Erik Fahlen Jr.
Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian junior – Golf
The NorthPointe ace fired a two-day 71-67-138 to win the individual championship at last weekend’s Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final at Forest Akers East, leading the Mustangs to their first team title since 1996 in earning the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” Fahlen’s 138 was the lowest score in LPD4/Class D Finals history since the tournament went to a two-round format in 1994 and tied for fourth-lowest for all divisions – even through he played through steady rain in East Lansing.
The victory was his fourth this spring, following championships at the Kent County Classic (shooting 74), Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver final (68) and Muskegon Mona Shores Invitational (73 plus a playoff). He also took second at his Regional and at the Katke Classic and averaged 74.9 strokes per round. NorthPointe, on the strength of two top-10 individual finishes by Fahlen and seventh-place Logan Holtkamp, a third that just missed by Hayden VanErmen and career-low scores from its fifth player Lance VanErmen, locked up the LPD4 team title with a few holes to play Saturday on the way to winning by 33 strokes. The individual race, meanwhile, came down to Fahlen, Suttons Bay’s Thomas Hursey and reigning champion Austin Fauser of Clinton – Fahlen and Fauser were tied with three holes left before Fahlen finished birdie-par-birdie to clinch the medalist honor.
Fahlen had finished 11th at the LPD4 Final in 2017, then decided to make golf a year-round pursuit playing on three junior tours last fall and winter that took him to Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee among southern locales. He has a busy playing schedule mapped out for this summer, filled with Golf Association of Michigan (GAM), United States Golf Association (USGA) and American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) events. He also carries a 3.6 grade-point average as he looks toward college and continuing to golf at that level, and he’ll have one more opportunity next spring to lead NorthPointe for his dad Erik Sr., the Mustangs’ coach.
Coach (and father) Erik Fahlen Sr. said: “He played probably 20-25 tournaments outside of high school since last state finals, and he won nine of those. … (Heading into last fall) he hadn’t ever cracked the 60s, and then over two months he had two 69s and a 67. He got the confidence to finish, got in his mind he can shoot in the 60s – he’s just got to finish it up. … (On Saturday), I’m talking to him at the 18th tee and I said, ‘We’ll, you’re one stroke ahead but you both (Fahlen and Fauser) have one to play. A birdie will win it, par might win it, and with a bogey you will be a playoff.’ He looked at me and said, ‘I’m not going to be in any playoff. I’m going to birdie this hole.’ Those experiences in tournaments have helped him finish. When you’re golfing, you’ve got to learn how to finish.”
Performance Point: “It was a really special weekend, getting to play with the three seniors on our team and it was our last tournament together,” Erik Jr. said. “It really couldn’t have gone any better for us – we played our two lowest rounds of the year at state finals, which is really cool, and I played well individually. We know that we have the game. We were looking for those numbers all year, and they hadn’t really come. It’s a 36-hole tournament, and you’ve just got to take it hole by hole and do our best to shoot the lowest score.”
Rain? No problem: “I use a push cart, and that definitely helps with rain. I’m able to keep multiple towels on my cart and I have an umbrella, and my dad was making sure everything I had was staying dry … And (it’s about) not letting the rain bug you. You don’t want it to really change your game. You just want to go out and play the golf ball, not let it distract you like it happened to many other players, like ‘Hey, it really stinks playing in this rain. I’m getting soaked.’ I didn’t really worry about that. I just go out and play a round.”
Mustangs striding: “It’s sweet to bring back the life of NorthPointe golf. We went through a couple struggles four or five years ago and the team wasn’t looking very good, and now we’ve got a couple young kids in, and my dad gets the coaching job and it kinda gives the program new life – new motivation, that we’ve got to be this championship team and bring a state title back to NorthPointe.”
Thanks Dad: “I’ve been playing in the little junior tournaments since I could walk, really, since I was a really small kid. He was my coach all along for that, so for him to be my coach now since I started going to high school, it’s cool having him be my coach and being the coach of me as well my friends on the team, and having a special connection not only as coach but as a father as well.”
Great leads to follow: “Of course I love looking at Jordan Spieth and how he was in his junior days, and how he was the king of junior golf. That’s something huge to look up to. And there’s a couple of local high schoolers, kids that went to Detroit Catholic Central like Ben Smith, James Piot and Sean Niles. They graduated last year. Those are kids I look up to, to try to get my game to be like theirs; they all went to play somewhere (in college) big and pretty cool for golf. I do not know them personally, but I played in tournaments against them. They were definitely big names; they’d all win these individual junior tournaments and state championships, and I’m trying to get my golf game to be like theirs.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2017-18 honorees:
June 7: Paxton Johnson, Escanaba golf - Read
May 31: Lydia Goble, Schoolcraft softball - Read
May 24: Corinne Jemison, East Kentwood track & field - Read
May 17: Reagan Wisser, Richland Gull Lake soccer - Read
May 10: Clayton Sayen, Houghton track & field - Read
May 3: Autumn Roberts, Traverse City Central tennis - Read
April 26: Thomas Robinson, Wyoming Lee track & field - Read
March 29: Carlos Johnson, Benton Harbor basketball - Read
March 22: Shine Strickland-Gills, Saginaw Heritage basketball - Read
March 15: Skyler Cook-Weeks, Holland Christian swimming - Read
March 8: Dakota Greer, Howard City Tri-County wrestling - Read
March 1: Camree' Clegg, Wayne Memorial basketball - Read
February 23: Aliah Robertson, Sault Ste. Marie swimming - Read
February 16: Austin O'Hearon, Eaton Rapids wrestling - Read
February 9: Sophia Wiard, Muskegon Oakridge basketball - Read
February 2: Brenden Tulpa, Hartland hockey - Read
January 25: Brandon Whitman, Dundee wrestling - Read
January 18: Derek Maas, Holland West Ottawa swimming - Read
January 11: Lexi Niepoth, Bellaire basketball - Read
November 30: La'Darius Jefferson, Muskegon football - Read
November 23: Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison swimming - Read
November 16: Bryce Veasley, West Bloomfield football - Read
November 9: Jose Penaloza, Holland soccer - Read
November 2: Karenna Duffey, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North cross country - Read
October 26: Anika Dy, Traverse City West golf - Read
October 19: Andrew Zhang, Bloomfield Hills tennis - Read
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian's Erik Fahlen Jr. follows through on a swing this season. (Middle) Fahlen poses at Forest Akers East after clinching the Lower Peninsula Division 4 title. (Top photo courtesy of the Fahlen family; bottom photo by HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)