Westwood's Aces Finish with Four

June 21, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Neither Megan Manninen nor Berkley LaFreniere had seen their complete body of work all in one place before coach Jared Koski laid it out on a table at Ishpeming Westwood’s girls golf team banquet earlier this month.

Standing tall among a number of accolades were four MHSAA Finals championship trophies.

“It was exciting. It was the first time I really saw them all together,” LaFreniere said. “It’s a great accomplishment. Coming into high school, I didn’t think anything of (being able to do) it.”

Only a few have achieved that feat. It’s the fourth such streak in 35 years of the Upper Peninsula Girls Finals.

But what makes this one stand out is that the championships came across two divisions – the Upper Peninsula is split into three – with Westwood, a school of roughly 350 students, winning three in Division 2 and the fourth in Division 1 against schools with two and three times more students.

The first three titles were won by nearly the same group of players. Three new ones filled in this spring. And the constants on all four were Manninen and LaFreniere, the recipients of Second Half's final High 5s of 2011-12.

Three times – in 2009, 2011 and this season – Manninen was medalist. This spring, she won with an 87, while LaFreniere finished second with a 90.

They’ve been good friends since first grade and grew closer still when both started playing more basketball together during sixth. Manninen was the Patriots’ 5-foot-4 point guard during the winter, and LaFreniere, at 5-9, was one of her post players.

LaFreniere also played No. 1 doubles in the fall as Westwood's tennis team won its third-straight MHSAA Finals in that sport. And Manninen has signed to play hoops next season at Lake Superior State University.

“Golf is a game where you’re out there alone. You either get it or you don’t … and they’re used to that pressure,” said Koski, who also is Manninen’s uncle. “They’re competitive, and academically also, fighting for grades and standing in their class and in (National) Honors Society. They are a little more seasoned.”

Despite a season often affected by weather – Koski said his players usually don’t get outside until April, and the Finals this spring were May 31 and June 1 – Manninen and LaFreniere both averaged 45.3 strokes for nine holes.

And Manninen continued her strong play despite missing nearly three weeks of practice while traveling to the University of Michigan hospital to visit another uncle and huge sports supporter, Jamie Reichardt, before he died May 14.

Those hospital trips helped Manninen decide to pursue a degree in pre-med. And that sad event led to one of the most touching stories of this spring’s tournaments. At the Final at Newberry Country Club, Manninen carried in her bag a sleeve of balls that had belonged to her uncle and were labeled with his nickname “Colonel.”

She played the entire 18 holes using just one ball.

“That was some extra motivation,” Manninen said. “I told myself I couldn’t lose that ball.”

Both girls got their golfing starts at Wawonowin Country Club in Champion, about three miles west of Ishpeming – Manninen’s father Kevin manages the course and LaFreniere’s father Paul is a longtime member. The girls grew up playing Marquette County Junior Golf Association events together. Both got their toughest individual competition from each other most of the last few seasons, but neither thought about it that way.

Their performances at the top made a difference throughout the line-up. Koski said the pair would build a 20-stroke lead against the opposing top-two players, which allowed the Patriots’ 3-5 players to work on holding their own instead of facing pressure to put up a low number.

“They drive themselves the best they can,” Koski said. “They’re both good students, and they know how to make good decisions on the course. (And) they don’t like to lose.”

Click to read more about their favorite players and future plans

PHOTOS: (Top) Ishpeming Westwood's Berkley LaFreniere and Megan Manninen pose after all four of the Patriots' Finals wins in 2009, 2010, 2011 and this spring. (Middle above) LaFreniere finished runner-up at this season's Final at Newberry Country Club. (Middle below) Manninen won her third individual championship this spring, this time shooting an 87. (Bottom) LaFreniere (left) and Manninen pose with their four trophies and various other accolades during the team banquet earlier this month.

Manistique Celebrates 2nd-Straight Finals Medalist, 1st Team Title Since 2015

By Jason Juno
Special for Second Half

May 31, 2023

NORWAY – After finishing runner-up to her teammate by one stroke last year, it was Nora Cunningham’s turn to be an Upper Peninsula Finals champion.

But more important to her was the fact that she and Macy Green, last year’s UP Division 2 medalist, led Manistique to a team championship Wednesday at Oak Crest.

“It feels really good,” Cunningham said of her individual achievement. “Above all, though, I think the team win definitely feels the best. Last year we ended up good individually, but the team win was our ultimate goal, so it was nice to get that this year.”

Manistique finished with a score of 455 for its first UP Finals title since 2015, and after the Emeralds finished fifth last spring. Bark River-Harris was runner-up with a 501.

Bark River-Harris’ Ella Boney hits out of the sand during her UPD2 Final round. Cunningham – who tied for second individually in 2022 – shot a 101 this time to finish three strokes ahead of Bark River-Harris’ Ava McDonough. Green and Manistique teammate Maddy Maline both carded 107s.

Oak Crest played tougher than it looked, Cunningham said. There’s a lot of trees, and she lost balls in the rough. She had a couple of rough holes, carding an 8 and a 9, but kept them to a minimum.

“I think I had really consistent drives, and then I just tried to take it hole by hole and not get too frustrated,” she said. “I had some rough holes, but I just bounced back from them.”

Her game is even better than it was last year. 

“Nora has added an extreme amount of distance off the tee,” Manistique coach Tim Noble said. “She’s really hitting drives past most everyone else. And it’s allowed her short game to flourish because she doesn't have to hit those mid irons like she used to.”

It had to be a happy ride back to Manistique after a hot day on the golf course. The boys team also won the UPD2 title, and the Emeralds’ Ryan McEvers was medalist.

Pretty much all the hardware went to Manistique.

Macy Green tees off for the Emeralds.“It is excellent that we both have the U.P. title, really good for the town of Manistique,” Noble said. “One of our better sports; we usually do pretty well in golf.”

He said he knew a team sweep was possible, but he had more confidence in the girls thanks to Cunningham and Green, who had great days both last year and this year.

“It’s nice to see Nora and Macy really have some success,” Noble said. “Macy picked it up as a sophomore, she learned to golf (after being a really good softball player). Nora’s going for college golf. It’s nice to see her go out on top.”

Cunningham signed to golf at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.

Bark River-Harris’ Ella Boney and West Iron County’s Kya Dallavalle both finished with 115s to round out the top five.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Manistique’s Nora Cunningham tees off during her round Wednesday at Oak Crest. (Middle) Bark River-Harris’ Ella Boney hits out of the sand during her UPD2 Final round. (Below) Macy Green tees off for the Emeralds. (Photos by Jason Juno.)