The 2015 Spring Lake girls golf team was a preseason favorite to repeat as Division 3 state champions, but few could have predicted the level of pure domination the Lakers demonstrated over the course of the fall season.
The squad boasted a loaded lineup of golfers, such as returning All-State performers junior Anna Kramer and senior Kayla Krueger; as well as All-Conference talents such as senior Emma Conroy, sophomore Madelyn Nelson and junior Jaedyn Shelton.
“What made this team so special was their dedication,” said Spring Lake girls golf coach George Bitner. “If they couldn’t make practice during the day, they would practice in the evening. It was like coaching a bunch of pleasant and happy sisters. They were close with one another, they all got along, and they even gave each other rides to practices.
“They practiced so hard in the summer. Whenever they had free time, they would go to the course and putt, or play, or chip, or hit range balls. Some of the girls started playing in the Spring Lake Invitational Tournament during the summer, too. They just put their heart and soul into to the program and the results showed the amount of hard work they put in.”
Bitner remembers vividly the exact moment his team took the next step toward defending their state championship.
“At the Big Rapids Invitational, they made the turn and the girls shot 41, 47, 42, 48 and 49,” he said. “I told them if they kept shooting like that, we were going to have challenge matches next week. Well, they took that to heart, and they all improved their scores by double digits on the back nine. I think at that point, they regained their focus and never lost sight of the goal after that.”
Bitner isn’t shy about where the 2015 team ranks in terms of historical perspective.
“Depth-wise, the best ever,” he said. “I’ve only had one state championship team before these last two, and that was a long time ago. They don’t give up and they seem to get better as the matches go along. They were up by 34 strokes after the first day of the state finals and they improved on that in Day 2 and didn’t rest on their laurels. They played even better and improved on their lead when most teams would have just coasted to the finish line.
“I don’t think I’ve ever coached a more determined group than that squad. They had plenty of talent, but what made them so special was how determined they were to succeed and how great the group chemistry was.”
Path to the State Championship
The Lakers won all six of their non-conference tournaments throughout the season by an average of 40 strokes, and captured their 11th consecutive Lakes Eight Conference Championship by 183 strokes.
Spring Lake’s season score of 635 made it seem as though the Lakers were playing a different game than Ludington (818), Fremont (877) and Fruitport (964), which finished second, third and fourth, respectively.
Spring Lake’s lineup swept the First Team All-Conference slots, with Anna Kramer (37-stroke conference average), Kayla Krueger (38.3), Madelyn Nelson (40.3), Emma Conroy (42) and Jaedyn Shelton taking spots 1-5. Hannah Klein finished with a 48.3 average, which was good for seventh in the conference and a spot on the second team.
At the Division 3 regional at Ada’s Egypt Valley Country Club, the Spring Lake girls golf team continued to impose their will on the competition.
The defending state champions and No. 1-ranked Lakers’ score of 332 easily topped next best Forest Hills Eastern’s 375 and the rest of the 11-team field.
Sophomore Madelyn Nelson was the top overall finisher on the day, turning in a career-best, 77.
“Madelyn really had a decent round, even with a couple 3-putts,” Bitner said after the tournament. “She had 10 pars and a birdie, and the rest were bogeys. She has been steady all year. On one of the holes she put a ball through a tree that didn’t touch a leaf. I told her dad, ‘This is her day.’
“She broke 80 for the first time, and she did in a tough course. I was really proud of her. She just focuses. It’s really rare to have kids do this, and I have four of them that do it with regularity.”
Kayla Krueger finished second overall with a 79, while Anna Kramer was fourth with an 83. Emma Conroy (93) and Jaedyn Shelton (102) rounded out the scoring for the Lakers.
Saving their best for last, the Spring Lake girls golf team took their game to another level at the Division 3 state finals.
The team took a 34-stroke lead after the first day and stayed red hot, capping off their impressive season with a 70-stroke victory at the Division 3 state finals at Forest Akers West golf course on the campus of Michigan State University.
The Lakers ended their season with the best state finals score across the state, at any division, with a 661 two-day score to repeat as Division 3 state champions.
Junior Anna Kramer took individual medalist honors with a two-day score of 154 (77,77), while senior Kayla Krueger finished third overall with a 158 (76, 82). Sophomore Madelyn Nelson (169), senior Emma Conroy (186) and freshman Hannah Klein (195) rounded out the scoring for the Lakers.
The accolades continued to pour in for the team after the season was over, with junior Anna Kramer, senior Kayla Krueger and sophomore Madelyn Nelson being named First Team All-State, while Kramer was named to the Super Team, which selects the state’s top golfers regardless of school size.
Senior Emma Conroy and junior Jaedyn Shelton were also named Honorable Mention All-State.
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