (Top) East Kentwood's Elise Fennell lines up a putt during the LP Division 1 Final. (Middle) Rochester Adams celebrates its repeat Finals championship. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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