By Mark Meyer
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING – Spring Lake may have fallen short of one of its goals this weekend, but it hardly mattered much after the defending MHSAA champion put the finishing touches on a command performance at Forest Akers West golf course.
The Lakers fashioned rounds of 325 and 336 (661) to win their second straight Lower Peninsula Division 3 crown by a mere 70 strokes over runner-up Goodrich, which rallied with a 357 on Saturday to finish at 731, two strokes ahead of third-place Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (733).
Detroit Country Day (735) and Warren Regina (747) rounded out the top five.
Spring Lake coach George Bitner said his team had hoped to break 320 in one of its final rounds.
“That’s what they were aiming for because they usually set the bar pretty high,” Bitner said. “But we can’t be too disappointed. Last year we trailed after the first day and stormed back to win.
“This year we had a super start (on Friday) and were able to keep some distance between us and the challengers.”
Spring Lake junior Anna Kramer – whom Bitner fondly referred to as “the franchise” during the medals presentation – carded back-to-back rounds of 77 to claim medalist honors by three strokes (154-157) over Olivia Reed of Carleton Airport. Spring Lake senior Kayla Krueger shot 76-82-158 to edge Danielle Staskowski of Pontiac Notre Dame by one stroke for third place.
“I’m very proud of our team,” Krueger said. “We were confident coming into the weekend, and I knew we could handle the playing conditions no matter how difficult they might be.
“We usually play better on the second day of a tournament but it didn’t quite work out that way this time. But yet we played well enough to win and that, for us, was the most important part of the weekend.”
Sophomore Madelyn Nelson (84-85), senior Emma Conroy (88-98) and sophomore Hannah Klein (103-92) completed the scoring for the Lakers, who three times this season shot tournament rounds of 321.
Afterwards, the ageless Bitner marveled at his team’s commitment to practice and improvement.
“They never stopped working, all season long,” said Bitner, 78, who started coaching boys golf at Spring Lake in 1968 and founded the school’s girls golf program in 1980. “Putting, chipping, sand play, driving, iron play: you name it, they worked on all phases of the game all year long.
“Plain and simple, they’re golfaholics. They all love the game, love to practice. And a real fun group to coach. They make my job pretty easy.”
The Harding sisters – senior Taylor and junior Sydni – led Goodrich’s second day charge to second place in its first full year in varsity competition. Sydni Harding shot 80 on Saturday to go with an opening round of 82 to finish in a tie for fifth place individually with Ali Martus of Wayland Union (83-79-162). Taylor Harding placed sixth with rounds of 83 and 82.
“What can I say, we had a great weekend,” said Goodrich coach Jason Bescoe. “Super proud of these girls for what they have accomplished. Aaron Monroe knocked almost 20 shots off her score from the opening round, and it was that type of improvement that made a huge difference for us.”
Sophomore Kate Cao shot 86-89-175 to lead Cranbrook Kingswood, the Division 3 runner-up in the previous three LPD3 Finals.
PHOTOS: (Top) Spring Lake won its second straight MHSAA LP Division 3 title. (Middle) Goodrich finished runner-up in its second full season as a program. (Click for 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 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.)