EAST LANSING – Spring Lake knows how to come back, but they won’t need to Saturday after taking a commanding 34-stroke lead in Friday’s first round of the Division 3 golf state finals at Michigan State’s Forest Akers West.
The defending champs came back last year to win the title by 18 strokes, after trailing by six after Day 1 to Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood.
“They’re good at coming back, that’s what I like about them,” said Spring Lake coach George Bitner, noting that four of his five golfers shot better scores on the back nine than the front nine in grabbing the 34-stroke advantage.
“They need to play the course, play the course one shot at a time and play relaxed,” Bitner added about not playing overconfident over today’s final 18 holes. “They should play relaxed. The scores could be higher (Saturday), but they can afford it.”
Spring Lake senior Kayla Krueger leads the field with a 76, one stroke ahead of teammate Anna Kramer (77). Sophomore Madelyn Nelson added an 84 and senior Emma Conroy shot 88 for a team total 325.
The next closest team is Birmingham Detroit Country Day at 359, followed by Cranbrook-Kingswood, the defending three-time runner-up, with 363. Warren Regina is at 368. Goodrich, playing in its first-ever state final for girls’ golf, stands fifth at 374.
“Everything just felt great today,” Krueger said, despite the cold and wind whipping across one of the toughest state finals’ courses in Michigan. “My irons were on, my drives went straight enough, and my putting and chipping really kept me together. But I think the biggest thing was my mental game. I never got down on myself and I was always thinking positive.
“The weather also affected me positively because it made me focus on trying to keep myself warm rather than on my bad shots. And states the past few years has been like this.”
Olivia Reed of Carleton Airport was the third individual to crack 80, scoring a 79 to keep close.
Danielle Staskowski of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep is tied for fourth with Sydni Harding of Goodrich at 82.
■DIVISION 4: Both defending champs had a good day at Michigan State, as Kalamazoo Hackett (344) leads after the first round in Div. 4 at Forest Akers East. Macomb Lutheran North is second at 347, with Livonia Ladywood and Frankenmuth tied at 371.
Nichole Cox of Maple City Glen Lake leads with a 76, just ahead of Hackett senior Lizzie Stull (78). Macomb Lutheran North has three golfers in the top 10 — Serena Nguyen (82), Kaity Rittner (85) and Sydney Martens (85).
Ladywood came in ranked No. 2 behind Hackett after good scores of 327 and 330 the past two weeks in winning the Detroit Catholic League, but the Blazers struggled Friday.
“The girls know they’ve played well enough this year that others respect them, but there’s more pressure being No. 2,” said Livonia Ladywood coach Aaron Cheesman.
Girls golf finals
When: End today.
Where: Division 1 — Grand Valley State’s The Meadows; Div. 2 — Bedford Valley, Battle Creek; Div. 3 — MSU’s Forest Akers West; Div. 4 — MSU’s Forest Akers East.