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Bittersweet end to memorable chapters for Whitehall golf standout and coach

Karli VanDuinen finishes as state runner-up to cap fantastic career, while Greg Boughton coaches final event after 50 years at Vikings helm.

Photos by Scott DeCamp and Letisha Mikkelsen

EAST LANSING – Saturday was a bit of a bittersweet day for Karli VanDuinen and Greg Boughton.

It marked the end of an era for the Whitehall golf standout and her coach, who are both preparing for the next chapter but are filled with gratitude for the experiences they’ve had with the Vikings.

VanDuinen placed second in the Division 3 state finals this weekend at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West, where Boughton coached his final event after 50 years as the face of Whitehall golf. The Vikings finished 10th as a team, one spot better than 2020.

VanDuinen said she’s sad that her high school golf career is over, but at the same time she’s excited for what lies ahead. She will be bowling at Division I Arkansas State University.

In this file photo, Whitehall senior Karli VanDuinen earned medalist honors at the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association golf tournament for the third time in as many chances Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, at Stonegate Golf Club in Twin Lake, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

“I’m very honored and grateful for the opportunities that I got. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I learned a lot as a person,” VanDuinen said about her highly successful golf career, which featured two top-10 state finals finishes and three Greater Muskegon Athletic Association titles, among other achievements.

“It taught me to be responsible for my actions on the course and it taught me a lot of mental skills that I wouldn’t be (the person she is) without them today. I truly am thankful for everything.”

Last year, VanDuinen shot 77 to place seventh in the one-day Division 3 state finals across the street at Forest Akers East.

This weekend’s state finals were restored back to the traditional two-day event. VanDuinen shot 6-over 78 Friday and 3-over 75 in wet, chilly and windy conditions Saturday for a two-day score of 153.

Macomb Lutheran North sophomore Lauren Timpf ran away with medalist honors, firing a 6-under 66 Friday and 1-over 73 Saturday to win by 14 strokes (139).

Macomb Lutheran North’s Lauren Timpf hits her approach on No. 15 at the Division 3 state finals Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West in East Lansing, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood captured the team title with a total score of 694. Grosse Ile was runner-up at 700.

Whitehall shot 771 as a team, followed by Spring Lake in 14th (801). Rounding out the individual scorers for Whitehall on the challenging Forest Akers West course were sophomore Ava Garcia (92-93—185), seniors Lacey Herbert (115-109—224) and Chloe Essebaggers (114-111—225) and freshman Grace McDowell (105-105—210).

“With the wet conditions, oh, my goodness, I was glad that they played lift, clean and place today. It could have been kind of rough,” Boughton said.

Earlier in the week, Boughton quipped that he might have to ask co-coach Bill Borgman to drive the team van home because Boughton could be an emotional mess.

As it turned out, Boughton drove the van home by himself. The golfers rode home with their parents and Borgman had driven himself to the event.

“I didn’t shed a tear, though,” Boughton joked. “That was OK. That was OK.”

Whitehall golf coach Greg Boughton poses for a portrait during the Vikings’ practice at White Lake Golf Club Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Whitehall, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Boughton said that VanDuinen experienced some knee pain Friday, but she took some ibuprofen and that seemed to do the trick.

He said that on Saturday she made birdies and had some tap-in pars.

“She played well, and she was happy with her performance. We all felt good. We all felt good for Karli,” Boughton said.

Whitehall’s team stayed overnight Thursday and Friday at a hotel on the golf property, which made for a more enjoyable experience as they were able to have a nice breakfast together and warm up without having to pile into the van and pick up fast food along the way.

VanDuinen said that being able to experience another state finals weekend with the team made it even more special.

“You do everything as a team and to see them happy and enjoying themselves out there, especially the seniors, being their last time (made it special),” she said. “It just made it more fun for all of us after we were done golfing, too. It was fun to hang out and kind of get our minds off it and just enjoy each other’s company.”

Whitehall girls golf coaches Greg Boughton, left, and Bill Borgman, second from right, watch as Vikings players, from left, Chloe Essebaggers, Ava Garcia, Lacey Herbert and Grace McDowell work on their game Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, at White Lake Golf Club in Whitehall, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

VanDuinen cherishes the two years she played for Boughton.

She attended Reeths-Puffer as a freshman, helping the Rockets place second as a team in the Division 2 state finals. She had to sit out her sophomore golf season at Whitehall because of transfer rules.

“I mean, (Boughton is) so nice and I love having him around,” VanDuinen said. “The fact that he can (coach for 50 years) and just be really happy, it’s crazy. Like, he really enjoys it. He’s happy to give it up but he’s also sad.”

Borgman will take over as head coach for Whitehall’s girls and boys golf teams. He and Boughton have coached together in the boys program for 25 years and in the girls program for seven seasons.

Truthfully, Boughton is not going anywhere. He intends on helping with the Whitehall golf programs whenever he’s needed.

“Maybe it will hit me later. Like I say, we’re not packing up and going to Florida,” Boughton said. “We’ll still have relationships with the girls and families. Let me tell you something: The families were phenomenal.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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