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Regional medalist Karli VanDuinen powers Whitehall back to golf state finals

Vikings senior has enjoyed a spectacular season, including a near-school-record 66 last week.

File photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

Karli VanDuinen added another bullet point to her impressive high school golf resume on Tuesday.

The Whitehall senior shot a 77 at Cadillac Country Club to win medalist honors going away at a Division 3 girls golf regional. Her Vikings team placed second at 373, five strokes behind first-place Forest Hills Eastern, to finish runner-up and earn a spot in the Oct. 15-16 state finals at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West.

VanDuinen beat runner-up finisher Sophie Skoog of Forest Hills Eastern by eight shots.

“Just hitting the ball straight was a big aspect. Getting it off the tee without a lot of trouble was different than my other rounds,” said VanDuinen, who added that her chipping also was key.

VanDuinen recently announced her commitment to Division I Arkansas State University for bowling, but she’s enjoying a spectacular golf season. Last week, she fired a 6-under 66 in the Reeths-Puffer Invitational at Lincoln Golf Club, which is believed to be one off the school-record score shot by Laura Kueny.

Whitehall senior Karli VanDuinen reacts after she drops a long birdie putt on the 17th green during the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, at Stonegate Golf Club in Twin Lake, Mich. VanDuinen earned medalist honors for the third time in as many chances. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

On Sept. 22, VanDuinen captured the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament title for the third time in as many chances. She was not eligible to golf her sophomore year because of her transfer from Reeths-Puffer to Whitehall.

VanDuinen earned regional medalist honors as a Reeths-Puffer freshman in 2018, when the Rockets went on to finish runner-up at the Division 2 state finals.

Last season, Whitehall won a regional title as VanDuinen finished third individually. The Vikings placed 11th in the state finals at Forest Akers East, where VanDuinen tied for seventh.

The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying squads advance to the state finals. Spring Lake secured a state-finals berth by placing third Tuesday at 377. Ludington’s Emmy McKinley (86), Grant’s Nadia Zerlaut (88) and Big Rapids’ Kiali Stout (90) qualified for the state finals individually.

Spring Lake was led by Zoe Dull and Clara Saunders, who both shot 91. As a team, Ludington just missed state-finals qualification by taking fourth (389). Fremont was seventh (408), Grant ninth (426) and Oakridge 12th (502). Fruitport competed, but did not register a team score.

For Whitehall, VanDuinen set the tone as she always does.

“She started off on the range just striping the ball and playing pretty well. And then got on the course and, you know, a little bit of a slow start but nothing drastic,” Whitehall co-coach Bill Borgman said, referring to VanDuinen’s three-putt bogey on No. 1.

“She got it together and made a lot of pars. She finished with 40 on the front nine, made the turn to the back and I think she started off with a bogey and the next hole I think she birdied. She played pretty well on the back nine, shooting a 37 with two birdies on the back and a lot of pars.”

Whitehall senior Karli VanDuinen, left, is congratulated by Vikings coach Greg Boughton after she earned medalist honors for the third time in as many tries in the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association golf tournament Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, at Stonegate Golf Club in Twin Lake, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Rounding out the top-four scorers for Whitehall were sophomore Ava Garcia (94), who finished just outside the top 10 individually, senior Chloe Essebaggers (98) and freshman Grace McDowell (104).

In the seven years Borgman and Greg Boughton have coached together, Whitehall has qualified for the state finals five times.

“The girls stepped up their games and did well,” Boughton said. “We were thinking there were five teams that could make it to state, so we got in there second. … It was a good day – good day all the way around.”

Borgman believes VanDuinen should be in the mix to compete for an individual state title next weekend.

She’s won practically every tournament she’s played this season. One more big tourney to go.

“I’m going to see what I can do and just try my best and go from there,” VanDuinen said about the state finals.

“I just really want to finish, like, top five. But, I mean, if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”

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

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