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State golf finals set to begin

Published 6:05pm Thursday, June 14, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly

MHSAA’s Second Half

The 2011 MHSAA Lower Peninsula Boys Golf Finals featured a number of outstanding performances from younger players still looking forward to one or more seasons left in their high school careers.

And that means this weekend’s finals will be filled with veterans and likely some much closer team competition than a year ago.

Three reigning team champions return four of their top five scorers from last season’s tournament runs. Two individual champions also are back, along with half of the players who placed among the individual top 10 at the four finals.

Below is a look at which teams and individuals could be competing for the top prizes by the end of this weekend. Play begins at 9 a.m. Friday, with the second round beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.

In Division 2, Niles’ John Schrader and Edwardsburg’s Dominic Razzano will compete.

In Division 3, Dowagiac’s Jordan Juday will represent the Chieftains.

Division 2 at Ferris State’s Katke Golf Course

Team favorite: Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood is ranked No. 1 after finishing runner-up a year ago at Forest Akers East. The Cranes are again led by reigning individual champion Griffin Smith, and senior Michael Ray tied freshman Dylan Deogun with a team low 80 at the Regional; Ray was the team’s third scorer last season.

Other contenders: DeWitt also returns two of its top five from last season’s team that shot an incredible 586 to win at Michigan State’s Forest Akers East. Seniors Tyler Polulak and Peter Von Spreecken have been augmented by freshman Owen Byer. Marshall is ranked No. 2 in the state poll and had four underclassmen among its top five at the regional. Tecumseh posted the lowest regional score in Division 2, 304, counting scores from five seniors.

Medalist mix: Cranbrook-Kingswood’s Smith, a senior, is likely to be chased again after shooting a 141 to win by two strokes in 2011 — although the top 10 last season was separated by a mere six strokes. Tecumseh’s Bobby Thomas, who tied for second, also is back after finishing two strokes off the lead. Big Rapids senior Blaze Hogan tied for seventh with a 146 and Polulak was 10th with a 147. Mason freshman Jason Brandt and Haslett senior Chris Beltzer also could make a push after shooting 71 and 73 at their respective regionals — Brandt to finish second to Thomas and Beltzer to win his.

Division 3 at Forest Akers East

Team favorite: Jackson Lumen Christi returns four of its low five scorers from last season’s 40-stroke win across the street from this season’s venue. Two of those players — seniors Austin Eccleton and Alex Reynolds — also finished among the top six individuals. Lumen Christi shot a 291 at its regional to again crush the competition.

Other contenders: Although no one came close to the Titans a year ago, Grosse Ile came the closest among teams that return this spring, finishing third. The team’s top three and fifth scorer are back, led by senior Rob White, who like Reynolds tied for sixth individually in 2011. Hanover-Horton is ranked No. 3 in the state poll and like Grosse Ile shot a 307 at its regional while taking two scores from freshmen.

Medalist mix: This came down to a tie-breaker a year ago won by Pontiac Notre Dame senior Aaron Knutson over Grand Rapids West Catholic junior Sam Weatherhead after both shot 140 over the first 36 holes. Knutson won his District and Weatherhead has been one of the state’s elite all season. But, again, this field is loaded, with Mount Morris senior Zachary Kiefer also back after tying for sixth last season.

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