By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half
TRAVERSE CITY — Anika Dy already has cemented her legacy as one of the greatest female high school golfers in state history.
Still, she continues to add to that decorated career as she winds down her senior season at Traverse City West.
Dy, the winner of the state coaches association’s Miss Golf Award the last two years, is the two-time reigning MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 medalist and has been the Titans’ top performer on two team state title runs. She caps off her last season for West this weekend at Bedford Valley Golf Course in Battle Creek when she and the Titans look to sweep the team and individual championships for the second straight year.
“I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet. It doesn’t feel like it’s ending, that’s for sure,” said Dy. ““I think I’ll be on a high of emotions. I’m going to come home and probably realize that it’s all over and start reflecting on these four years.”
What a four years it’s been, too.
Dy announced her arrival on a statewide level her freshman year when she was one of only three golfers to break 80 on the first day of action at the 2015 Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final at The Meadows at Grand Valley State. But her chance to finish first was dashed when she three-putted the last hole and closed with a two-day total of 156 — one shot behind Brighton’s Julia Dean, who came from five strokes back over the last 18 holes.
“That really, really stung,” said Dy. “I came back that next year wanting it really bad.”
Since then she’s been unbeatable on the state’s biggest stage, shooting a 143 (72-71) to redeem herself and card the low score by two strokes over Clarkston’s Meghan Deardorff at the 2016 Final at Forest Akers East. She repeated in resounding fashion last year at The Meadows course when her 141 (69-72) put her eight shots in front of Rochester’s Savannah Haque.
As satisfying as those individual victories have been, Dy has been more fulfilled by the team success the Titans have enjoyed. She calls West’s championship her freshman year her most vivid memory from the past four.
“Just because it was so unexpected,” she said of a title the Titans won over Rochester that came down to a fifth counter tiebreaker. “There is a difference for me (between individual and team success). It’s so much more fun when it’s with the team.”
Dy started playing golf at age 6 and surged to an elite level as a model of consistency and with an unequivocal work ethic.
“She has a love for the game and works very hard,” said Scott Wilson, the club pro at Bay Meadows Golf Course in Traverse City who has coached Dy for the past eight years. “She’s always been very consistent. She’s been consistent in her ball striking, and she has a great short game.”
Dy honed her game through Wilson’s junior elite program, first at Crystal Mountain and then at Bay Meadows. She’s maintained a challenging summer tournament schedule as well, taking part in a number of high-caliber events, including the Michigan Women’s Amateur, the Michigan Women’s Open and several USGA qualifiers.
“We’ve always tried to set her up in tournaments that would be challenging to her, almost a little over her head even,” said Wilson. “She’s excelled at every level.”
Dy also has helped spur increased interest in the sport within her school as the Titans’ roster ballooned to 17 players this year on the heels of last year’s Division 1 title.
“She’s put Traverse City West on the map,” said West head coach Karl Gagnon. “She’s helped influence a lot of kids to take up golf. Success breeds success. Kids want to be around programs that are successful.”
Dy has emerged as one of the leaders of that squad, along with fellow seniors Jillian Ellul, Hope Aspenleiter and Evelyn Krueger.
“This year it’s definitely been a challenge to be that leader,” she said. “I’ve had great seniors to look up to my past three years. It was a little tricky at first because we doubled the size of our team from last year. There were a lot more new girls who needed a lot of direction, but it’s been fun getting to know them and watching them grow into better players.”
Those new responsibilities haven’t had a negative affect on Dy’s game. She’s been regularly shooting in the upper 60s and near 70 and has finished as the medalist at every meet this season except one — when her younger sister Anci, a sophomore, beat her at an invitational in Alpena. Anci Dy, a tremendous golfer in her own right, was the Regional runner-up last week after finishing seven strokes behind her sister.
Anci admits it’s bittersweet to see her sister finishing out her high school career.
“It’s going to be our last high school tournament together, and I really want all of us to succeed,” Anci said. “I’m really excited to play on the team with her one last time.”
Next year Anika Dy will head to the University of Michigan for the next stage of her playing career.
“She’s going to a great school,” said Gagnon. “The coaches at Michigan are excited to have her. She’s going to be an asset for them from the very beginning. It’s a progression. She’s accomplished everything she’s going to accomplish in high school. It’s time to see what she can do at a different level.”
As for where golf could take Dy into the future, Wilson said the sky is the limit for his star pupil.
“She’s going to continue to try and put her skills to the test and see where it goes from there,” said Wilson. “It’s all up to her how far she wants to take it.”
