By Adam Niemi
Special for Second Half
IRON RIVER – The West Iron County girls teamed up with the boys to defend home turf during the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 Finals on Thursday.
The Wykons girls carded a 433 for team honors. Second-place Mya Grubbs scored the Wykons' best score with a 98 behind leading medalist Payton Dube of Hancock (79).
The West Iron boys' team also won to key a hometown sweep at George Young Resort, located about 10 miles east of Iron River.
The Finals title was the first for the girls since 2005.
"Exceptionally proud of both boys and girls," West Iron County head coach Mark Martini said. "To come back and fight like that is an attribute not everybody has."
Crystal Falls Forest Park (448) took second place, followed by Munising (475) and Bark River-Harris (556).
Hancock, Newberry, Norway and St. Ignace did not field enough golfers for a team score.
West Iron's Anna Malmquist scored a 99, tied for third with St. Ignace's Olivia Champion.
Sarah Premo was Forest Park's leading golfer. She medaled at fifth place with a 104.
"They didn't get in a lot of trouble," Forest Park head coach Patrick Sommers said of his team. "They kept the ball in play, and they played very consistent golf."
Martini said there wasn't a key moment to the Wykons' win. It was just about building and maintaining momentum among the flights.
"It was just kind of switched different times, different holes, different places," he said. "When they came in, I was really amazed they scored that well in the last seven holes."
And, last but not least, Martini said, limiting mistakes is key at a tricky course like Young's. Many tee-offs Thursday ended with the ball echoing off tree trunks among the forest-lined fairways.
"The woods are bad here," Martini said.
Martini, who knew the man for which the course is named, said the millionaire Young designed each hole from inspiration by holes he played on courses around the world.
The No. 3 at Young's, for instance, is a par-3, 138 yards and flanked by bunkers which hug the edge of the green. But the depth perception of the hole from the tee box on a hill well above the green can easily complicate a young golfer's swing.
On Thursday, it did. Like many of the other 17 holes. Thus, Young's is a course that isn't about gaining ground as it is limiting mistakes.
"If you can play off the tee, you're going to help yourself out," Norway head coach Joby Sullivan said. "With the big greens, it really allows for that second shot on the par-4s. The greens are rolling – they're really nice as well."
While Norway didn't qualify for a team score, the Knights were led by Mary Slagle's 121 to finish 13th.
Munising's low scorer was Taylor Downs at 105. Teammates Sydney Curtis (117) and Olivia Koenig (118) took 10th and 11th, respectively.
Priya Rao led Newberry with a 125. Brylea Johnson led Bark River-Harris with a 128.
PHOTOS: (Top) Hancock's Peyton Dube fires an approach during her championship-winning round Thursday. (Middle) The West Iron County girls and boys title-winning teams. (Photos by Adam Niemi.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)