The Bucs, who adopted The Meadows as their home course this season, finally looked at home despite awful playing conditions. Grand Haven shot a team score of 319, with junior Luke Deater leading the charge with an impressive 6-over 78. However, Grand Haven finished fifth in the competition, needing to place inside the top three teams to qualify for state.
Consistent all season, Grand Haven boasted all five scores at 85 or better. Junior Broc Wilson shot an 81 from the No. 1 spot, while sophomore Logan Melcher and junior Tai Chamberlain shot 8-over par 80s. Kai Rensland shot an 85.
“Our goal for the season was 320 and we beat that today,” said Bucs head coach Taylor Schriber. “I’m proud of everyone on the team, they all worked hard and gritted out solid scores today.
“They had a great, consistent season. Our score would have qualified for state last year, so that’s disappointing, but we have all five kids back next season, so we’re ready to make it further next year.”
Although Grand Haven narrowly missed out on a chance to battle at the state finals next weekend, Schriber was in good spirits regarding the team’s future.
“With four juniors and a sophomore on the team, this is a good start,” he said. “Every single one of them now has the feeling that they can do this. With another year of maturity, they will be exciting to watch. They progressed this year, and I expect them to progress further over the summer.”
The Meadows, boasting four reachable par 5s and a plethora of short par 4s, relies on constant wind as a defense mechanism. There was no breeze Thursday, but steady rainfall gave players something else to think about.
“The weather was tough out there today which meant play could have gone any way, so credit the boys for fighting and competing the way they did,” Schriber said.
Proving how tough Grand Haven’s competition was all season, three teams from the O-K Red Conference moved on the state finals. Rockford led the way with a steady 294. Caledonia, spearheaded by a near-perfect 4-under 68 by Cam Poll, finished second at 307. Hudsonville finished third at 313, edging Mona Shores by one shot.
“We finished fourth in our conference,” Schriber said. “We traded blows with Caledonia and Hudsonville all year, so it could have been any one us making it through. Rockford was a lock, they have some great golfers who can shoot really well and are consistently in the low 70s.
“Next year will be our year.”
Unfortunately for Grand Haven, the scores vastly improved from last year to this year. In 2018, 331 qualified for state finals, while 77 earned the final individual qualifying score. This year, at 319, Grand Haven finished fifth, and Deater’s 78 was five strokes off the cutoff for individual representation. Despite the improved scoring, Schriber didn’t necessarily believe it had to do with a rising level of statewide golf talent.
“It’s all hit or miss,” he said. “You never know what you are going to get out here, and with the weather we’ve had this spring, we’ve been lucky to get in some of our matches. It all depends on who comes to play a certain day.
“Repetition is huge. For a lot of our guys it’s their second or third regional, so next year it could bode well for them and allow them to make a deep run.”
Poll, after firing a 79 at regionals last year, shot an eye-popping 68 Thursday. The senior had every part of his game working on the rain-soaked morning, firing directly at pins.
While Poll stole the show with the event’s only under-par round, Portage Central junior Will Anderson shot a 72 to earn one of the three individual qualifying spots. Anderson won last year’s regional with an inspired 6-under 66 at Thornapple Pointe.
Forest Hills Central’s Isaiah Huempfner (72) and Grandville’s Matt DenHartigh (73) also earned individual trips to the state finals.
All five players on Rockford’s elite team finished inside the top 10 Thursday. Senior Kevin Healy and sophomore C.J. Stephan led the way with 1-over 73s. Stephan also dazzled onlookers with a hole-in-one. Nick Rupert and Nathan Barton shot 2-over 74s, and Oliver Haeberle shot a 76.
West Ottawa star feels heartbreak
West Ottawa’s Drew Dykens enjoyed a terrific senior season, frequently threatening for individual wins despite playing on a rebuilding team. He shot a 75 last year to qualify for state finals, but was unable to find the same magic this season.
Dykens again shot 75, but he knew after he signed his card that he had not done enough this time around, missing out on the individual qualifying cutoff by just two strokes.