Finals Preview: No. 1s Eye Return to Top
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Battle Creek Lakeview, East Lansing, Lansing Catholic and Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central all have rich traditions in boys golf. They're also the teams ranked No. 1 in their respective divisions by the coaches association heading into this weekend's MHSAA Lower Peninsula Finals.
But none of the four is a reigning champion – something they hope to remedy beginning with Friday's first rounds.
Below is a look at some of the expected team and individual favorites at each Final. First-round play tees off at 9 a.m. Friday, with the final round beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. Click for a full list of Finals qualifiers and Regional results.
Division 1 at Michigan State’s Forest Akers West
Battle Creek Lakeview finished a stroke behind champion Birmingham Brother Rice at last season’s Final, and Muskegon Mona Shores finished third and six strokes back. Lakeview and Mona Shores are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, heading into this weekend. No. 9 Saline, No. 7 Plymouth and unranked Rockford also broke 300 at their respective Regionals. Detroit Catholic Central is ranked No. 4 after finishing sixth last season and winning the Division 1 title in 2010.
Battle Creek Lakeview: The Spartans shot an outstanding 287 on their home course, Cedar Creek, to win the Regional by seven, with sophomore Matt Alderink finishing second, senior Matt Garland third and senior Landon Osborne and freshman Andrew Walker among those tying for fourth individually. Garland is the reigning Division 1 Finals individual champion and Osborne tied for seventh last season; Alderink and sophomore Gabe Penegor also were in the lineup a year ago.
Muskegon Mona Shores: Five seniors hope to finish with their first championship and the school’s first since 2005. All five were in the lineup for last season’s third-place finish, and four of the five helped the team to a fifth place in 2011. Reed Hrynewich was the only Mona Shores player to make the Finals in 2010, when he tied for sixth individually as a freshman. They finished third at the Regional at Cedar Creek, with Hrynewich tying for fourth individually and Joel Maire tying for eighth.
White Lake Lakeland: The Eagles are seeking their first MHSAA title after qualifying for the Finals for the first time since finishing fifth in 1995. Lakeland tied with DCC for the team title at their Regional at Wixom’s Lyon Oaks with four juniors and a freshman in the lineup. Junior Alex Kleckner tied for second at that tournament with three more teammates among the top 15.
Detroit Catholic Central: Senior Charlie Green missed in the individual top 10 at last season’s Final by two strokes, but returns along with senior Corey Szmadzinski. The latter and sophomore Glen Piot tied for fourth at the Regional with Green tied for sixth. Green also was on the sixth-place Finals finisher in 2011 and the championship team in 2010 – when he tied for third individually.
Other individuals to watch: Grosse Pointe South sophomore Joe Becker tied for fourth last season, and Brother Rice senior Kyle Gaines finished sixth – and won the Regional at Wixom with a 68. Rockford junior A.J. Varekois shot the lowest Regional score in Division 1 last week, winning in Battle Creek with a 67.
Division 2 at the Meadows at Grand Valley State
East Lansing is ranked No. 1 as it pursues its first title since 2000. But reigning champion Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood has moved up to No. 2, and No. 4 DeWitt beat East Lansing at their Regional and owns two of the last three Division 2 titles (and finished second last season). No. 3 Grand Rapids Christian is playing for its first championship. Marshall, ranked No. 7, and No. 9 Detroit Country Day also were among five that broke 320 at Regionals.
East Lansing: The Trojans are back after a three-year Finals hiatus with a crew of five golfers who all averaged 40.7 strokes or fewer for nine holes this spring. Sophomore Joe Croom has been among leaders and tied for third at the Regional at Gull Lake View West, and Connor Danigelis tied for ninth and is one of three seniors hoping to finish with a team title.
Cranbrook-Kingswood: The Cranes reached the Final by a stroke after finishing third at the Regional at Fieldstone in Auburn Hills. But expect a bounce back this weekend with two top-10 individual finishers back from last season’s championship team. Senior Alex Papa and sophomore Dylan Deogun tied for 10th at the Regional and tied for ninth and fourth, respectively, at last season’s Final.
Grand Rapids Christian: Three players from last year’s lineup that finished eighth should lead a rise up the standings, led by junior Ben VanScoyk – who tied for sixth at the Diamond Springs Regional and was the team’s low Finals scorer a year ago. Senior Tom Voskuil and sophomore Sam Kuiper also were in last season’s lineup, and along with junior Tommy Rietema also finished among the top 15 at the Regional.
DeWitt: Sophomores Owen Beyer and Courtland Nelson joined holdovers from the back-to-back champions of 2010 and 2011 to help the team finish second a year ago. Beyer tied for third and junior Brandon Erickson for seventh at last week's Regional as the team finished one stroke ahead of East Lansing and seven better than No. 10 Richland Gull Lake.
Others individuals to watch: Hamilton sophomore Nick Carlson won the individual championship after a playoff last season and returns. Detroit Country Day junior Rishi Patel missed the top 10 last spring by four strokes but won his Regional last week with a 71. In addition to DeWitt, East Lansing and Gull Lake, the Gull Lake View West Regional also included the two low Regional shooters in Division 2 – St. Joseph junior Matthew Zerbel with a 69 and Plainwell junior Peter Torres with a 70.
