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Regional Champions St. Joe, Lakeshore ready for state

 Regional Champions St. Joe, Lakeshore ready for state

By Tom O’Neill

            This could be the year for Ryan Walters and his St. Joe golf team after winning its second regional and qualifying for the Division 2 state finals October 14 and 15. The Bears, who finished fifth in 2015, will face some of the top teams in the state at The Meadows Golf Club at Grand Valley State College.

            St. Joe finished with the second lowest team score among the state’s regional qualifiers at 340.  Only Dow-Midland, ranked first, did better shooting 320. The Chargers beat St. Joe by two strokes at the Forest Hills Central Invitational.

            Cailey Rooker was the local regional medalist shooting 79, making it 14 of 15 for the season, but the in the state team event will be tougher.  Dow appears to be the favorite, finishing third, fifth and second in their last three trips. South Lyon is making their eighth consecutive final and three-time defending champions, Birmingham Seaholm, will be there too. St. Joe is making its sixth trip to state in the last seven years with their best finish being third.

            St. Joe played their practice round Sunday. “The course is definitely tight, explained Walters. There is a lot of long grass and water hazards so you have to keep the ball in play. We know what we have to hit off each tee,” adding, “any wind at all will make the course very difficult.”

            Rooker shot 166 in her freshman year, finishing one shot out of the top 10. “I was thinking too much about score last year. Now I really don’t check my score until I’m done. I go out and have fun. If I have a bad front nine, I’ll go out and have a good back nine.”     

            As for the competition, and the chance she might be paired with one of the Carras sisters from Dow-Midland as she was in 2015, Rooker said “it doesn’t bother me. The better competition helps me. I hope to come out strong the first day and stronger on the second.” Walters agreed. “She’s faced everyone’s number one all year. She rises to the occasion and will definitely give it a good fight. She has a great chance at the individual title,” Walters added.

            St. Joe Junior Maddie Wright shot a career best, 82, at the regional finishing second. Wright said her chipping and putting is much improved and is looking forward to state. Asked what her strength was on the course she replied “attitude. If I hit a bad shot, I forget about it and keep going.” Her advice to others, “have fun.”

Lakeshore makes first team trip to state

            Lakeshore captured their first Regional Championship title at Marshall Country Club, qualifying for the first time as a team in the state’s Division 3, shooting 405. The Lancers were five strokes ahead of Marshall. Their state finals will be at Bedford Valley.

            “We played there one time this year and struggled, shooting 419”, noted Cornwell.  Overall, the Lancers have averaged 405 in 18-hole events. “Our goal was to win the regional this year. This team knows they did something special and whatever they do at state will be awesome. My goal is to keep them loose”, Cornwell said.

            Olivia Freehling shot 94 to lead Lakeshore to their regional title followed by teammate Lydia Aungst at 96. Regan Holgate had 103 and Avery Adams 110. “I haven’t been more excited in my life,” Freehling said.

            “She has been the rock of our team”, Cornwell said. Freehling, in only her second year of playing golf, was named to the All-Regional Team, but golf isn’t her only sport. She’s also a member of St. Joe Warrior Hockey and plays for the Lancer softball team.

 

LMC’s Stolte returns to Division 4 state championship

            Lizzie Stolte, a senior and four-year member of Lake Michigan Catholic’s team, qualified third in the Division 4 regional individual category.

            “It’s really rewarding,” Stolte said “I’ll play my best and see what happens.”  In her last visit to state Stolte shot 195, but has seen her game steadily improve. She finished third in her conference championship October 10, shooting 88.

                        Laker coach Kris Nutter says her strength is in her drives, but has improved her short game around the greens. Stolte will play her practice round at Michigan State’s Forest Acres Thursday. “We have a 4:54 tee time,” explained Nutter.” We will check out where she needs to be on her drives, and then work on pitch and putt to get around the course.”

            Asked how she began playing golf, Stolte has a unique story to tell. “My parents would watch golf on TV. I think I was four or five. I would pick up any long stick around the house and start swinging it like a golf club.” Soon after that her parents put a set of clubs in her hands.

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