By: Butch Harmon
State golf previews
By BUTCH HARMON
No sport was affected as much by this spring’s cold, rainy, and miserable weather as golf. With snow not leaving the ground until late March, cold air lingering through late April, and flooding rains in mid-April, area golfers had to do whatever they could, which meant swinging clubs inside with no opportunity to let it fly outdoors.
The area will see major upheavel this spring, as several tradition golf powerhouses were hard hit by graduation. The area is still loaded with talented golfers, and with the promise of warm and mostly dry air for May, an intriguing golf season is ready to unfold.
Teams to watch statewide: Lakeview, Mona Shores, Traverse City West, Brother Rice
Brother Rice won the Division 1 state title in a dogfight last June. It clipped Lakeview by one stroke at the state finals, while Mona Shores finished six strokes off the pace. Lakeview is back as strong as ever and will be the team to beat this season. The Spartans have a load of talented golfers back, led by senior Matt Garland, who was named to the all-state super team last season. Fellow senior Landon Osborne earned first-team all-state honors last season, while sophomore Matt Alderink was honorable-mention all-state. Mona Shores returns a super team selection of its own in senior Reed Hrynewich. Brother Rice will not give up the title without a fight, as senior Kyle Gaines is a returning all-stater and junior Jeremy Ball was an honorable-mention all-state pick.
Top local teams: Rockford, Holt, East Lansing, Midland Dow
Reloading is the name of the game at Rockford this season, where four starters graduated from last year’s team. The Rams do return junior standout A.J. Varekois, who is attracting attention from a number of Division 1 universities. Varekois won the Traverse City Invitational and had the best season ever by a Rockford golfer last spring. The Rams also have a number of talented younger players set to fill the lineup and have as much potential as any team in West Michigan.
Holt won the Capital Area Athletic Conference (CAAC) Blue last season and, with a host of starters back, is poised for even bigger and better things this spring. Sophomore standout Zach Dowling leads the way for the Rams, who also return seniors Austin Carr and Ryan Polin.
East Lansing returns a pair of all-conference seniors in Chad McFee and Connor Danigelis. The Trojans have a solid lineup that includes senior Jack Fossum, who finished in the top 10 at the league meet, and sophomore Joe Croom, who placed in the top 10 at the regional meet.
Top players in the state: Matt Garland, Lakeview; Reed Hrynewich, Mona Shores; Max Rispler, Forest Hills Central
Top local players: Chris Dinh, Midland Dow; Zach Dowling, Holt; Brock Edwards, Okemos; Chad McFee, East Lansing; A.J. Varekois, Rockford
Teams to watch statewide: Grand Rapids South Christian, Grand Rapids Christian
The Grand Rapids area is always a factor when it comes to the Division 2 state tournament, and this season is no different.
Both Grand Rapids South Christian and Grand Rapids Christian have deep teams loaded with quality golfers. The Capital Area Athletic Conference had four teams finish in the top 15 at last year’s state meet, and this season Haslett looks to be the main power coming out of the Lansing area. Big Rapids finished in the top three at last year’s state meet, and the Cardinals have another squad capable of a top three finish this season.
Top local teams: St. Johns, Haslett, Big Rapids, DeWitt
DeWitt continued its golf success last spring, as it finished second at the Division 2 state meet. Rebuilding will be the name of the game this season, as graduation gutted the starting lineup and claimed D2 individual runner-up medalist Tyler Poulak. The Panthers will have a huge challenge repeating as CAAC Red champs but, in sophomore Owen Beyer and senior Courtland Nelson, have a pair of solid players around whom to build. Beyer was an all-conference golfer who finished sixth at the regional, while Nelson also earned all-conference honors and placed in the top 10 at the district meet.
Haslett entered the season ranked No. 1 in the state in Division 1 and is poised to take over the title in the CAAC Red. Junior Marc Varlesi is a returning all-conference golfer who placed third at the district tournament, while senior Chase Applegate is another returning all-conference player.
St. Johns will also be in the thick of the title chase in the CAAC Red. The Redwings are coming off a big season that saw them qualify for the Division 2 state tournament. Senior Zach Peters leads a St. Johns squad that is deep in veteran talent. Peters and fellow senior Tyler Mazzolini both earned all-conference honors last season and both finished in the top 10 individually at the regional tournament.
