Swingin' toward success

Swingin' toward success

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Swingin' toward success

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Once again, the Lakeview High girls’ golf team is hoping to make some noise at the state level during the 2012 campaign.

Coach Tony Evans’ Spartans lost two starters via graduation from last year’s squad that tied for fourth in the MHSAA Division 2 Finals, but Lakeview — which has made nine straight trips to the state meets — is again loaded with talent, and is again considered the top local links team in the area.

Also with high expectations is coach Dick Hamilton’s Marshall unit, which placed 12th in the state in D-3 last fall — as well as the teams and individuals from Harper Creek, the Battle Creek Central/Pennfield co-op, Coldwater and Gull Lake.

Lakeview, Harper Creek, BCC/Pennfield, Marshall and Coldwater (along with non-local Sturgis) will all battle in the SMAC East again this season. The area’s other school with a girls’ MHSAA program, Gull Lake, is moving from the SMAC East to the SMAC Central.

There’s also big news course-wise this season in prep golf, as Bedford Valley Golf Club in Battle Creek has been selected by the MHSAA as a finals site for the next five seasons for both girls’ and boys’ golf, with Gull Lake being the host school. This coming Oct. 19-20, the D-3 Girls’ Championships will be at Bedford — which has also long been the site of the Michigan PGA Junior State Championship and the Michigan PGA Senior Open Championship (and the Michigan PGA Open before that).

“It’s just awesome that we’ll be the course and Gull Lake High will be the host for the girls’ and boys’ state finals the next five years,” said Bedford Valley PGA professional Dean Kolstad. “This fall it will be the Division 3 girls, then next fall the D-4 girls, then the following year the D-1 girls and so forth. The boys’ rotation still has to be figured out.

“But having the state golf finals here in Battle Creek, it’s just great for the area. It’ll bring a lot of business into the area with hotels and food and other things, and the kids will get a chance to play a top-quality course that’s been a championship course for many, many years.”

The Cereal City is now the host city for MHSAA finals in girls’ and boys’ golf, baseball, softball, volleyball, wrestling, and boys’ and girls’ bowling.

Following is a look at each one of this year’s six prep girls’ golf programs, in alphabetical order starting with the city schools:

BCC/Pennfield (co-op)

Coach: John Green (6th season).

Last year: 2nd at All-City, 6th at D-1 regional, one individual state qualifier (now-graduated Taylor Haudek of Pennfield).

Top returners: Megan DeHart (Sr., Pennfield), Alex Kissenger (So., BCC).

Top newcomer: Amber Chapin (Sr., Pennfield).

Outlook: There were plans to cut the co-op program due to budget problems, but the combination of Bearcats and Panthers got a last-minute reprieve — making Green one happy coach.

“Our new athletic director at Battle Creek Central (Michael VanHoven) and some donors stuck up for us, and that’s great news that we’ve got a program again this season,” Green said. “We’re obviously rebuilding, having lost Taylor Haudek and Kirstin Langer to graduation, but we do have a lot of promising young ladies out for golf from both schools. We’ve got the numbers to compete … and now it’s just a matter of working with them and helping them improve day by day and match by match.”

Harper Creek

Coach: Cindy Kerridge (6th season).

Last year: Did not finish/no team scores in All-City, SMAC East, SMAC Big 16 or D-3 regionals due to only 3 players in the lineup. One of those players, now-senior Jozlin Johnson, made it to the state meet as an individual.

Top returner: Jozlin Johnson (Sr., 4th-year captain).

Top newcomers: Alexys VanderMel (Sr.), Paige Brady (Jr.), MacKenzie Crumpton (Jr.), Isabella Ballez (So.), Margo Coon (So.), Maeve Hammond (So.), Miranda Maddox (So.), Kirsten Murphy (So.), Baylee Wilkins (Fr.), Keely Cruz (Fr.), Madison Schulz (Fr.).

Outlook: Whereas the Beavers were hurting in numbers last season, they’ve got plenty of golfers out for this year’s squad, including some with experience from The First Tee of Battle Creek Learning Academy program. That means Harper Creek will field a full squad for all of its meets this fall.

“Jozlin is obviously our top player, and we’re looking for her to provide leadership for this young team,” coach Kerridge said. “It’s just fun to see a lot of kids out for the team this year, kids with a lot of potential and vying for positions on the varsity. Overall, I’m just really happy with our numbers. It feels great.”

