By John Vrancic
Special for Second Half
MARQUETTE — The Houghton girls capped a short, but successful golf season Wednesday as they captured their fourth consecutive MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 title with 396 strokes.
Runner-up Marquette finished with 423, with third-place Escanaba at 433.
“Three of our girls didn’t play until May 13 when we went to the Negaunee Range Bank Invitational at Wawanowin (Golf Club near Ishpeming),” said Gremlins’ coach Corey Markham. “Some of our new girls did real well. We have a couple real talented golfers, and our seniors (Noelle Polakowski and Megan Kelly) have been real consistent. Noelle and Megan have been part of four U.P. championships. This has been a real hard-working group.”
Gladstone senior Callie Jensen earned medalist honors with a 90 on the Marquette Golf & Country Club’s Heritage course. She was followed by Marquette’s Sydney Higgins with 94 and Kelly at 95.
“I went into a hazard and got a nine on it (on the par-5, No. 4 hole),” said Jensen, who will study at the University of Michigan this fall. “I had a little lane, but I hit a tree and ended up back in the hazard. I think if I could have gotten that down to a six, I would have been pleased with it.
“Overall, I played decent. This is a very challenging course. The greens were faster than we’re used to, although I like fast greens. So I can’t complain about that.”
Like most U.P. teams, Gladstone also started later than usual. The Braves opened their season May 1 at the Escanaba Country Club.
“We had a lot of tournaments cancelled due to bad weather,” said Jensen. “The late start made it harder to get into the swing of things.”
After the tournament, Braves’ coach Dane Quigley paid tribute to Jensen’s farewell performance and career.
“I thought Callie played well,” he said. “Yes, she took a nine on one hole. But that’s a quality golfer and young lady we’re losing. Callie is very dedicated to our program. She’s going to be missed, as (will) all of our other seniors.”
Manistique junior Hailey Hoholik placed fourth at 97, a stroke better than Escanaba senior Kelsey Motto.
“I thought everything went pretty good, although I should have done better on a few holes,” said Hoholik, who played on the Heritage course for the first time. “My putting didn’t go as well as I hoped. The greens were fast. Ours at home (at Indian Lake Golf Course) are pretty slow. This was a big adjustment at first. But by the third hole, I started getting used to it.”
Like Jensen, Motto received her due from Escanaba coach Brian Robinette.
“Kelsey has been an ambassador for our golf team,” said Robinette. “We spent four years together. Our girls’ program was barely breathing when I started. Kelsey knows what it takes to nurture the younger kids and play the game the right way. She has been a top-five golfer from the beginning of the year to the end. I think she’s going into college golf with a lot of momentum and self-belief.”
Motto, who will continue her golf career at St. Norbert College in DePere, Wis., next season, was followed by Houghton’s Adison Cook with a 99 and Polakowski with a 100.
The Gremlins also had a fourth golfer in the top 10, with Taryn Kaurala taking ninth overall at 102.
“Some of our girls came up through the junior program at Michigan Tech, which is a great program,” Markham said. “They’re all very competitive. They’ve been able to shake it off when they had a bad hole.”
Polakowski shared seventh with Marquette’s Hannah Crampton.
“Sydney’s second-place finish helped us get where we needed,” Marquette coach Ben Smith said. “Hannah had a solid round and Leah Anderson has been in the mix all year. Houghton is solid. It seems like Megan Kelly has been with them forever. I’m thrilled for our girls. Their scores got better through the season.”
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PHOTOS: (Top) Houghton's Megan Kelly hits from the first fairway during the MHSAA Division 1 U.P. Final on Wednesday. (Middle) Gladstone's Callie Jensen hits out of a bunker on the first fairway; she went on to finish first individually with a 90. (Photos by Adelle Whitefoot.)