GLADSTONE - Lexi Gussert is accustomed to athletic success, but even she was surprised at what she did Thursday at the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 3 girls golf championship.
The Forest Park sophomore claimed medalist honors with 90 at Terrace Bluff Golf and Country Club, finishing five strokes ahead of Cayla Massey of Cedarville.
Massey and her teammates were also surprised when they captured the team title. The Trojans finished at 431, 13 strokes ahead of Jeffers.
Lexi Gussert of Forest Park chips up the hill to the 15th green on Thursday at Gladstone’s Terrace Bluff Golf and Country Club. She was the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 3 girls medalist with a 90. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Dennis Grall)
Munising finished third with 459, led by Molly Matson's all-U.P. round of 108.
Gussert, a Class D all-state basketball player, opened with a quadruple-bogey nine on the first hole and then promptly kicked her game into high gear with birdie-3 on No. 2.
"I'm surprised. Honestly," Gussert said of her title.
After finishing third in the Skyline-Central U.P. conference meet, Gussert said taking first place was not in her plans.
"I figured I could probably place. I never thought I would shoot this good," she said. "I would pretty much say I had the game of my life."
She had one other birdie Thursday after going the entire season without any at all.
"It is overwhelming. I never thought I would do that well at golf. It is my laid-back sport," said Gussert, who also plays volleyball.
Informed that two other U.P. basketball standouts, Nicole Elmblad of St. Ignace and Megan Manninen of Westwood, were U.P. D-2 medalists in 2010 and 2011, respectively, she said, "That's cool. It is a good feeling (to be in that company)."
Gussert had trouble on the first hole, partially because a TV cameraman accompanied her group.
"It made me nervous. I was pretty shaky," she said. "I felt way more comfortable after the first hole."
She also made a critical adjustment after that hole, using her sand wedge for chip shots near the green after blasting her pitching wedge across the first green.
"I couldn't get the pitching wedge in the air," she said, indicating her height was better and she had better ball control with the sand wedge.
Asked how she handled the rough start, Gussert said "I laughed it off. I did feel more relaxed after the first hole. It was literally my only bad hole.
"I started to swing better and I tried to take a club down. I was smarter."
She four-putted the elevated 15th green after leaving her approach to the top right side above the hole.
"I was scared (of the first downhill putt) and and left it short, then I was too long," she said.
While golf is a fun interlude, basketball remains No. 1 for Gussert, who has already received scholarship offers from Wisconsin-Green Bay and Central Michigan. She is playing for a Mount Pleasant AAU team again this summer, with tournaments in Kentucky, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.
She is not on the school's track team but said, "Next year track might be a better decision. It is better to keep in shape."
Gussert said playing with Morgan MacArthur of Engadine, also an All-U.P. basketball player, and Tamara Moore of Big Bay de Noc was beneficial.
"They were so much fun. We had some good laughs," she said.
Massey, a junior, had a career-best round to finish second. The Trojans played the back nine in practice Wednesday, where she was more comfortable in the tourney.
"Once I started getting pars and bogeys I felt pretty good," she said. "I felt like this course was easier than most courses (after that practice). I was ready to come out and play."
Teammate Mary Eberts, third with 101, said the Trojans "put in a lot of work all season. All the girls stepped up a lot and our Nos. 3 and 4 golfers started taking it seriously."
Eberts said the Trojans did not set any team goals.
"This is a surprise. We didn't have any idea we'd win. It just kind of fell into our laps."
A third teammate, Taylor Falkey, also earned All-U.P. by finishing in the top 10 with 107.
Only four girls broke 50 on either nine. Gussert shot 46-44, leaving a birdie putt inches short on No. 18. Massey had 50-45, Eberts hit 52-49 and Carly Charlier of North Central shot 49-57-106.