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