Lakeview

Coach: Tony Evans (12th season).

Last year: 5th straight All-City title, 5th straight SMAC East title, 5th straight SMAC Big 16 title, 1st at MHSAA D-2 regional, tie for 4th MHSAA D-2 finals (9th straight season LHS made state as a team).

Top returners: Danielle Little (Sr.), Sarah Vocke (Sr.), Lexi Popovich (Sr.), Amanda Noakes (Jr.), Megan Strole (Jr.).

Top newcomer: Julia Ryan (So.).

Outlook: The Spartans — who were ranked No. 2 in the state for most of last season — will miss graduated starters Hannah Matthies and Alicia Peavy, but coach Evans said this year’s squad could easily do as well if not better than last year’s team.

“The million dollar question for this group is how long it’s going to take for all of our top five or six players to play consistently well, all the time,” Evans said. “Last year, we had that consistency 1 through 5 in our lineup. This year, it may take a little time for everybody to do that. But in the long run, I wouldn’t be surprised if even early in the season we have lower team scores than we did last year … and like always, we want to be playing our best golf at the end of the season come (MHSAA) tournament time.”

Coldwater

Coach: John Petzko (3rd season).

Last year: 3rd in SMAC East, middle of pack SMAC Big 16, 4th at MHSAA D-3 regionals (no individual state qualifiers).

Top returners: Katie Fair (Sr.), Abby Donbrock (Sr.), Anna Wendorf (Jr.), Cecelia Ward (Jr.), Jacqulyn Neesley (Sr.).

Top newcomers: Emma Dwyer (So.), Madison Donbrock (Fr.).

Outlook: The Cardinals lost one starter from last season to graduation, Kaitlyn Briggs, but everybody else is back — prompting coach Petzko to have a lot of optimism about this year’s group. Tops in his group is Fair, who lost in a playoff to Harper Creek’s Johnson for an individual berth at last fall’s state meet.

“I still think that a realistic goal for us is to finish in the top half of our league and to be playing well enough by the end of the season to earn a spot at state by way of a good finish at regionals,” Petzko said. “We’re still looking for consistency from our players … but the main thing is, this is a fun group of girls to work with, and helping them learn to play golf is something that they’ll be able to take with them the rest of their lives.”

Gull Lake

Coach: Pat Pearson (1st season with girls, longtime coach of boys’ program).

Last year: 4th in SMAC East, middle of pack SMAC Big 16, 6th at MHSAA D-3 regionals (no individual state qualifiers).

Top returners: Cydney Martell (So., co-captain), Hadlee Hoeksema (Sr., co-captain), Allie Baird (Sr.), Alexis Summerfeld (Sr.), Aija Rozentals (Sr.).

Top newcomer: Jenna VandenBerg (Fr., daughter of Maple Hills PGA pro Tim).

Outlook: Pearson takes over the coaching duties for Chris Quartermaine, whose school duties increased this season. Yet Pearson has guided the Blue Devils’ boys’ program to many successes the past few years, and he said he’s excited about the opportunity to help the girls’ team excel. Also, Gull Lake is now in the SMAC Central instead of the SMAC East.

“We do have a lot of experienced players back, and Cydney — although she’s only a sophomore — leads our group talent-wise and has lots of leadership abilities,” Pearson said. “So, with four seniors back and Cydney playing as she does, we have experience and stability. We’re just looking to be more and more competitive as the season goes along.”

Marshall

Coach: Dick Hamilton (33rd season).

Last year: 2nd in SMAC East, 2nd in SMAC Big 16, 3rd at D-3 regional, 12th at D-3 state meet (5th time in 6 seasons Marshall made state as a team).

Top returners: Amanda Genise (Sr.), Sammy Price (So.).

Top newcomers: Annie Cape (So.), Jill Puckett (Jr.), Shannon Hicks (So.).

Outlook: The Redhawks lost four starters to graduation from last year’s team — Jill Peacock, Tori Weers, Morgan Olmstead and Jane Puckett. But veteran coach Hamilton likes what he sees in his young squad that’s now led by Genise and Price, and which includes two players from last year’s JV squad (Annie Cape and Jill Puckett).

“We’re kind of starting the season young, but we’ll get better. I can assure you that,” Hamilton said. “Our No. 1 player, Genise, is really good, Price also played in a lot of junior tour tournaments this past summer … and all in all, we have a lot of potential. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll be playing very competitive golf by the time the end of the regular season rolls around.”

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