Standout Pair Cards Personal Bests to Lead Mercy's Repeat Title Charge

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

October 21, 2023

EAST LANSING – Farmington Hills Mercy might have had a lead going into the second round of the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Girls Golf Final at Forest Akers East, but longtime head coach Vicky Kowalski had quite a quandary.

Kowalski didn’t have her No. 1 player, junior Maeve Casey, available to play.

Casey shot a team-best 73 and was in second place individually after the first day, but wasn’t even in the state for the second day.

“She’s a Triple AAA hockey player for Little Caesars,” Kowalski said. “She got on a plane last night to go to a hockey tournament (in Minnesota). We had to put a sub in.”

But not even not having its top player couldn’t stop Mercy from achieving some program history.

Thanks to other players stepping up, Mercy won its fourth Finals title overall and repeated as champion for the first time in Kowalski’s 47 years as head coach. 

The Marlins finished with a two-day score of 636, 17 shots ahead of Catholic League rival Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood. 

Mason was third with 657. 

The Marlins entered the day with an 8-shot lead over Cranbrook. The Mercy player who made up for the loss of Casey the most was senior Abby Slankster, who shot a 2-under-par round of 70, a round Kowalski said was her all-time best. 

Kowalski said junior Macy Morphew also shot her best score, contributing an 81 to the cause. 

Junior Lila Polakowski shot a 79 and senior Brinley Nay added an 89 for Mercy during the second round. 

“I’m just so happy that our girls played so well today,” Kowalski said. 

In outlasting Cranbrook, Mercy capped off a season that featured a lot of back-and-forth between the two teams.

Coopersville's Lauren Davis celebrates her medalist honor.“Some of the tournaments we went to, we’d be ahead, and some they’d be ahead,” Kowalski said. 

Cranbrook moved up to Division 2 this year after winning the Division 3 championship in 2021 and finishing runner-up last year. 

Sophomore Sydney Behnke led Cranbrook with a two-day total of 156 (75-81), while senior Mackenzie Behnke was right behind at 157 (79-78). 

“When we moved up to D2, we thought we would be able to compete,” Cranbrook head coach John Minnich said. “We did compete. It was not the finish we hoped for. Mercy beat us at the Catholic League championship, and they beat us at Regionals. They’ve been just a little bit better than us all year.

“I’m really proud of my team. They played great.” 

Also playing great was Coopersville senior Lauren Davis, who was the medalist with identical scores of 70 for a two-day total of 140 in chilly and rainy conditions. 

Davis finished four shots ahead of Dexter sophomore Avery Manning. 

“My putting was super solid,” Davis said. “That was the biggest help for me.”

Davis capped off her career winning it all after finishing fifth last year.

“My state tournaments have been weird,” she said. “My first year we had only one day (because of a COVID-19 format change). My second states’ year I was playing great and was at the top, but then on my third-to-last hole I had a 10. Last year, I had one bad round. It’s good to put it all together this year.”

Click for full results

PHOTOS (Top) Farmington Hills Mercy's Abby Slankster drives during Saturday's second round at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final. (Middle) Coopersville's Lauren Davis celebrates her medalist honor. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.) 

State Champs! Network: 2023 Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Finals Highlights

November 1, 2023

Join Elizabeth Coon as State Champs! takes a look at all of the action from the 2023 Lower Peninsula Girls Golf Finals.