Division 3 at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley
Jackson Lumen Christi has owned Division 3 with championships the last four seasons – much like Grosse Ile dominated with five titles in six seasons from 1998-2003 and Lansing Catholic did with three titles in five seasons from 2001-05. Those three and Hanover-Horton are ranked highest coming into this weekend; Lansing Catholic holds the top spot, followed Lumen Christi, Hanover-Horton and Grosse Ile, respectively. Hanover-Horton was runner-up last season and owns one title, from 1993.
Lansing Catholic: The top four players from last season’s fifth-place Finals team will lead the Cougars into this weekend. Senior Jacob Johnson tied for eighth individually at last season’s Final and won last week's Regional at Glenbrier in Perry by two strokes with a 72 (and then a playoff). Sophomore Niko Voutaras followed in third and junior Brent Marshall in 10th; both were in last season’s lineup too along with junior Joey Jurkovic. Lansing Catholic owns an impressive win this season at the CAAC Open ahead of Division 2 contenders East Lansing and DeWitt.
Jackson Lumen Christi: Although senior Dean Hitt is the only returnee from the Titans’ latest MHSAA champion, his new lineup mates have kept with tradition. Senior Connor Maddalena shot 74 to win their Regional at Cascades in Jackson, and juniors Jacob Anuszkiewicz and Patrick Campbell tied for fifth as Lumen Christi won by 10 strokes over runner-up Hanover-Horton. Hitt will be playing in his third MHSAA Final.
Hanover-Horton: Senior Johnny Brockie and sophomores Brock Spink and Kenzie Brockie all are back from the team that led last season's Division 3 Final after the first round before finishing second after winning a tie-breaker. Kenzie Brockie tied for eighth individually that day and for 10th at last week’s Regional – where Spink tied for seventh and Johnny Brockie finished third.
Grosse Ile: The Red Devils lost that second-place tie-breaker last season, but hope to make a play for a third straight top-three finish with senior Jimmy Kobrick back from last season’s Finals lineup. He tied for 10th at that Cascades Regional and sophomore Nick Bonomici tied for seventh as Grosse Ile finished third as a team and seven strokes back of runner-up Hanover-Horton.
Individuals to watch: Grand Rapids West Catholic senior Sam Weatherhead won last season’s individual championship by four strokes with a 136 and shot a 75 to win his Regional last week at The Medalist in Marshall. Alma senior Brent Green tied for the lowest Regional round in Division 3 with a 72 before losing in the playoff at Glenbrier. Freshman Scott Sparks shot a 74 to win his Regional at Flint Elks by two strokes over senior teammate Dan Raicevich. A number of others shot 75s at Regionals.
Division 4 at Michigan State’s Forest Akers East
Top-ranked Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central missed a third MHSAA title in four seasons by finishing five strokes back of Lake Leelanau St. Mary at last year’s Final. Saginaw Nouvel Catholic, No. 3 heading into this weekend, followed in third in 2012. No. 2 Suttons Bay and No.4 Fowler also posted top-seven finishes a year ago.
Kalamazoo Hackett: The Fighting Irish posted the lowest Regional score in Division 4 by seven strokes, 309, and return this weekend with the top four from last season’s runner-up team. Senior Ted Rider won last year’s individual championship by five strokes, and junior Colin Joseph tied for eighth; Joseph, senior Luke Stull and Hillsdale Academy senior Chip Blood all tied for first at last week's Regional on Hackett’s home course of Milham Park before Joseph won in playoff.
Suttons Bay: The Norsemen also return four from last season’s team, which finished seventh. Sophomore Devin Capron tied for first at their Regional at Spruce Run before losing in a playoff, but all five Suttons Bay players finished among the top 14 as the team won by 12 strokes with a 316.
Saginaw Nouvel: The Panthers should make another run at the title with three players back from last season including individual sixth-place finisher Brody Schiller. He finished second at the Regional at Pine River in Alma to sophomore teammate Nick Ludka – who shot a 72 and along with junior James Fabiano also was on the 2012 varsity. Nouvel won the Regional by 14 strokes with a 317.
Fowler: The Eagles finished second at their Regional at The Emerald in St. Johns, two strokes back of Pentwater. But they bring back three players this weekend from the team that finished sixth at the 2012 Final. Senior Andy Birchmeier tied for the team’s low scorer at that Final, and was the Regional runner-up last week after missing tying for first by a stroke.
Other individuals to watch: Seven of last season’s top 10 will play this weekend. Leland/Lake Leelanau St. Mary sophomore Joel Sneed won the tie-breaker last week against Capron at Spruce Run and finished fourth at last season’s Final. Manistee Catholic Central senior Zack Bialek was one spot behind Sneed last season and won the Regional at The Emerald. Auburn Hills Oakland Christian junior John Van Noord and Hillsdale Academy’s Blood also tied for eighth last season at Forest Akers West.
PHOTO: Hamilton's Nick Carlson won last season's Lower Peninsula Division 2 individual championship in a playoff and returns this weekend as the favorite. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.com.)