By Tim Robinson
Special for Second Half
BATTLE CREEK — For Sabrina Langerak, a reversion to form made all the difference for Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Girls Golf Final on Saturday at Bedford Valley Golf Club.
Langerak, a junior, shot 88 in Friday’s first round after averaging 77 strokes during the season.
On Saturday, her 77 lifted the Mustangs to their first-ever Finals championship. After ending Friday three strokes behind two-time reigning champion Harbor Springs, NorthPointe won the title Saturday by five strokes.
“(Friday), I was swinging too fast and missed a lot of putts,” Langerak said. “Today, I took my time a lot more and thought about my putts more.”
The championship was a family effort for the Langeraks. Brian Langerak is the coach, and his two daughters, Sabrina and senior Hannah, played key roles this season,
“We take a lot of golf home with us,” Brian said, smiling.
NorthPointe and Harbor Springs were neck-and-neck throughout the day.
“We knew (Friday) it was a two-horse race, because we had a 20(plus)-stroke lead on the field,” Brian Langerak said referring to his team and Harbor Springs. “We got out to a great start, but it came down to the end. It was almost like match play out there. We knew we were in the running, but we also knew it was very close, down to the last couple of holes.”
For the Rams, it marked the end of play for a stellar senior class that included Evie Garver, Mackenzie Gillette and Maggie Bailey.
“(They) were runners-up in the state twice and won two state championships,” Harbor Springs coach Pete Kelbel said. “So, we’ll go home happy.”
The Rams also went home with medalist honors, with Jacque O’Neill edging Wixom St. Catherine’s Sara Haupt in a one-hole playoff after both finished at 164. Sabrina Langerak just missed out, carding a 165.
Both got onto the green in three on the first playoff hole, the 419-yard par-4 No. 16, but Haupt missed with her first putt and O’Neill then prepared for her putt.
“I was a little nervous, but I was trying not to think about it too much,” O’Neill said.
She said she was prepared for No. 16, which was the first of what would have been three playoff holes had the tie remained.
“I was just trying to play it like I had the last few days, because I’ve played that hole pretty well throughout,” she said. “I just tried to hit my spots.”
A junior, O’Neill also was a major part of Harbor Springs’ team success the last three seasons.
“We’re a little disappointed, but we’re happy for Northpointe Christian,” she said. “We’re looking forward to next year.”
Haupt, a junior, was happy with her weekend.
“I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I did,” she said. “I had low expectations. I had never gone to states before. I just wanted to try my best and have fun.”
Afterward, the NorthPointe Christian players and parents posed for a team picture, with Hannah Langerak keeping the trophy firmly in her grip.
“It’s amazing,” the senior said, “because I got to practice with my dad and sister all the time and play with them all summer.”
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PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian celebrates its first MHSAA Finals championship in girls golf Saturday. (Middle) Harbor Springs’ Jacque O’Neill putts during a playoff hole; she won the hole and the individual championship. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)