BY DAN STICKRADT
ALLENDALE — Out of nowhere.
It sounds more like a song or movie title.
It’s also the perception that Traverse City West left on the field at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 state finals at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University as an unranked school.
The Titans emphasized the fact that in team golf, every stroke counts.
Traverse City West captured its first ever state title in girls’ golf,. It edged top-ranked Rochester on a fifth-man tie-breaker in Saturday’s second round, which was played in blustery conditions with temperatures in the high 30s.
West shot 685 (348-337), and Rochester also compiled 685 (343-342). The Titans’ No. 5 golfer, Grace Warren, shot a second round 99, which was 18 strokes better than Rochester’s No. 5 golfer.
Freshman Anika Dy led West with 156. Hunter Kehoe (167), Grace Ellul (175), Madeline McCall (190), and Warren (193) all competed for the Titans.
“To be honest, I was thinking that we might be able to squeak into the top five. I would have been ecstatic with that,” noted West coach Kristen Nolan. “To come in here and win it after not being ranked is incredible. We don’t have any seniors [in our top five]. The girls just came here and played solid golf in the conditions and we ended up winning. I didn’t expect that.
“We did end up winning six tournaments in a row, finished second in one, then won our regional and now the state finals,” added Nolan. “Not sure why we weren’t ranked. I do think the cold weather actually helped us. I know our girls are more likely to have to play in the rain, sleet, or even snow compared to the [downstate] schools throughout the year. I think some of them have gone through this before.”
Veronica Haque (160), Brooke Busse (170), Erika Yang (173), and Keri Yang (182) were Rochester’s two-day scorers. Not having a No. 5 golfer capable of breaking 100 proved to be costly on the season’s final day.
“It’s tough — so close,” said Rochester coach Jeff Haney, who has seen his program win three titles and three state runner-up trophies in the past 13 school years. The Falcons have posted 16 top-10 finishes in two decades, with titles in 2002, 2008, and 2009 with runner-up finishes in 2005, 2007, and 2015.
“I’m very proud of the girls. We missed qualifying by two strokes last season, and to come in here without any state finals experience except for Veronica Haque and coming within a stroke is still very good,” continued Haney. “We battled and battled the conditions, and we took it to the wire. But we don’t have any seniors on our entire team, and we do have a good player coming up [from middle school]. Most of the top 10 teams are bringing most of their team back next year. It’s going to be great for girls’ golf next year.”
Bloomfield Hills, ranked fifth, finished a close third at 692, while Troy (695), Novi (695), Saline (697), Lake Orion (700), Mercy (700), Brighton (713), and Ann Arbor Pioneer (717) rounded out the top 10 in the 15-school field.
Individually, Brighton junior Julia Dean came back from an 82 in Friday’s first round and fired a weekend-best 73 in the second round for a 155, good enough to win medalist honors by a stroke over Dy of Traverse City West.
Lauren Ingle of Rochester Stoney Creek and Lake Orion’s Moyea Russell both finished three strokes back at 158, while Rochester’s Haque (160), Saline’s Samantha Kellstrom (160), North Farmington’s Alana Jones (164), Davison’s Kamryn Johnston (164), Novi’s Alexa Hatz (164), Granc Blanc’s Cammi Lucia (165), and Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Katie Mina Lee (165) rounded out the top 10 medalists.
Dean joined Brighton’s team for the first time this year. She said that staying calm and keeping a strong mindset in the rough conditions paid dividends in the end.
“I just tried not to get caught up in the moment, remained focused, and just went out there and played my game. I just tried to take it one shot at a time,” said Dean, who spent the past two years competing on the AJGA circuit during the high school season. “I just wanted to go out and play my best and see what happened. I ended up having a really good score today, and it helped me win.”
Dean birdied the ninth, 14th, and 18th holes and never shot below a bogey.
“I think the difference [Saturday] was my putting. Yesterday my putting was a little off,” she added. “My goal [Saturday])was to try to relax a little on my putting, and I was able to shoot a lot better.”