Spring sports preview: McGannon's return boosts SL

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:28 PM

Spring Lake’s varsity boys golf team has won three conference championships in a row, and claiming a fourth is within the Lakers’ grasp, especially after a former team member is back in the mix.

Senior Henry McGannon, who began his high school career at Spring Lake before moving to Western Michigan Christian High School last year, is back at Spring Lake for his senior campaign.

McGannon had a phenomenal junior campaign. He shot a round of 2-under par to win medalist honors at the River Valley Conference meet at The Meadows in Allendale, then helped the Warriors place 11th at the Division 4 state finals.

“His demeanor is excellent, and he shows great moxy on the golf course,” Lakers’ coach George Bitner said. “He’s got the perfect temperament for a golfer. When you see him, you don’t know whether he just birdied a hole or double-bogeyed a hole. He doesn’t let either one bother him. He doesn’t get rattled.”

Joining McGannon on the Lakers’ varsity roster is Ben Kramer, along with Bricker Reed and Connor Love.

That group will attempt to make up for a trio of defections from the team. Three seniors who had played previously decided to go out for other sports this spring.

“That’s the way it goes,” Bitner lamented. “We had a good group, but three seniors decided not to come out, so now I’m four deep, and we’re going to try a couple new boys out to see how they fit in.”

Bitner said Kramer has improved quite a bit over the offseason, and noted that Bricker Reed has grown seven inches, which has changed the way he plays the game. Love was a steady golfer who won medalist honors at a few events last spring.

“That group is going to be my strength,” Bitner said. “Then it’s going to be our fifth and sixth golfers by committee. It’s whoever wants it bad enough.”

Candidates for those final varsity spots include Nic Ellingboe and Tanner Debien, a pair of juniors who have looked good early on. Harrison Swanson, George Nietering and Brendan Peel will also battle for those positions throughout the spring.

The Lakers won conference and district titles a year ago before coming up short at the regional meet. Bitner said he can see his team performing every bit as well this season.

“We should be in the running for the conference, and there’s a good chance we get out of districts,” he said. “The regionals are just so tough with all the Grand Rapids schools.”


Four years ago, Grand Haven varsity golf coach Randy White pulled five freshmen up to his varsity lineup. The Bucs took their lumps that year, but as time went on, the program grew as those freshmen grew up.

This spring, that group of freshmen are now seniors, and White expects bigger and better things from the Buccaneers.

That group of seniors includes Patrick Ferris, Mark Nalley, Kevin LaCroix, Adam Cherry and Jack Northman. Ryan Christiansen and Jake Lovett are also seniors on the roster this spring.

“Four years ago, we didn’t have much depth, so we moved all those guys up, and now they’re seniors, they’re all mature, and I think we’ll have a pretty solid team,” said White, who recently returned from a weekend of watching golf at The Masters in Augusta, Ga.

“We’re looking at seven seniors on the varsity squad, and some pretty solid juniors and sophomores right behind them. We have 12 freshmen and sophomores on the JV team, and those guys are pretty good, too.

“We’ve been trying to develop a program the last five years, and it’s starting to come together pretty good.”

White listed Reid Murphy, a junior, and Matt Nalley, a sophomore, as two strong returners who will add depth to the Bucs’ lineup. In addition, Evan Mowery will compete for one of the top spots in the lineup, while juniors Noah Baumgartner, Michael Aspenson and Alex Crandle will add depth to the team.

White has high expectations for this group.

“I think we’re capable of winning the O-K Red this year if the guys state focused and if they really desire to win it,” he said. “I think they have the ability to do it. It’s just one of those things, coming out of a cold season, not getting a lot of good practice in right now, it’s how quickly can we get ready. How focused are win in practice.”

The Bucs will get a good feeling for how they’ll stack up in the league on Tuesday as East Kentwood hosts the O-K Red preseason tournament.


Just to players return for the Fruitport varsity boys golf team this spring — Colton Blanchard and Austin Buckingham.

Both are seniors who will look to add some stability to a team that includes nine freshmen.

“Colton was second-team all-conference last year, and he’s a pretty solid player,” coach Jim McGannon said. “He and Austin are going to be very competitive, but the make-up of our team beyond that is in flux. It’s almost all freshmen. A couple of them are good athletes.”

Cold, wet weather has made it difficult for McGannon to develop a more accurate assessment of his young team.

For now, he’ll rely heavily on the two known entities on his roster.

“Colton brings good leadership to the team, he communicates well, and he’s a mature young man,” McGannon said. “He’s very long. He hits it a mile. He’s working on his short game. He has a beautiful, fluid swing.

“Austin is a very athletic kid. He played on the football team. He’s so competitive. He’ll fight to have a decent score. His mechanics need to improve, but he doesn’t give up.”


The Warriors had a fantastic season a year ago, placing 11th at the Division 4 state meet.

Most members of that team are gone, although all-state senior Alec Breit returns for the Warriors.

Breit shot rounds of 79 and 81 at last year’s state finals, which was the low total on the team.

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