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Almont, Northern take teams to State Final

Photo courtesy of Jessie Freed

by Calli Newberry

The Port Huron Northern girls golf team led the Blue Water Area at the Division 2 State Final last weekend with an 11th-place finish at the Bedford Valley Golf Club in Battle Creek. 

For senior Madison Bajis, this was familiar territory as she’s competed in the state tournament each year since she was a freshman, and this was her third consecutive time qualifying with her team. She said even the wind and rain was familiar. 

“I was playing with another senior so we definitely made the most of it and just had fun,” she said. “We weren’t even mad at the point it was raining, every year we expect that at the state finals so it kind of made it like a normal state finals.”

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Bajis led the way with an eighth-place finish (81-79-160), which is likely to earn her a spot on the All-State roster that’ll be decided in the coming week. 

“We were really pleased that she made the top 10, that’s what her goal was,” head coach Jessie Freed said. “I think she was struggling a little bit mentally her game. She was kind of struggling a little bit with some of her shots, but honestly I thought she played great for the conditions and for coming off an injury.”

Freshman Sophie Harris also had a great showing for her first appearance at the state final. She finished 51st (96-92-188). Fellow underclassman Amolia Rossow, a sophomore, finished third on the team and 74th overall (103-98-201). And tying for fourth on the team and 78th overall were seniors Maddy Hemby (112-92-204) and Lucy Harris (103-101-204). 

Together, the girls combined for a team score of 744, just one stroke behind 10th-place East Grand Rapids. Dearborn Divine Child won the tournament overall with a score of 691. 

“I know that they did their best with the conditions that they had. It was really cold and it downpoured for a good chunk of the afternoon on Friday, and the course was just very soggy the whole time that we were there,” Freed said. “The girls had to play 20 holes on Saturday which is a lot. I know nerves were a factor for a lot of the girls because it was their first time being at the state tournament.”

Near the end of the first day, the course became too wet to continue. With two holes remaining, the tournament directors postponed the rest of the round to Saturday morning, leaving the girls with 20 holes left to play. 

“It started downpouring when we had four holes left. It had been kind of spitting all day but it was pouring the last couple holes,” Bajis said. “We were waiting for them to squidgy the greens because there were literal puddles on the green, so that was taking forever, and they couldn’t keep up with that so they just called it a day.”

The girls managed to bounce back and play even better the second day, however, improving from a team total of 383 on Friday or 361 on Saturday. Freed said along with the weather, new teams entering their division affected the Huskies’ performance. 

“Some teams who were Division 1 came down to Division 2, and we had some teams even from Division 3 come up to Division 2, so we weren’t used to seeing those teams and they played really well,” she said, “So that played a factor in our 11th-place finish. We also had a rough first day. We obviously played much better the second day.” 

The lone Blue Water representative at the Division 3 State Final in East Lansing at the Forest Akers West Golf Course was Marysville senior Addison Wallace. She finished 99th overall, improving from Friday to Saturday, with a score of 124-112-236.

The Almont girls golf team competed in the Division 4 State Final over the weekend in East Lansing at the Forest Akers East Golf Course. The Raiders finished 16th overall as a team with a score of 873. 

“I think we did pretty well for all these girls who it was their first year at the state finals, so just making it there was a pretty big accomplishment,” head coach Mark Bone said. “I think my expectations were mainly just to see them compete and see how they were going to handle that environment.”

Almont brought a rather young team to the tournament, as one senior, one freshman, and three juniors were led by a sophomore, Jesse Kautz. Bone said his players may have come with higher expectations that led to a lot of added pressure in addition to playing on a larger stage, but he was glad to see the way they handled themselves on the green. 

“I thought they did a great job of battling all weekend,” he said. “Just to see them struggle through it and keep their chins up the entire weekend was tremendous. And to see that little bit of frustration and desire to do better, from a coach’s standpoint that’s pretty cool because that’s what you want to see. You don’t want to see anyone give up or just be satisfied. You want to see them fighting the entire time and working hard.” 

Kautz finished 38th overall, playing a consistent game over the course of two days (93-93-186). 

“I think her score didn’t reflect her goals. I was hoping for scores in the 80s for her, and I know she’s very capable of that, but it’s also a huge learning experience for her,” Bone said. “I know in my heart she’ll do way better next year. I think it’s not the scores she really wanted but it will be a great opportunity for her that I know she’ll bounce back from and build off of.”

Junior Bella Moussiaux finished second on the team and 77th overall (109-105-214), while fellow junior Taylor Garabedian took 87th (104-123-227). Freshman Olivia Kotelnicki was 104th (123-132-255), and senior Lillian Winkler and Autumn Belch split the rounds between Friday and Saturday (114-144-258). 

Bone said he wanted each of his players to compete in the tournament as it was a full team effort to get there, and he was proud of their performances. 

“I think after they signed their scorecards and got everything attested, and once they got back to their teammates, everybody was all smiles,” he said. “They truly appreciated what they accomplished so it was pretty cool.”

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