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Depth, consistency lift Montague’s girls golf team to second straight state title

Wildcats hold off Lansing Catholic in fifth-player tie-breaker at two-day Division 4 state finals.

Photo by Letisha Mikkelsen and Scott DeCamp

EAST LANSING – Like a proud papa who tries not to show favoritism for one child over another, Phil Kerr says that both of his Montague girls golf teams’ state championships are special.

That’s right: Kerr and his Wildcats golfers have two “Mittens” from which to choose now. They’re back-to-back Division 4 champions.

It wasn’t as easy this time around, but Montague made it two in a row by edging Lansing Catholic in a fifth-score tie-breaker. Both teams shot two-day totals of 675, but the Wildcats emerged with the big trophy on a chilly, windy Saturday at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers East because their fifth player’s score was better than that from the Cougars’ corresponding spot in the lineup.

“I don’t want to compare it to last year, but it’s just so sweet to do it back-to-back – totally different feeling, completely different feeling,” Kerr said. “This entire season, we felt the weight of it. This was probably the most difficult season I’ve ever coached. We just had the weight of pressure, especially the seniors. We felt it all year.”

Montague girls golf coach Phil Kerr and senior Orianna Bylsma embraces following her round on day two of the Division 4 state finals Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers East in East Lansing, Mich. (Photo by Letisha Mikkelsen)

Last year’s golf state finals were reduced to one day because of the coronavirus pandemic. Montague ran away with the school’s first state title in a girls sport by firing a then-school-record 343, which was 27 shots better than Lansing Catholic.

The two-day format proved much more taxing for the Wildcats, but in Moreau’s mind, it was that much sweeter in the end.

“Last year was amazing and I’ll never take anything away from that – that was the best feeling in the world – but just to defend it (means more),” Moreau said.

“I think defending it means a little bit more to us just because of how much work we had to put in to defend it and how much more competition we had this year.”

Lansing Catholic made things much tougher on Montague than in last fall’s finals. The Cougars held a one-shot lead after the first round Friday, but the Wildcats’ consistency and depth ultimately won out.

All five players in the lineup for the Wildcats broke 90 both days. Their high score came from one player Friday and from another on Saturday. Over the two days, Montague’s fifth-player score was 10 shots better than Lansing Catholic’s.

“We trusted that fifth score. I think it’s the story of our team: We’re so deep, the depth of our team always is the story,” Kerr said. “It literally was the reason we won today because our fifth score mattered both days – and it was different girls both days. That’s just how we do it at Montague, I guess.”

Montague seniors Orianna Bylsma, left, and Gabby Moreau hold the Division 4 state chanmpionship trophy Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers East in East Lansing, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Seniors Orianna Bylsma and Gabby Moreau both posted top-10 individual finishes for Montague. Bylsma placed seventh (86-79—165), while Moreau was 10th (80-88—168).

Ann Arbor Greenhills freshman Mia Melendez finished at 1-under 143 (72-71) in the two-day event to earn medalist honors and edge Michigan Center senior Kamryn Shannon (70-74—144).

In the team competition, Lansing Catholic Central placed third (701), followed by Adrian Lenawee Christian (706) and Remus Chippewa Hills (722).

“I can’t wrap my head over it. It was definitely a little stressful at the end, but we pulled through,” Bylsma said. “We did what we had to do and all of our hard work paid off. We let our natural abilities of golf just kind of take over.”

Sophomore Mackenzie Goudreau, who set the program’s 18-hole scoring record this season with 77 at Old Channel Trail, shot 170 over two days (82-88).

Senior Claire Meacham finished at 174 (88-86), while junior Natalie Kellogg registered 175 (89-86).

To Goudreau, both championships are pretty equal. She said the Wildcats have had a lot of fun, and have been on a lot of journeys.

Golf wasn’t even on Moreau’s radar five years ago.

Now, she caps her high school career with two state championships, plus a top-10 individual finish.

“I didn’t even play golf five years ago. I hadn’t even touched a golf club in my life five years ago today,” she said. “And if you would have told me, ‘You’re going to win a state championship,’ I would have said, ‘I don’t play football.’

“I couldn’t have even imagined this. This is so surreal.”

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

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