By Dean Holzwarth
Special to Second Half
ALLENDALE – Grand Rapids Christian's Ken Bokhoven has been coaching boys golf for more than three decades.
But it wasn't until Saturday afternoon that the longtime coach had the opportunity to celebrate an MHSAA title.
The Eagles captured their first championship in program history with a six-shot win over Marshall in the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final at The Meadows at Grand Valley State.
Grand Rapids Christian carded a two-day score of 636. It followed up Friday's 315 with a 321 in the final round.
Overall, combined with track and field, Bokhoven has been guiding athletes at the Grand Rapids-based private school for 51 years.
“He's coached for 51 years, and this is his first, so I can't imagine how he is feeling right now,” said Grand Rapids Christian junior Ben VanScoyk, who shot rounds of 75 and 78 to close at 153 and in a tie for fourth overall.
“It's definitely special, and we wanted to win for Coach with all he's been through. He's been through a lot in his life, and he's showed so much dedication to Christian High and athletics. It's special knowing that Coach can finally have something to lean on for golf and his first one.”
Bokhoven, who was doused with a water cooler after the round, tried to keep his team focused on the task at hand despite charging to a six-stroke lead after the first day.
“My pep talk consisted of, 'guys, go make some memories',” Bokhoven said. “I'm excited, and this is about as excited as I get. But in golf you have to stay relaxed and even-keel. It worked out well for us, and anytime you set a goal and you achieve that goal, it's rewarding. You feel like this is reaping the rewards of your efforts.”
The Eagles' previous top finish at an MHSAA Final was third in 2010. Bokhoven believed this year's team had the potential to make a serious run after winning a Regional title the week before.
“Five Regional champions come here, and I told the kids that we can compete,” Bokhoven said. “We came in thinking we could be in the hunt, and I told them after the first day on the way home that we're the hunted now. We are not in the hunt.”
Grand Rapids Christian's roster contained only one senior, Tom Voskuil. Five of its top six players will be back next season.
“Being a senior, I'm not going to lie, it's an emotional day for me,” Voskuil said. “Just because golf is a sport that is all about putting in the work, and I'm not playing in college so this is it for me.
“We didn't know if we had a chance coming into this tournament because some of the teams here were historically good, and we were surprised we were up by six after day one. We just had to hold on, and we were able to do that.”
Marshall shot 642 after rounds of 322 and 320. Juniors Aaron McCoy and Tanor Blowers each shot 159 to lead the team.
“We're disappointed, but I'm happy for Grand Rapids Christian because talking to their athletic director, he said it’s their first championship ever, so I know how that feels and that's good stuff,” Marshall coach Thomas Reynolds said. “I knew we had a shot at it, but this golf course is so hard. It was a nightmare, and we normally shoot around 310 to 320 as a team. Did they play to their potential? It's kind of hard to say with this golf course.”
Comstock Park junior Ryan Bayer, playing in his first MHSAA Final, overcame a triple-bogey en route to a stunning debut and an MHSAA individual title.
Bayer fired a 2-over 74 in the final round and defeated defending individual champion Nick Carlson of Hamilton by two strokes.
“It feels great, and I'm so happy,” said Bayer, who shot 75 Friday and finished at149. “I didn't even think about something like this, and I just wanted a couple solid rounds. I was nervous halfway through because I knew it was going to be close.
“I knew I would be up there, but I wasn't expecting to be all the way at the top.”
After the triple on the par-3, 17th-hole, Bayer rebounded to drain a 20-foot putt for par on No. 18. He capped his round with a 25-foot birdie putt on his final hole.
“I thought that was going to win it for me, but I ended up winning by two shots,” Bayer said. “It was like frosting on top of the cake. I played steady all day.”
Carlson shot a 4-over 76 Saturday for a 151 total. He won last year's individual title as a freshman at Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids.
“I had a shot, and a darn good one at that. I just needed to play a little better and have some different things happen,” Carlson said. “I didn't play to my potential, and I could've played a lot better. But coming out here and taking second trying to defend was pretty cool.”
PHOTOS: (Top) A Grand Rapids Christian player fires a shot during his team's round Saturday at The Meadows at Grand Valley State. (Middle) The Eagles pose with their first MHSAA team title trophy. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.com.)