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Duncan MacLean • May 15, 2018 at 12:44 AM

SPRING LAKE — Home cooking is a welcome comfort following a road trip, but the pressures of returning to action can sully vacation vibes.

The Spring Lake boys golf team hosted their O-K Blue Conference Jamboree at Spring Lake Country Club on Monday afternoon, finishing third overall on their home course with a total score of 171 strokes as they look to close out the conference season atop the standings.

Grand Rapids West Catholic continued their charge up the season leaderboard with their third straight first-place finish at 160. Grand Rapids Catholic Central took second at 163, while Allendale finished fourth at 181, Sparta fifth at 183, Coopersville sixth at 186 and Comstock Park seventh at 194.

Nick Krueger led the Lakers, shooting a two-under-par 35, followed by Jack Ogden and Jake Johnson at 45, Jack Johnson and Zach Lisman at 46, and Chance Fry at 47.

Krueger’s score buoyed heavy performances by the middle of the Spring Lake lineup — disappointing results for first-year head coach Ben Armey considering their home-course advantage.

“Our middle-of-the-road guys were two or three strokes higher than they should be,” Armey said. “With two or three strokes per guy, that gets tough to come back from.

“They are shooting low 40s here in practice, then coming in at 45, 46, 47 is frustrating. That is just the mental game. We were definitely struggling off the tee box today. Once the guys got out into the fairways and green, we were all right.”

Just two scores came in equal to or under par for the front nine of SLCC: Krueger’s 35 and Anderson Ryan’s 37 out of West Catholic. The Laker junior was able to levy his knowledge of the course and reverse the driving issues of his teammates to hit one of his best rounds of the season with birdies on holes four and nine, and pars on the rest.

“I hit my driver well today. If you hit your driver well here, then you’re going to have wedges in your hand,” Krueger said. “Today was one of my better days. I haven’t been playing slow, just kind of average this season. Today was one of those days where I put everything together, so that was good.

“My wedges weren’t great. I wasn’t putting them really close. I could have had a few more birdie looks, so cleaning those up will be good.”

The third-place finish was enough to keep Spring Lake in the lead of the conference, but a late-season push by West Catholic and consistent play by Catholic Central is putting the pressure on as the conference race comes to a close.

“West Catholic has won the last three events. It was us and Catholic Central up top, now they are putting together a strong finish and this is our second third-place in a row, so we have to get back into those top spots here,” Armey said. “We have three more rounds of nine to determine the champion. The good news is we held onto first. We have potential to win; we just have to turn it around. I feel good about where we are at.”

The final regular-season jamboree tees off today with the 18-hole conference finale coming next week at Kaufman (Golf Club). The boys’ conference standings are scored with a point system rather than total strokes, so the Lakers will need to finish with a few overall wins to secure their title.

Following the conclusion of the regular season, Spring Lake faces a tough task at their regional championship tournament, taking on Cedar Chase Golf Club on June 1.

After a team-bid to the state tournament last year, the Lakers hope to do the same this season but will have to dial in their play and turn in a synchronized best effort at regionals to do it.

“It is set up nice for us, Cedar Chase is a tough course,” Armey said. “If they can put it all together, all of them, and we shoot what we are capable of we definitely have a chance to making it as a team.

“We definitely have to clean it up off the tee. Our putting has been decent. It is going to take getting everyone into the low 40s. So, cleaning up our tee shots and our approach shots from 100-yards in will make a big difference.”

The final push into the postseason begins today at Western Greens Country Club in Coopersville at 2:30 p.m.

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