Chippewa golfers look to make history at State Finals

 

Manistee’s Connor Mrozik coaxes a putt to go in at the Division 3 regional tournament at Lakeside Links in Ludington on June 2. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

Manistee’s Connor Mrozik coaxes a putt to go in at the Division 3 regional tournament at Lakeside Links in Ludington on June 2. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

Manistee’s boys golf team will play with urgency and focus at the Division 3 state finals beginning Friday.

After all, four of the five golfers who qualified for the finals are seniors in the last athletic contests of their high school careers.

But not so much in their preparation for the 36-hole state tournament, for the same reason.

Chippewas coach Mike Swanson said that his team knows they have the tools to succeed, they just have to execute their shots.

“My job mostly is to get them to relax, and that will be a lot easier because they’ve all been there, and they all have experience,” Swanson said. “Trying harder doesn’t work very well in golf. Relaxing and hitting shots that you know you’re capable of is what works so pushing at this time I haven’t found to be a very successful strategy going into a tournament.”

There is no one go-to golfer on the team. Each of those seniors, Will Shriver, Connor Mrozik, Cameron McElrath and Avery Kiefer, along with junior Eric McElrath, has been the tournament medalist of at one event this season.

Shriver shot the low score at the Division 3 regional, a 76 at Lakeside Links on June 2, to help Manistee to a second-place finish as a team, and Cameron McElrath’s 78 at the Charlevoix Country Club was the low score in the district tournament, of which the Chippewas won the championship.

Last year Manistee finished 5th in the state finals, which was won in a runaway by Lansing Catholic, who return enough of that team to be the favorite to repeat this year.

Lansing Catholic senior Owen Rush was the only golfer to break 70 at his regional tournament, at the par-72 Twin Brooks Golf Club in Chesaning. The Cougars shot a team score of 305, also best in the regional round, followed by Frankenmuth (318) and Jackson Lumen Christi (319).

Manistee shot a team score of 329 at Lakeside Links, a somewhat disappointing 4 shots behind regional champion Big Rapids.

Swanson said that Lansing Catholic repeating is no sure thing.

“In any sport, in order to win a state title, everything has to fall together at the right time,” he said. “There are going to be 15 very good golf teams down there, and whoever wins will be the one that’s peaking at the right time.”

Of course, Swanson hopes that team will be his.

“If they all played their best round, we’d be in the hunt,” he said. “If they all play their worst round, we’ll be way out of it. I try to get them in a position to do their very best and whatever happens, happens. That’s how I look at golf.”

Last year’s fifth-place finish was the best in the history of the program. Swanson said that taking a step forward will be a team goal.

“We’d have to improve, and the bar is set pretty high this year for these guy,” Swanson said. “I’d like to rank in the top couple of public schools that are down there.”`

The Division 3 state championship tournament will tee off at Forest Akers East on the campus of Michigan State University at 9 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday.

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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