By RYAN STIEG
Journal Sports Writer
CHAMPION – With a high chance of showers Friday, the Upper Peninsula Division 2 Golf Championship got everything finished before the rain started to pummel the greens at the Wawonowin Country Club.
The looming storms also caused the officials to change the tournament format, with the boys and girls playing a repeating nine holes instead of a straight 18, which seemed like a smart idea in the long run.
“We had to make a decision on the format we were going to play and I think it was the right decision to have the boys on the front nine and the girls on the back nine,” Iron Mountain head coach Harvey “Bucky” Johnson said.
“It was due to the weather situation and it really worked out in everyone’s favor because we got the whole tournament in, all 18 holes and all the kids played the same holes.”
In the end, the West Iron County boys’ team and the Manistique girls shined through the clouds to emerge as U.P. champs.
The Wykons were in a dogfight until the end with Iron Mountain and Norway, but WIC finished with 331 points, five ahead of the Mountaineers and seven ahead of the Knights.
WIC’s Riley Thomson earned medalist with a 74.
“This is a wonderful feeling,” Wykons’ head coach Mark Martini said. “We’ve had a really off time the last five or six years and last year, we got really close. This year, we got it done and we’ve been waiting for it all year.
“Riley had his best round of the year and most of his holes were flawless. He thought everything through and really played like a pro.”
Thomson was pleased with his accomplishment and said there wasn’t any specific part of his game that went well, but that it was just a good day all around.
“This is pretty awesome, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I was feeling good the whole round and it was just one of those days where things clicked for me. “
Iron Mountain finished just short of the Wykons and it came down to the last few golfers. Austin Blomquist finished tied for third place with Manistique’s Louis Berry, both with a 79.
“Austin had a really nice round for us and Matt (Opolka) did too,” Johnson said. “That was our lowest 18-hole total of the year. Austin has been a four-year starter and he broke his barrier this year. He’s had a hard time breaking 80, but he’s been doing that on a regular basis.
“The kids played a good round and we’re happy with second. We could’ve very easily won it, but second place is nothing to be ashamed about.”
Norway finished third with a 338 total. Head coach Ben Leiker was disappointed with how things turned out.
“We just didn’t play as well as we needed to,” he said. “We came in as strong contenders, but that’s just how golf goes.
“It’s a crazy sport. Some days you’re good and some days you’re not.”
Austin Hansen was Norway’s top finisher as he took second place overall with a 78.
“Austin has been our leader all year, so he came out strong,” Leiker said.
“The rest of them just didn’t play as well as they normally do.”
Hancock wound up fourth with 348 points, with Dylan Paavola rounding out the top five overall finishers with a 80.
“We were hoping we could sneak in as a runner-up as we’ve done quite well the last few years,” Hancock head coach Joe Gervais said. “We were hoping to make a little more noise, but we finished where we’ve been at the whole year.
“We’ve got a young team so hopefully we’ve learned a lot and we can come back next year and do better.”
Westwood finished fifth, but had two golfers end up in the top 10. Connor and Camron Mason tied for 10th with a 86.
“Our boys struggled today and they’ve struggled all year,” Patriots head coach Jared Koski said. “I thought we’d have some lower scores today. However, they just need to learn from it, try to move on and try to do better next year.”
L’Anse and Manistique rounded up the boys’ field in sixth and seventh place, respectively.
On the girls’ side, the Emeralds dominated the competition, finishing with a 419 total, 41 strokes ahead of Iron Mountain. Manistique’s Hailey Hoholik was the medalist with 99 and was the only girl to finish under 100.
“We’re very excited,” Emeralds head coach Deb Taylor said. “We were the frontrunners going in and the girls had been shooting consistently all year.
“About halfway through the year, we thought a championship was a possibility. Hailey is the only one graduating, so we should have a good group coming back next year, too.”
Hoholik ended her high school career with a storybook ending as she graduated later Friday night.
“It feels really good to go out this way,” she said. “Things just kind of went well for me.
“It’s really overwhelming that our team won, too. Everything just ended perfectly.”
Just like the boys team, the Mountaineers’ girls’ squad finished second, but had two golfers in the top 10.
Kathryn Brown took fifth (108) and Cassie Feira seventh (110)
Hancock was third with McKenna Monticello (109) taking sixth overall and the host Patriots finished fourth amongst the teams with a full squad.
Westwood did have a bright spot, though, as Lauren Farley took second place, just three strokes behind Hoholik.
“Lauren was really looking forward to winning that one, so she’s a little disappointed, but she had a really good day,” Koski said.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.