Chips in 11th after opening round

Manistee freshman Will Shriver watches his tee shot on No. 11 at Bedford Valley in Friday’s opening round of the Division 3 state finals. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

BATTLE CREEK — On his first hole of the day, Connor Mrozik punched out of the rough on No. 7, hit a nice approach shot to give himself a birdie try, and then three-putted for bogey.

On his next-to-last hole of the day, Blake Davis found trouble in the trees, the bunker and on the green to make a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 fourth for one of the few blemishes in a otherwise solid round.

Those two holes are an example of how Manistee played as a team in the first round of the Division 3 state finals on Friday at Bedford Valley in Battle Creek — good, but still room for improvement.

In their first trip to the state finals as a team since 2004, the Chippewas shot a 334 and are in 11th-place in the 15-team field.

“In a pressure situation, hitting your average is not a bad thing,” said Manistee coach Mike Swanson. “We’re pleased and we played well.”

Jackson Lumen Christi leads the pack at 304 while Lansing Catholic is in second (311) and Alma third (312).

Manisteee was led by freshman Will Shriver and sophomore Blake Davis, who both shot 10-over 82s. Senior Alex Lindeman (84) and freshman Connor Mrozik (86) completed the team sore while sophomore Matt Simmons (93) didn’t factor.

Davis, who started on No. 6, shot a 38 on the back and was in position to finish in the 70s before playing the final three holes at 6-over.

“I would be happy with (an 82) if someone told me that before I played; before the round that was one of my goals,” Davis said. “But once I realized I was playing good, I expected myself to shoot better.

“It was pretty much one bad hole and the rest of the round was good.”

Davis finished with a 44 on the back after a strong showing on the front.

“Blake played really well,” Swanson said. “We all know that he can hit the ball and play the game and he showed that today. He just got a little tired coming in.”

Shriver shot a 39 on the front and 43 on the back.

“Will was steady all day,” Swanson said.

Lindeman, who played in the state finals as an individual last year, shot 40-44.

“I felt like I played a lot better than last year,” said Lindeman, who shot 89-79 at Forest Akers East in 2012. “I played solid, the only thing that bothered me was the back nine, taking (back-to-back) doubles.

“My biggest struggle today was not hitting the spots I needed to hit,” he added. “I didn’t really have any problems off the tee or putting-wise, I just wasn’t hitting the ball as good as I should be.”

Mrozik said he only hit two fairways and battled the putter all day too.

“I could have done better, but I had a lot of putts that lipped out, he said. “The greens were kind of slow, I think.”

Swanson said the team, as a whole, could have shaved off a number of strokes on the greens.

“We didn’t make a whole lot of putts,” he said. “We lipped an awful lot of putts and I tried to tell them, if you’re putting good, you’re always around the hole. Lipping putts means you’re putting well, you’re hitting the hole, but today they didn’t drop.”

Simmons, who led the Chippewas with an 81 in the regional last week, started rocky and never really got on track.

“Matt got off to a bad start and had a bad day,” Swanson said.

The last time the Chippewas played in the state finals as a team, they only got in 18 holes in 2004 and didn’t make the first-day cut, which no longer exists. The current group is in the bottom third of the pack, but has a chance to move up in today’s final round.

“Goal No. 1 was we wanted to beat some of the teams there and goal No.2 is to be top 10,” Swanson said. “We’re going to try to move up a little bit.

“I’m really proud of the boys for what they’ve done so far. We’ll keep trying for another day to place as high as possible.”

Lindeman, the lone senior in the lineup, wants to close his prep career on a positive note.

“I’m satisfied with how we’re playing,” he said. “We’re here, we made it, we don’t have anything more to worry about after this, so we might as well go out tomorrow and play our best.”

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