By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
JACKSON – As a freshman at Michigan Center High School near Jackson, Kamryn Shannon was a volleyball player who decided to try golf for the first time.
“My grandpa (Bob Shannon) was the golf coach for a long time at Michigan Center,” Shannon explained. “He wanted someone in the family to pick up the game. I decided I’d give it a try.”
Her Cardinals teammates are happy she did. Now a junior and in her third season golfing, Shannon will lead the Cardinals into the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final on Saturday at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West. This will be the second consecutive season the Cardinals have qualified. Last year, Michigan Center finished 15th as Shannon shot a two-day total of 197.
“Our team has come a long way,” she said. “If we were to finish in the top five, I would be so happy for us. I’d like to see all of our hard work pay off.”
Shannon, 17, took to golf quickly.
“It kind of came easy, but I was putting in tons of work,” she said.
Shannon lives in Vandercook Lake but started attending Michigan Center in the sixth grade. She has two older sisters, one who played basketball for the Cardinals. Besides golf, Shannon plays basketball and softball for Michigan Center.
Last basketball season, the Cardinals reached the Regional Final before the season ended due to Covid-19. She scored four points, including a 3-pointer, in Michigan Center’s 42-41 upset of Grass Lake. The Cardinals won their final 16 games of the season.
“We had a pretty good team,” she said. “We had four seniors who were really good and being recruited to play college basketball.”
Shannon said there was some concern this school year about the golf team being allowed to compete in the conference and Regional tournaments after students were sent home due to the coronavirus.
“The golf season almost ended,” she said. “Luckily, the school pulled through.”
Shannon finished first at the Cascades Conference Tournament, helping Michigan Center to its first conference golf championship at Ella Sharpe course in Jackson. The team won each of the conference events by an average of 37 strokes, and all five Cardinals golfers – including also Baylee Carlisle, Elly Trefry, Sydney Cramer, and Savana Stewart – made first team all-conference. The team set several records during the outstanding season, and they were ranked throughout.
At the Regional, Shannon was medalist after shooting an 87 at the Cascades Golf Course in downtown Jackson.
She now attends school virtually every day. After school she works at The Grande Golf Club in Jackson, on the range picking up balls and cleaning carts. Working there has its advantages.
“Because I work there, I can use the range and golf for free,” she said. “I was going there a couple of times a week because we live near there and my mom said, ‘Maybe you ought to get a job there.’”
It was a good idea. Shannon said it’s helped her game.
“I’m super happy with how I’ve been doing this year,” she said. “Last year I got a lot of double bogeys and triple bogeys. This year I try to hit pars on every hole, but even if I don’t get one, I’m not mad.
“Golf can be super tough. You have to be able to think about the shot and stay calm, go up to the ball, focus on just that and swing. I’m down about 10 strokes from last year.”
She credits Steven Saari, the head golf professional at The Grande, with helping her game.
“I started taking lessons from him, and he’s helped me so much,” she said. “When Steve tells me something, I go and hit one or two buckets of balls every day until I get it down. I knew when he started teaching me that I really had to listen. There are so many little things in golf that make a big difference.”
Shannon is long off the tee – hitting drives consistently in the 240-yard range. She said she works about three days a week at the course but is there pretty much every day.
The daughter of Craig and Stephanie hopes to study golf course or sports management and play golf in college. She’s made some unofficial visits already to in-state schools.
For this weekend, she has a goal. She wants to break 80.
“I know that I am capable of it,” she said. “I did it this summer in tournament play. That’s what I want to do.”
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) Michigan Center’s Kamryn Shannon watches a drive. (Middle) Shannon was the medalist at last week’s Regional at Cascades. (Photos courtesy of the Michigan Center girls golf program.)
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 email@example.com 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.)