SL golfers hope to avoid distraction at state meet

When a state tournament rolls around in any sport, coaches are often concerned about their players being affected by outside distractions. Spring Lake coach George Bitner is one of them. The longtime Lakers' coach is hoping the Homecoming festivities at Spring Lake this weekend won't be a downfall for his Lakers' squad, which is making its first state finals appearance since 2003.
Nate Thompson
Oct 14, 2011

Spring Lake will tee off at the Division 3 finals today at Forest Akers West Golf Course at Michigan State University in East Lansing. The second round of the finals will wrap up on Saturday.

“I hope their minds aren’t going to be wandering out on the course,” Bitner said. “But I guess if we were playing in the spring, they’d be distracted by prom.”
Bitner’s No. 1 player, junior Elinor Adams, is positive the Lakers will be zoned in and not thinking about their hair-dos for the Homecoming dance on Saturday.

“We’re bummed that we’re not going to be at school on Friday with everything that’s going on, but we’re not going to let it affect our game,” she said.

Adams shot a 91 at the Lakers’ regional in Big Rapids on Oct. 8, leading Spring Lake to a second-place finish behind Forest Hills Eastern. It’s the first time Spring Lake’s boys and girls golf teams have each qualified for state in the same calendar year in eight years.

Adams has more confidence with this finals appearance considering she also qualified as an individual a year ago. She shot a respectable two-day total of 175 to finish 13th overall. This time, she’s happy to have more familiar faces by her side.

“I’m going in the same as before. To just try to relax, have fun and play my game,” she said. “It feels great to have qualified as a team and that it’s not all me. We enjoy being with each other, so it will make it more fun.”

Spring Lake’s lineup at Forest Akers West will feature Adams, seniors Tori Kihnke and Chezney Peel, and freshmen Ginnie Olszewski and Karissa Raschke. The Lakers’ freshman came up big at the regional, shooting a 97 and 99, respectively.

Balance has been the Lakers’ forte this season, as each of their top six golfers have at one time been the team’s medalist.

“And the difference in averages between our No. 1 and No. 6 players is just 2.2 strokes,” Bitner said.

“It’s nice having five or six players that are so close together talent-wise,” Adams added. “It kind of takes the pressure off other people, knowing that anyone can step up.”

Adams has been the Lakers’ No. 1 player all season, however, and tributes her success to her father, Craig, who introduced her to the sport at a young age.

“The summer before going into high school is when I really started to take (golf) more seriously,” Adams said. “My dad’s helped me along. He’s always there trying to get me to relax and laughing along the way.”

The tough course at Forest Akers West is no laughing matter, Bitner said, and he expects scores to be higher than average for all teams involved. Bitner said the hazards and sand traps at the course present a big challenge.

“It’s almost better on certain Par 4s to hit in short of the traps and then chip your way onto the green,” he said. “So we’ve been working on our wedge shots a lot in practice and getting the ball in the air.”

If there’s one player he expects to have a strong showing at state, it would Adams, Bitner said.

“I don’t want to jinx her, but I got a new driver for her, and she hit six in a row straight as an arrow. We’ll be happy as a pig in slop if she can do that (today).”

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