Spring Lake girls golf team takes care of business at home jamboree

Josh VanDyke • Sep 15, 2017 at 12:51 AM

SPRING LAKE — The Spring Lake girls golf team came into Thursday’s O-K Blue Conference jamboree as heavy favorites to repeat as runaway league champions.

The Lakers had already built a comfortable 77-stroke lead over the field, and looked to take advantage of their only home meet of the season at the Spring Lake Country Club.

The three-time defending Division 3 state champions did just that, as they carded a 171 team score, 12 strokes ahead of second-place NorthPointe Christian at 183 and 18 strokes ahead of third-place Coopersville at 189.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central came in fourth with a 205, Grand Rapids West Catholic came in fifth with a 217, Allendale was sixth with a 220, Comstock Park carded a 231 for seventh place and Sparta finished eighth with a 268.

Junior Hannah Klein carded a 39 to lead the Lakers, followed closely by senior Madelyn Nelson with a 40 and sophomore Phoebe Saunders with a 44.

Kayla Raschke added a 48 and Alana Sprague had a 49 to round out the team scoring for the Lakers.

“Phoebe and Hannah were only three-tenths apart on their season averages,” said Spring Lake head coach George Bitner. “Phoebe had a 36 yesterday and Hannah had a 38. Those two have been close pretty much the entire season, and that has really helped us keep our team scores low. Madelyn has been very consistent all season, too, and she had a pretty solid round today.

“We had a 48 and a 49 from our Nos. 4 and 5 golfers, so that helped. That’s the first time that we’ve gotten those kinds of scores from the last two spots in our lineup. We need to keep those last two scores in the 40s if we are going to contend for a state title this year.”

Bitner has resorted to positive reinforcement to urge his golfers into performing with consistent confidence.

“The top three are doing really well,” he added. “They are in the high 30s on their averages. Hannah has gone 38, 38 and 39 in her last three matches, so she’s getting very consistent with her scores. I brought some chocolates out today, and I was handing it to her every few holes. I told her, ‘If you keep shooting in the low to mid 30s, you’ll keep getting spoiled like this.’”

With the championship-level expectations surrounding the Spring Lake girls golf program, however, Bitner still had some things to harp on his players about.

“Hannah and Madelyn both bogeyed on No. 9, and Phoebe double bogeyed on No. 7, so we have some work to do still,” he said with a smile. “I wanted Phoebe to not decelerate on the way down the fairway, and she was going to the right on a lot of her shots.

“I didn’t watch much of Madelyn’s round today, because I don’t usually have to worry about her, and Hannah seemed to be doing pretty well today, too. We had a few girls with 7s and 8s. We need to get some of those holes down. It’s a work in progress, but everyone is taking a step in the right direction.

“This is a tough course, and everyone had a tough time in some area or another.”

Championship Pedigree

The Lakers are currently ranked eighth in the top 10 of the MIGCA.com Division 3 rankings, but Bitner and the Lakers are more concerned about where they will be by Oct. 12 when they take on the regional field at the Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids.

“People think we should just win the fourth in a row, but I have to have proof that we can put up those numbers,” Bitner said. “We still aren’t quite there yet, and I haven’t seen much information on a lot of the teams that are in our regional.

“There’s a fair amount of teams in our conference that are also in our regional, which gives us some confidence that we can do well there, but without any information on the other half of the field, it’s hard to guess where we stand.”

The Lakers will have plenty of time on the links in the coming weeks, including four straight days of competition next week.

The Lakers take on the Kenowa Hills Invitational today, followed by a league jamboree at Quail Ridge on Monday, a meet in North Muskegon on Tuesday, a league jamboree at Western Greens on Wednesday and another league jamboree at the Mines on Thursday.

“We’re going to have plenty of time to work on things next week,” added Bitner. “By the end of the week, I’m sure the girls will know what works and what doesn’t work. It’s going to be a long week of golf.”

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