The participants battled windy conditions that made the scheduled 50-degree weather feel more like 30, but the end result was a tightly contested finish.
Caledonia took top team honors with a 324 on the day, edging out Spring Lake at 325 and Grand Haven at 326.
“It was a fun tournament; we fielded eight teams this year, and we’re hoping to double that for next year’s event,” said Grand Haven head coach Randy White. “It was a nice day to play, although it was pretty windy and cold. I thought we had pretty balanced scores. It was nice to see our freshmen team battle under some pressure against older golfers and hold their own. They’re going to be a good group in the future and today was a valuable learning experience for them.
Finn Bylsma paced the Buccaneers, carding an 80 on the day to finish in seventh place on the individual leaderboard. Cam Casey (82), Logan Batka (82) and Logan Dault (82) rounded out the scoring for Grand Haven.
“We mixed it up a little bit today,” added White. “We made an internal tournament out of it between our teams. We had our underclassmen play our underclassmen and have a mixture of guys playing together that haven’t necessarily been our normal groupings.
“It’s always exciting to see what the talent level is within your program, and I think we saw some of that today. We only lose two seniors from this year’s team, so we’ll be bringing a lot back, and I think we’ll have a pretty solid team for the next four years.”
As far as individual performances, White saw solid play from a mixture of both under- and upperclassmen alike.
“Tai Chamberlain and Broc Wilson are two freshmen that are really starting to hit their stride,” he continued. “Cam Casey is playing well, and Logan Batka is coming up the ranks pretty quickly, too. He was struggling at the beginning of the year, but his scores have gotten lower and lower over the past three events. He really wanted to get in the 70s today, but he double-bogeyed the final hole and finished with an 82.”
Grand Haven now turns it’s attention to the postseason with the final stretch of O-K Red Conference meets on the horizon.
“We’re starting to gear up for the postseason regional now, and I think we have some guys that are starting to build up their confidence,” White added. “I think they might surprise some people by the end of the season. We haven’t hit our potential yet, but we’re excited to see what that might be.
“Our numbers aren’t quite there in terms of competing for a regional title. Anything can happen on a given day, but we’ll need to really improve those scores if we are going to knock off teams like Rockford, West Ottawa and Caledonia at the regional. We’ve got some maturing to do yet. We’ll have 15 guys coming back next year, so we feel confident that we’ll be contenders in short order here.”
ROUNDING INTO FORM
The Spring Lake boys golf team continued to showcase its depth and consistency at Saturday’s invitational, with three golfers on the top 10 individual leaderboard. The team also recorded its best 18-hole score of the spring despite the conditions.
Nick Krueger finished third overall with a 79, while Zack Lisman added an 80, Chandler Fry added an 81 and Jack Johnson rounded out the scoring with an 85.
“That was our best score of the year so far,” said Spring Lake head coach George Bitner. “I was happy with the way the guys performed. We’ve had pretty consistent scores all season, and we kept that up today. We beat West Ottawa for the second time this season, and they are a pretty talented bunch, so that was a nice achievement for these guys.
“Chandler had a great round, Nick was consistent the whole way through and Zack had a really strong finish. He was actually five strokes behind Jack on the back nine, and he ended up five strokes ahead of him at the end.”
Now the challenge for the Lakers is to stay fresh between Saturday and their next contest, which isn’t until Friday at Coopersville.
“It’s frustrating, because now we don’t have a match until Friday,” Bitner lamented. “I see some steady improvements from these guys, and I think we took a step in the right direction. We’d like to get back out there and continue to work on things at a jamboree or invitational, but we can’t.
“We’ve had seven changes in our league schedule already, and we’ve had to cancel two invitationals because of it. It hurts us, because all our conference events are only nine holes, and these invitationals are 18. It’s difficult to prepare for regionals, which is 18 holes, when we don’t golf 18 very much throughout the season.”
Despite the scheduling conflicts, Bitner has faith that his squad will come through in the postseason.
“I like our chances to compete at regionals,” he added. “I think we just proved to ourselves that we can hang with bigger schools. As long as the guys continue to golf with confidence and play the hole and not the guy in his group, we’ll continue to improve our scores.”