Monday was a banner day for girls high school golf in the White Lake area.
Whitehall and Montague each captured team regional championships on a strong day overall for Muskegon-area squads. Mona Shores and North Muskegon join the Vikings and Wildcats as state finals qualifiers.
At the regional round, the top three teams and top three individuals not from a qualifying team advance to the state finals.
A few weeks ago, the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced it was reducing the number of state-qualifying teams and individuals from regionals by one per category to limit the state finals field amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But the traditional state-qualifying format was restored a week later.
The state finals have been reduced from a two-day, two-round format to a one-day, one-round setup at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers East and West.
Mona Shores will compete in the Division 2 finals Friday, Oct. 16, on the West course. On Saturday, Oct. 17, Whitehall will participate in the D-3 finals on the East course while Montague and North Muskegon will compete in the D-4 finals on the West course.
Continue reading for a breakdown from each regional involving Muskegon-area teams:
Mona Shores placed third in the Division 2 regional it hosted at Muskegon Country Club, meaning the Sailors are going back to the state finals for the second-straight season. The Sailors shot 408, finishing behind regional champ and three-time defending state champ Forest Hills Northern (344) and runner-up East Grand Rapids (385).
“I’m so proud of them. They’ve improved so much during the season,” Mona Shores coach Britni Gielow said in a text message to MLive. “Making it to the state finals is such a great accomplishment for a team.”
Greenville’s Rylie Gorby (90), and Lowell’s Addison Bruwer (90) and Lexy Kapcia (94) were the individuals who advanced to the state finals.
Lily Miller paced Mona Shores with a 93. The other scorers for the Sailors were Riley Trygstad (103), Dezmin Merwin (105) and Olivia Kasher (107).
Forest Hills Northern’s Lilia Henkel, who set a course record at Stonegate Golf Club in August with an 18-under 60, earned medalist honors with a 74.
Reeths-Puffer placed seventh in the regional, led by Paige Anderson’s 96.
Whitehall captured its first regional title since 2011 despite not being in the top three seeds entering Monday’s competition at Lincoln Hills Golf Club in Ludington. Led by Karli VanDuinen’s 83, the Vikings shot 379 as a team.
Top-seeded Big Rapids was runner-up (385), followed by third-seeded Forest Hills Eastern (385). Coopersville’s Lauren Davis (81) and Alexa Davis (97) took two of the three individual state-qualifying spots, while Ludington’s Emma McKinley claimed the third (98).
Joining Van Duinen in a well-rounded scoring effort for Whitehall were Kenedy Woodring (87), Katie Ferris (99) and Ava Garcia (110). Chloe Essebaggers shot 117 to cap the Vikings’ participants.
“We started on the back nine (with the PGA-style start Monday), so after we came off 18, we went to 1. It was not a shotgun start,” Whitehall co-coach Greg Boughton said. “Two holes that are really very difficult go through the dunes, holes 11 and 12. I thought it would benefit us to be there because the wind was going to come up, which it did.
“We went through along the shores of Lake Michigan during pretty calm conditions. Teams seeded 1, 2, 3, they came through and had to play those holes with some pretty strong winds. That kind of equalized some things. (Co-coach) Bill Borgman and I thought, if we get through those tough holes in the dunes unscathed, we liked our chances.”
Ludington placed fifth as a team (408), Spring Lake was sixth (413), Fremont ninth (455) and Fruitport 11th (462). Ludington’s McKinley and Spring Lake’s Kelsey Megley tied with 98s, but McKinley won a tie-breaker to capture the last spot as a state finals individual qualifier.
Montague blew away the competition in Division 4 action at The Wolverine of Grand Traverse Resort, shooting a school-record 351 to win beat runner-up North Muskegon by 54 strokes. The Wildcats and Norse both qualify for the state finals, joined by third-place regional finisher Harbor Springs (410).
Grant’s Jada Zerlaut (100), East Jordan’s Lauren Smith (101) and Manistee’s Sara Danison (102) were the individual state finals qualifiers from the regional.
“Right off the bat, we definitely had some anxiety and some concern (because Montague’s top players got off to rough start). There were some nerves to shake off, but within about five or six holes, the girls settled in and I think some of it was because our girls in the back, our (Nos.) 4 and 5, Gabby (Moreau) and Mackenzie (Goudreau), they were just playing so good,” Montague coach Phil Kerr said.
“Megan (Brown, the Wildcats’ No. 1) started double, double, triple, triple. I mean, she ended up shooting 87 – she turned it around, it was insane – but I think some of the anxiety from those top girls was relieved when they saw that some of our other girls were having good rounds and they didn’t feel like they were blowing it. I mean, Megan was 10-over through four holes and she ended up shooting 15-over for the whole round.”
Brown led the Wildcats with an 87, followed by Orianna Bylsma, Moreau and Goudreau each with 88. Even the No. 5 player, Katie Unger, shot 95.
North Muskegon’s Georgie Kersman shot 80 to finish second overall behind medalist Jacquelyn O’Neill of Harbor Springs (77). Onna Heikkila (106), Greta Goszkowicz (107), Kennedy Hoppa (112) and Riley McEvoy (112) rounded out the scorers for the Norse.
Kent City finished fifth as a team (435), followed by Grant in sixth (436) and Holton 11th (473).
Kerr said that Montague, which also captured the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association title in addition to a handful other trophies this season, envisioned this kind of success given what the Wildcats returned from last year’s state finals team and what they had coming in terms of newcomers.
“Two things we wanted to do: We wanted to win the GMAA and we wanted to win regionals, and then just kind of see how the chips fell at state,” said Kerr, whose program is only in its fifth year. “We’re going to kind of keep that attitude and we’re just going to go in (to the state finals) and see what happens.”
More girls golf coverage: