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Whitehall senior is Division I-bound for bowling; golf is for ‘fun,’ but she keeps winning

Karli VanDuinen commits to Arkansas State bowling over weekend, then turns around and wins third GMAA golf title.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

TWIN LAKE — If golf is what Karli VanDuinen is doing purely for “fun” these days, imagine how tough she might be in her primary sport of bowling.

Last weekend, VanDuinen committed to Division I bowling power Arkansas State University after a 3,600-mile road trip in which she visited multiple schools. On Wednesday, the Whitehall senior shot a 4-over 76 at Stonegate Golf Club to win her third Greater Muskegon Athletic Association golf tournament title going away.

GMAA runner-up Orianna Bylsma of Montague carded an 83 in leading the Wildcats to a second-straight team championship in the event. VanDuinen’s Vikings squad took second.

“It’s been up and down,” VanDuinen said about her golf season. “I’ve taken a lot of breaks for traveling, so it’s been rough.”

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)

VanDuinen is a competitor. She wants to win at everything, but admits golf is more laid-back for her than bowling.

VanDuinen is 3-for-3 in GMAA golf titles. She did not participate in the event as a sophomore because of her transfer from Reeths-Puffer.

“(This golf season has) been interesting,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve had good (rounds) and bad ones. I haven’t really devoted a lot of time to it this year.”

VanDuinen’s low round of the season came when she fired 75 at White Lake Golf Club.

On Wednesday, it was her putting that made the difference. She birdied four holes, including each of the last three in a strong finish.

Last fall, she tied for seventh at the Division 3 state finals with a 77 in the one-day event at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers East. As a Reeths-Puffer freshman, she was part of a team that placed second at the Division 2 state finals in 2018.

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)

VanDuinen is hoping to end her high school athletic career on a strong note in both golf and bowling. She is not quite sure how her Whitehall bowling season will look, given her schedule competing on statewide and regional levels outside of high school.

Last bowling season, she was a top-eight finisher in the MHSAA Division 3 state finals. On the Michigan Junior Masters Association circuit, she’s won eight titles.

“I think the competition’s different,” VanDuinen said. “I was with my best friends on the (Whitehall) bowling team. Like with outside bowling, I was actually, like, focused.”

VanDuinen is the type of athlete who elevates her performance as the level of competition rises.

At Arkansas State, she’ll be bowling with one of the top programs in the country. The Red Wolves have made the NCAA Championships 13 straight times. Last season, they were national runners-up for the second time in program history.

A visit to the Jonesboro, Ark., campus sealed the deal for VanDuinen. She plans to study sports management there.

“It was, like, eye-opening. You really know the school after you see it,” she said.

“I really liked the coach (Justin Kostick) and the girls were really friendly. The vibe was just right and I really liked the town or the city of it because it wasn’t too big but it wasn’t too small at the same time.”

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

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