Top players in the state: Gunner Bjornson, Harper Creek; Nick Carlson, Hamilton; Johnny Fortuna, Bloomfield Hills Lahser; Tyler Olson, Huron; Chet Ryeson, Lapeer West
Top local players: Chase Applegate, Haslett; Owen Beyer, DeWitt; Jason Brandt, Mason; Zach Peters, St. Johns; Marc Varlesi, Haslett
Teams to watch statewide: Lumen Christi Catholic, Grosse Pointe North, Hanover-Horton
Lumen Christi Catholic is a Division 3 golf dynasty, having won the past four state titles. The Titans were hit hard by graduation, but more talented golfers are set to step in and keep the Titans near the top of the Division 3 state rankings this season. Senior Dean Hitt, a returning all-stater, paces a team that started the season strongly by winning the Jackson County Invitational. The Titans outdistanced Hanover-Horton to win the county title, and it was Hanover-Horton that finished second to the Titans at last year’s state finals. The Comets have plenty of talent of their own returning this season. Sophomore Brock Spink is a returning all-stater, while sophomore Mackenzie Brockie was an honorable-mention all-state pick. The Comets also welcome back senior Johnny Brockie, who averaged 39 for nine holes last season.
Top local teams: Lansing Catholic, Portland, Frankenmuth
Lansing Catholic placed fifth in Division 3 last season and, with the bulk of that squad returning this spring, the Cougars have the best chance of any team of breaking Lumen Christi’s grip on the state title. Lansing Catholic returns a pair of first-team, all-state selections in senior Jacob Johnson and junior Brent Marshall. Johnson finished ninth in the state last season and averaged 38.3 per nine holes, while Marshall averaged 39. The Cougars also welcome back sophomore Niko Voutsaras, who earned all-conference honors last season.
Alma has one of its strongest teams in recent years. Last year’s Tri Valley Conference Central champion returns senior Sean Sommerville, who earned honorable-mention all-state honors last season. The Panthers also return senior Brett Green and junior Jay Green, who are both two-time, all-conference selections.
Rebuilding is the name of the game at Ithaca, where the Yellowjackets graduated four starters from a squad that won the Tri Valley Conference West and finished ninth at the D3 state meet.
Swan Valley returns one of the top sophomores in mid-Michigan in Cody Lysher.
Top players in the state: Dean Hitt, Lumen Christi Catholic; Brock Spink, Hanover-Horton; Sam Weatherhead, Grand Rapids West Catholic
Top local players: Jacob Johnson, Lansing Catholic; Cameron Lippoldt, Swan Valley; Brent Marshall, Lansing Catholic; Dustin Pumford, St. Charles; Sean Sommerville, Alma
Teams to watch statewide: Hackett Catholic Central, Western Michigan Christian
Hackett Catholic Central placed second at last year’s state meet and is looking to take the next step this season. The Fighting Irish return a pair of first-team all-state picks in senior Ted Rider and junior Colin Joseph. Senior Luke Stull earned honorable-mention all-state honors for an Irish team that will be hard to beat.
Top local teams: Fowler, New Lothrop, Lansing Christian, Nouvel Catholic Central
Fowler finished sixth at last year’s state finals and the Eagles is gearing up for another big season. It has an experienced team that is also deep in talent. Senior Andy Birchmeier is a returning all-conference golfer who placed third at the district tournament last season. Junior Austin Feldpausch also garnered all-conference honors last spring. The Eagles will have a solid four to lead the way, as senior Caleb Thelen is a returning honorable-mention all-conference golfer as is sophomore Derek Bengal.
Pewamo-Westphalia also has a deep squad. Senior Dane Schafer and junior Jordan Krausz lead the way for Pewamo-Westphalia.
New Lothrop will be another local team to watch in Division 4. Austin Newman, the quarterback of the football team. is a talented golfer who is one of the best in the Genesee Athletic Conference. Aaron Beach is another key returnee who regularly shoots in the mid-30s.
Nouvel Catholic Central graduated a number of key golfers from last year’s squad that placed third in the state. The Panthers do have one key returnee in senior Brody Schiller. Schiller placed second at the regional last year and placed sixth at the state meet.
Top players in the state: Zack Bialik, Manistee Catholic Central; Alec Breit, Western Michigan Christian; Colin Joseph, Hackett Catholic Central
Top local players: Andy Birchmeier, Fowler; Austin Feldpausch, Fowler; Dylan Parks, Bath; Jagger Richard, Laingsburg; Brody Schiller, Nouvel Catholic Central