New league format

GNC?using new golf format with multiple 9-hole events

Marquette’s Jordan Jurmu chips toward the green at the Marquette Golf Club Wednesday afternoon during the MHSAA Upper Peninsula boys golf finals. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

By DENNIS GRALL

ESCANABA — A tantalizing idea may add some extra pizzaz for high school golfers in the Great Northern Conference this spring.

Taking a page out of the PGA Tour’s Fed Ex Cup, the five-school loop — which consists of Marquette, Escanaba, Gladstone, Kingsford and Menominee — will initiate a point system for individual players and for both boys and girls teams.

“It’s been in the talking stages for a few years,” Escanaba High School coach Brian Robinette said Saturday during an interview at Escanaba Country Club.

Each GNC school is scheduled to host a nine-hole tournament with all league schools competing and players and teams earning points based on their finishes. Points will be allocated to teams on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis using the best four scores of the five-member teams, while individuals receive points on a 15-14-13-12 etc. format for the top 15 finishers.

“We have a good rotation of venues,” Robinette said of the Marquette Golf Club’s Heritage course, Escanaba Country Club, Gladstone Golf Club, Menominee Riverside and Iron Mountain Pine Grove.

“It will be for the body of work over the season instead of on a given day,” Robinette said of the goal of playing consistently strong golf — individually and as a team — all spring capped by the GNC finals, which will as usual rotate to each of the five layouts. This year’s meet is scheduled just before Memorial Day weekend at Pine Grove.

All point totals will then double at the GNC Finals, team and individually. “Everything will be amplified at the GNC Finals,” he said.

Robinette pointed out it is not unusual for a player or team at a one-day championship tournament to turn in an unusally strong or subpar performance.

“Consistency will get rewarded,” he said of the point system. “That will help promote practicing (more) to stay in (a team’s) the top five. Players will invest and take ownership,” noting the importance of staying in the top five to collect points in the five nine-hole events.

He recalled last spring when Gladstone seemed to have the best team “and clobbered our (Escanaba’s) boys, then we won the U.P. (title) by one stroke.”

He said the new format “takes our golf season and puts significance on six events,” noting teams will still be able to play in various multischool invitational 18-hole tournaments.

Robinette said the new format — which will also allow each golfer to discard one of their GNC scores — could also impact how golfers decide when it would be more beneficial to skip a golf event to concentrate on academics. In the past, 18-hole events require golfers to miss an entire school day, but now the nine-hole events could keep athletes in school until perhaps 1 p.m.

“The GNC now actually has a season and we will base our season around GNC tournaments. All six (GNC) events will be built into the schedule first,” he said. “Everything else is extra.”

Escanaba held its GNC meet on May 3, Menominee on Monday, Gladstone on Tuesday, with Kingsford’s to be on May 21.

Because of the wet, snowy and cold spring, Marquette wasn’t able to schedule a specific GNC meet, but MSHS athletic director Alex Tiseo and Marquette golf coach Ben Smith said they plan to use the school’s only home meet this spring, the Marquette Invitational on May 23, as its GNC home meet, using a yet-to-be-determined set of nine holes to count in the conference.

The U.P. Division 1 boys finals will be held on Thursday, May 31, at Sweetgrass Golf Club for the first time. The D-1 girls will play at Escanaba CC.

Dennis Grall is the retired sports editor at the Escanaba Daily Press.

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