The Lakers will have to replace four-time All-State performer Anna Kramer this fall, but with a solid returning core and an influx of newcomers, the program doesn’t appear to be rebuilding in any way, shape or form.
For Grand Haven, the fall season hopes to be the next step toward conference and regional contention, after finish fourth in a crowded O-K Red Conference and fifth at the Division 1 regional meet.
For Fruitport, a collection of seniors with plenty of varsity experience has the Trojans feeling confident about their chances of competing with O-K Black powerhouse Mona Shores and rival Reeths-Puffer.
Last year: finished fourth in the O-K Red, fifth at Division 1 regionals
Head Coach: Roger Glass
Key Returners: senior Bekah Schrader (All-Conference in 2016), senior Audrey Reus, junior Ally Kingma, junior Jamie Gretzinger.
Players to Watch: senior Christina Byrne, senior Calista Rockwell, senior Audrey Izokaitis, senior Samantha Kersman, junior Whitney Engelman, junior Maddie Monroe and junior Macy Hodges.
“Last year, we finished fourth in the O-K Red, but felt like we were competitive with the top teams,” said Glass. “We hope that the experience we have will pay off this year. Our goal is to win the conference and have a good shot at making the state tournament.
“We just finished a two-day tournament up in Traverse City on some very challenging courses. We had a tough first day, but improved our team score by 40 strokes on the second day. It’s still very early, so we are working the bugs out of our game. Putting is an area we need to improve on in order to improve our individual scores.”
ON 2017 LINEUP
“Our top four golfers are solid, and I feel like they can all be shooting in the low to mid 40s by season’s end. My fifth and sixth spots are up for grabs, and we will just have to wait and see who steps up.
“My top four are Bekah Schrader, who was All-Conference last year and is a four-year varsity starter. She should be the anchor for our lineup. Audrey Reus is also very experienced and can go low if she avoids any blow-up holes. Ally Kingma really came on strong at the end of last year, and she appears to have started where she left off. Our forth golfer is Jamie Gretzinger, and she is just a solid ball striker who moved up to varsity at the end of last year and has played well so far.
“Those competing for the fifth and sixth spots will have to battle it out, and they have to develop more consistency and avoid the big numbers. Christina Byrne played really well up in Traverse City and is my No. 5 golfer at this point.
“Our O-K Red Conference season starts off Thursday as we host the season opener jamboree at the Grand Haven Golf Club. This season should be a fun ride and these are just a great group of girls!”
The three-time defending state champs have already started their 2017 season with some successful outings.
The Lakers defeated Division 1 Hudsonville in a dual match last week, 358 to 367. Madelyn Nelson led the Lakers with a 76, sophomore Phoebe Saunders added an 85 and Hannah Klein chipped in with a 92.
The Lakers finished third at the Jenison Invitational on Thursday with a 401 team score. Madelyn Nelson took individual medalist honors with an 84, while Hannah Klein added an 85 to finish in second place overall. The team was without the services of Saunders, which left a bevy of inexperienced golfers behind her seeing their first real varsity invitational experience.
The Lakers will take on the Fruitport Invitational on Thursday, followed by the Mona Shores Tournament on Friday.
Here’s a look at how the Lakers stack up this fall:
Last year: O-K Blue Conference champs; Division 3 state champions
Head Coach: George Bitner
Key Returners: senior Madelyn Nelson, junior Hannah Klein and sophomore Phoebe Saunders.
Key Newcomers: Alana Sprague, Kate Galloway, Jillian Gable, Chloe Garhek, Zoe Russing, Kayla Raschke, Maggie Mahoney
"We should have another solid team this fall, said Bitner. “We have a strong core group with Madelyn Nelson, Hannah Klein and Phoebe Saunders, and we have some talented golfers behind them that just need a little more experience.
“If we can get some of those girls into the mid 40s, we should be OK. Madelyn had a 76 in her first match and Hannah had an 85 with Phoebe adding an 85, as well. That’s a really consistent start to our scoring.
“Kate Galloway and Jillian Gable are relatively new to golf, but they have very nice natural swings, so I’m hoping with more practice time and some tournament experience, they will be contributors relatively quickly. We also have some talented golfers in Alana Sprague, Chloe Garhek, Zoe Russing, Kayla Raschke and Maggie Mahoney, who will make every practice a competitive environment.
“The team chemistry has been great so far, and I know the girls will all be focused on improving their own games, so they can help the team win.”
"We had a very successful first season in the O-K Blue Conference, and we’re hoping that will be the case again this year. We realize we probably have a target on our backs at this point, but we know we just need to take care of business on the golf course, stay focused and beat the course.”
Last year: Finished third in the O-K Black, finished sixth at regionals
Head Coach: Brett Westerlund
Key Returners: seniors Summer Woodring, Rachel Pierce and Paige Stanley.
Players to Watch: Aurora Wilks and Jaydie Hanks
“As a team, we are looking to improve throughout the year,” said Westerlund. “We have good numbers with 13 girls on the team this fall. They have been working hard and I’m confident that will show as we get into September and October.”