NEWBERRY - Add boys golf to the sports St. Ignace rules in the Upper Peninsula.
The Saints won a boys golf title for the first time in school history, knocking off three-time defending champions Hancock 307-318 at Newberry Country Club on Friday in the MHSAA Division 2 U.P. Golf Championships.
The Saints reached new heights last season with a runner-up finish to the Bulldogs, and with all four scoring golfers returning, came up with a superb top-to-bottom performance led by No. 2 golfer Patrick Sweeney, who was medalist with 71.
"All the kids, all year, this was our goal on Day 1," St. Ignace coach Jason Latz said. "They worked all last summer on this. We knew we had the potential to win - they pushed each other a lot."
While Eric Hepker has been the Saints' top golfer most of the season, he struggled with a 79, but Sweeney took control of the course from the beginning with an eagle on No. 3 and shooting a 2-under-par 34 on the front nine.
"I got lucky on the front nine," Sweeney said. "I made some birdies that shouldn't have been birdies. Just my approach to the greens today did it for me."
Div. 2 Top 3:
Boys: 1. Patrick Sweeney, St. Ignace, 71; 2. Carter Hendricks, L'Anse, 73; 3. Austin Hansen,
Norway, 75; 3. Tristan Leaf, L'Anse, 75
On the par-4 No. 3, he barely missed a hole-in-one, sending a 317-foot drive to within 2 feet of the pin. He lipped out an eagle putt on the par-5 No. 6 hole, and on No. 7 he sent his drive over the trees to set up his approach shot.
"I hit my driver a lot, probably more than I should have," Sweeney said. "After the front nine, I just tried to play smart and finish strong."
The Saints, who won the Straits Area Conference championship, had their No. 5 golfer, Ellis Graham, shoot the same score as Hepker - a 79. One coach commented it's "unheard of" at this level of golf to have a No. 5 golfer shooting in the 70s.
"Any one of them is capable of coming in with the low score," Latz said. "I told the kids before day, our biggest obstacle is competing against ourselves."
Sweeney's 71 was two strokes ahead of L'Anse's Carter Hendricks, who finishes his high school career with one U.P. title and two runner-up finishes.
Hancock coach Joe Gervais said St. Ignace entered the clear favorite by virtue of its stellar season and familiarity with the course. This was the third time this season the Saints had played NCC; no Hancock golfer had ever played the course until Thursday's practice round.
"We were hoping to give St. Ignace a run for their money," Gervais said. "We knew we were going to have to shoot well, and we did that, but hat's off to St. Ignace. In four years, it's been a pretty good run."
Four-year senior Brett Hauswirth led the Bulldogs with a fifth-place finish with a 76. Fellow four-year player Jari Sague finished with an 81.
"They're all competitors, and they're all a little disappointed they didn't finish the four-peat. But hopefully after a little time passes they're realize how special that accomplishment is."