By John Vrancic
Special for Second Half
ESCANABA – The Houghton boys saved their best for last here Wednesday, earning their fifth Upper Peninsula Division 1 golf championship in eight years and first since 2016.
The Gremlins, with 321 strokes, edged Marquette (323) and two-time reigning champ Escanaba (325) at Escanaba Country Club.
"We had a real solid day," said Houghton coach Corey Markham. "Our No. 1 golfer had a real solid round, and other guys lowered their scores. This was our best score of the season, and we couldn't ask for a better day for it. The day started calm, then the wind picked up about halfway through the tournament. The back nine was real wet, but the kids battled through it and had a great round."
Gladstone senior Rudy Peterson repeated as individual champion with an even-par 71, followed by Houghton junior Jiseung Choi at 74, Marquette sophomore Joe Luke and Escanaba senior Nathan Rousseau both at 78 and Iron Mountain's Ricky Brown at 79.
"I played very well on the front nine, then I struggled a little in back," said Peterson, who's headed for Michigan State this fall. "Playing aggressive in the front helped a lot, then I played a little too conservative in back.
"I felt a little more pressure coming in as defending U.P. champion, but just played my game. I figured if I won, fine. If I didn't win, it wasn't the end of the world. I won't be playing golf in college. I just plan to keep playing it for fun."
Peterson, who fired a sizzling 34 on the front nine, overcame bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16 for 37 on the back.
Choi shot 35 in front and 39 in back on this sunny and windy day.
"My approach shots were a challenge with the wind," he said. "The wind carried the ball a little. I just tried to keep myself focused. It feels great to win as a team. It's really fun."
Marquette and Escanaba also recorded season-best scores.
"We knew the number would have to be around 320, but we couldn't quite get there," said Marquette coach Ben Smith. "Houghton shot a real good score and Escanaba was right there. It took a few tournaments to get into a groove, then we won five in a row coming in here. The three seniors we're losing have been real solid the last four years, and our sophomore shot a real solid round."
Escanaba assistant coach Jake Berlinski was pleased with the leadership provided by Rousseau this season.
"Nathan had an outstanding year and career," he said. "Kids like him just don't come around all the time. He's a golf fanatic. We're going to miss him.
"We return the other four. Hopefully, third place will motivate them. The way Brian (Robinette, who was coaching the girls team Wednesday) coaches is second to none. We'll be back next year."
Click for full results.
PHOTOS: (Top) Gladstone’s Rudy Peterson chips on hole 18 at Wednesday’s Division 1 U.P. Final at Escanaba Country Club. Peterson was crowned champion after shooting an even-par 71. (Middle) Houghton celebrated its fifth team title in eight seasons. (Top photo by Austin Hemmingson, middle by Cara Kamps.)