Chris Dobrowolski has covered northern Lower Peninsula sports since 1999 at the Ogemaw County Herald, Alpena News, Traverse City Record-Eagle and currently as sports editor at the Antrim Kalkaska Review since 2016. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Traverse City West’s Anika Dy watches a drive during last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Dy leaves the green after finishing a hole during her 2016 championship run. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
ADRIAN – Avery Sluss picked up a golf club for the first time her freshmen year at Adrian Lenawee Christian. Now she’s an all-state golfer.
Sluss started playing basketball because it was a way for her and her older brother, Gavin, to connect. She’s now the leading scorer on the Cougars basketball team a year after receiving all-state recognition.
Everything she touches seems to turn to gold. She will return to the soccer field in the spring already with her college plans in place. She signed recently to play goalkeeper at Indiana Wesleyan University.
“I’ve learned so much from sports,” Avery said. “It teaches me a lot about life.”
Her coaches call her a self-motivated athlete, quiet leader and someone dedicated to her faith, her teammates, and academics. She is a 4.0 student and has played four years of varsity golf, basketball, and soccer. She’s earned all-state recognition in all three sports.
“She is very self-motivated,” said first-year Lenawee Christian girls basketball coach Emilie Beach. “She doesn’t miss workouts or practices. She pushes herself hard. She forces others to rise (around her).”
Sluss is in her fourth season on the Lenawee Christian varsity basketball team. This year her role changed from mostly a defensive specialist to scorer.
Beach said Avery hasn’t changed her positive attitude with the changes in her role on the team. She has a high basketball IQ, Beach said, which helps her on the court.
“It can be tough and frustrating, but she comes in with a great attitude each day and leads her teammates,” Beach said. “She is a quiet leader who leads by example. She is hardest on herself, and that’s where a lot of her motivation comes from.”
The Cougars have had great success on the basketball floor the last several years, and Sluss has been part of it. She’s played alongside all-staters and played at the Breslin Center. She started and played 20 minutes in last year’s Semifinal loss to Plymouth Christian Academy.
This season she’s averaging 14.5 points a game, with 16 3-pointers, and has scored at least 17 points four times.
“It’s very different, but I like the role I’m in now,” she said. “Now, it’s like you have to score. I’ve accepted it. I’m just trying my best to fulfill that role for my teammates.”
Sluss sat out the fall travel soccer season while she was recovering from a slight back injury. But she was able to hit the golf course. She shot a two-day total of 186 at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final, helping the Cougars finish second as a team. A year earlier Sluss shot an 89 and 87 and helped the Cougars finish fourth overall.
Not bad for someone who didn’t pick up a golf club until just a few years ago.
“Golf was new to me my freshman year,” she said. “Some of my friends said I should try it, so I did. I went to the range maybe one or two times before I started to play. I’ve loved it.”
As far as sports goes, soccer was her first love. She started playing at the age of 4 when a neighborhood dad gathered a few girls together and formed a team.
“We started playing in the back yard,” she said. “I’ve been playing soccer ever since. My first travel team was when I was 7.”
Sluss first started thinking about playing college soccer when she was in kindergarten.
“I’ve always wanted to play soccer in college,” she said. “I’ve dreamed about that. I’ve spent so much time on the sport that it would be silly not to. I want it to pay off with college.”
She used to play multiple positions but turned to goalkeeper at the age of 12.
“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “There are a lot of little things. The mental part of being a goalkeeper is important.”
After being named to the coaches association all-state third team last year, Sluss is primed for a big season this spring, especially with her college choice behind her.
“It is a strong Christian college, which was important to me,” she said. “It’s a lot like Lenawee Christian. Everyone on the soccer team was great when I met them, and the girls are so nice.”
Sluss has become adept at mixing sports with academics and life.
“Balance is a big issue,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, especially doing two at a time.
“My whole family, my parents (David and Kristen), they always push me to be the best I can be. I owe them a lot. Even my little sister (Addie) pushes me to do my best.”
Avery’s family moved from Toledo to the Adrian area several years ago, and the two perfectly complement to each other.
“Lenawee Christian has been a great fit for me,” she said. “All of the people are awesome, and I have grown in my faith here.”
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) Avery Sluss gathers up the ball while playing keeper for Lenawee Christian’s soccer team. (Middle) Sluss puts up a shot during last season’s Division 4 Semifinal at Breslin Center. (Below) Sluss plants a chip on the green. (Photos courtesy of the Lenawee Christian athletic department.)