Okemos senior Elle Nichols is going for history as she tries to three-peat as a high school girls golf individual state champion.
But Friday at Michigan State’s Forest Akers East Golf Course, she was acting more like a coach with the intent of making her teammates better.
Prior to the first round, Nichols was giving her teammates individual scoring goals, which they matched or exceeded Friday.
“We had a little pregame talk, just trying to help them out,” Nichols said. “I want them to believe and know how good they are, because there’s a bunch of girls here and I don’t want them to be intimidated when there are so many girls here I know they can beat.”
Looks like Nichols knew what she was talking about.
Okemos cruised ahead of the field and leads the first round by 17 strokes over No. 1-ranked Birmingham Seaholm. Midland Dow sits in third place, 23 strokes behind. The second and final round begins at 10 a.m. today.
Nichols shot a first-round low of 76, despite what she said were a half-dozen three-putt greens. Trailing in second at 78 is Amelia Pezzetti of Traverse City Central, then Stephanie Carras of Midland Dow at 79 and Megan Lam of Seaholm (80).
What really helped Okemos blitz the field is that Jessica Kim is fifth after shooting an 81 and Sydney Williams shot 82. Okemos coach Dan Stolz said so much emphasis is put on Nichols and it’s much deserved, “but I told our girls that even without Elle’s score, you four still would have won our regional. They are really good players. We’ve put in the time and played tough tournaments and we’ve prepared ourselves. When you get here you just see how it goes and see if it’s in the cards.
“I’d much rather be leading,” Stolz went on to say about the huge team lead. “There is that talk about coming from behind and feeling less pressure that way. Yet the lower the score we can post the better, because it’s a two-day total. The course is very long, and it’s also wet so you’re not getting the roll out.”
Only once before has a Michigan golfer won three consecutive titles. Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Katy Loy did so in Class A in 1993-95.
East Lansing is in 10th place after day one, shooting a 391. Across the street at Forest Akers West, Holt is also in 10th place in Division 1, after turning in a 376.
Defending champ Plymouth shot 358 on a mega-packed leaderboard to narrowly lead Ann Arbor Pioneer (360), 2011 champ Grosse Pointe South (360), Troy (361), Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (362) and East Kentwood (369).
Holt coach Doug Harkema admitted to being frustrated. “Our No. 1 struggled; we’d be nipping a little closer if she (Pa Der Her) shot her normal round,” he said. “But overall our goal was a top-10 finish and we’re sitting pretty good for that. We are a better team than what we shot today, and I think that will show up tomorrow.”