With the high school boys’ state golf finals this weekend, it is time to see if Lakeview will play to the level of its No. 1 state ranking.
But beyond the Spartans, this weekend’s MHSAA boys’ golf finals will be chock-full of local representatives.
At the Division 1 finals at Forest Akers West Golf Course on the campus of Michigan State University, No. 1-ranked Lakeview will attempt to capture the school’s fifth-ever title.
At the D-2 championships at The Meadows GC at Grand Valley State, full squads from Harper Creek, Marshall and Gull Lake will vie for high finishes.
And at the D-3 finals at Bedford Valley Golf Club in Battle Creek, Pennfield’s Garrett Day and Olivet’s Keagan Carpenter will try for top-10 all-state individual medals.
However, with the most at stake out of the bunch is Lakeview’s team.
Last year, at the Division 1 finals, the Spartans were runners-up – finishing just one stroke behind Brother Rice, with then-junior Matt Garland earning individual state medalist honors.
Now, with senior Garland, senior Landon Osborne and sophomores Matt Alderink and Gabe Penegor back from last year’s squad, and freshman phenom Andrew Walker in the mix, Lakeview is out to prove that it not only deserves to finish No. 1 as a squad, but that this year’s group sports the best top-five lineup in school history.
Lakeview’s Tony Evans, the reigning D-1 coach of the year, said that despite all of this season’s dominating accomplishments – All-City, SMAC East, SMAC Big 16, invitational, district and regional triumphs – there’s still the matter of his squad claiming the state championship in order to be thought of as the best-of-the-best in Spartanland.
“And that’s what we’re shooting for. Hopefully, we can close the door on this one this weekend, with a state title to go along with everything else we’ve done this year,” Evans said.
Even without a championship trophy yet in hand – like the ones that Lakeview won in 2008 in Division 2, 1987 and 1989 in Class B, and the one 1968 in Class A – Evans said the numbers don’t lie.
Twice this season the Spartans have shot school-record 18-hole scores of 286. And the team’s scoring average is 297 – which is 11 shots better than the 308 average that the 2008 squad, featuring Matt Thompson, enjoyed.
“Comparing this team to the 2008 team, there’s no doubt we’re a better team depth-wise and ability-wise and skill-wise than we were then,” Evans said. “This year we’ve got our top four guys who can all shoot under par in any given round, and a fifth guy who also shoots in the 70s. We’ve had to throw out 76s and 77s this year for our no-count scores. We’ve had 15 under-par rounds by the guys, and four different times we had two kids go under par in the same round. That’s just amazing.”
Although Evans admits it’s hard to compare teams from different eras.
“But to compare this team to title teams back in the 1980s and way back in 1968,” continued Evans, “well, it’s kind of like the arguments that go on now as to who’s better all-time in basketball, Michael Jordan or LeBron James? It’s different eras. And especially in golf, technology has made the equipment so much better than it was back then. So much has changed. So much has to be taken into consideration.
“Still, just based on the numbers (Garland averages 73 per 18-hole round, Osborne 74, Alderink 76, Walker 72, Penegor 77) I can’t think of many teams past or present who have had as much talent and depth as we have now. Now, we’ve just got to go out and prove to ourselves and everybody else this weekend that we are the best in the state, and maybe the best that Lakeview’s ever had.”
Evans added that despite all of the banter concerning all-time bests, his players remain focused and humble.
“Each and every guy is confident about his game, they all know they can shoot low numbers, they all know that if they struggle for a few holes that somebody else has got their back, and that they have the potential on any given day to turn in outstanding individual scores which makes for a great team score,” Evans said.
“They can handle the pressure, and they’re not a bunch of braggers, either. They don’t make a big deal out of playing well. They just go out there and do it, and have fun doing it. They’re one very special group of young men.”
Garland noted that it’s all for one, and one for all regarding the 2013 Lakeview boys’ golf team.
“We’re a close group of friends, our playing ability is all high, we can all shoot low — we’ve blown the school’s all-time team scoring average out of the water — and we’re all consistent with our games,” he said.
“All that’s missing now is a state team championship. And we’re going to do our best to get that, too.”
Evans siad he’s also proud of the other local schools and individuals who qualified for finals action.
“The large number of teams and individuals we have at state this time around, that says a lot about our area and our region,” he said. “We as a team are rooting for them as well.”