By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half
BATTLE CREEK – The Flint Powers Catholic boys golf team gained plenty of experience playing after extensive weather delays this season.
That experience paid major dividends during the second round of the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals on Saturday.
Shortly after the first groups hit their tee shots at Bedford Valley Golf Course, the cracks of thunder brought out the horn calling players off the course. The next five-plus hours found golfers, coaches and spectators huddled in and about the clubhouse as heavy rains hit and put day two of the Finals in jeopardy. After a nearly six-hour delay, the rain came to an end and the Division 2 golfers finished just before darkness fell to cap a highly-competitive two days of golf.
Flint Powers came out on top with a two-day total of 600 to edge Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (603) and East Grand Rapids (608).
The lengthy delay was something the Powers golfers had experience with as they endured a four-hour delay during the regular season on their way to winning a tournament at Katke in Big Rapids.
“I’m so thankful we went through that because the boys handled it very well up there, and they were able to take that and carry it over and handle it today,” said Powers Catholic coach Robert Beach. “They just kicked back and relaxed, and we tried to have a little fun. We went out and had lunch and got back here and had to wait a little bit longer, but once that horn sounds, they’re in competitive mode.”
Powers strung together four strong scores after the delay as sophomore Grant Tucker shot a 72, senior Matt Knight carded a 73, senior Zach Hopkins shot a 74 and sophomore Ty Vanitvelt added a 76.
Heading into Saturday’s final round, the Chargers trailed Friday’s leader, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, by five strokes. Notre Dame Prep shot a 300 on the first day, followed by East Grand Rapids with a 301 and Forest Hills Northern with a 302. Following right behind Powers Catholic was DeWitt with a 306, Gaylord and Richland Gull Lake with 308 and Byron Center with 309 – in all, seven teams were within nine strokes of the lead.
“This is my 30th year of coaching, and I’ve never seen it this close,” Beach said. “I’ve never seen so many teams that had a chance going into today. I was talking to the other coaches, and we were all hoping and praying. Our kids worked so hard, every team worked so hard to get here, all I wanted was just a chance today. I’m so thankful all these kids got a chance to experience the second day of the state tournament.”
For the Powers seniors, the title was extra sweet after they finished second at last year’s state meet.
“We had the mindset going into today that if we were able to play, we would pull it off,” Knight said. “It’s pretty cool to see that happen. It’s a big turnaround in one year and a great way to go out as a senior.”
Fellow senior Hopkins finished the tournament with rounds of 73 and 74 to lead the Chargers with a 147 total, eight shots off the lead. Although the delay was a challenge, the opportunity to capture the title made the wait worth it.
“The delay was a little annoying,” Hopkins said. “We didn’t know if we would play today. I’m happy that we ended up playing. The course itself was actually not as wet as I thought it would be.
“That’s all we wanted all this year. I’m happy we finally accomplished it.”
Mason’s Alex Jordan also made the most of the long delay. Jordan put together two solid rounds to win the medalist honor with a 139. Nick Krueger of Spring Lake placed second with a 141 followed by Andrew Kolar of Forest Hills Central with a 142 and Tanner Moore of Byron Center and Charlie DeLong of DeWitt with both at 143.
Trailing by two strokes entering the second day, Jordan relaxed and spent time with people close to him.
“It was nice being with my mom and my coach,” Jordan said. “Being able to talk with them and not get impatient just thinking about it. I was able to distract myself a little bit. I did a good job of staying patient. When I came back I had an eight-foot putt for birdie, and I knocked it in on the first hole.”
After shooting a 69 on Friday, the birdie putt sent Jordan on to a score of 70 after the weather delay. Jordan’s strategy was the same as it was for the first round.
“I just tried to do the same things I did yesterday,” Jordan said. “I played a very similar round as far as making decisions and where I placed the ball, and it worked.”
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PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Powers coach Robert Beach and golfer Grant Tucker confer during Saturday’s second round at Bedford Valley. (Middle) Mason’s Alex Jordan watches one of his shots. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)