Prep golf: Esky girls claim GNC crown

ESCANABA – Out of the rain and into the wind.

It’s often a little on the windy side at the Escanaba Country Club but good luck finding a golfer who preferred playing in the conditions the prep athletes had to face during Thursday’s Great Northern Conference meet.

Constant wind gusts upwards of 30-35mph sent plenty of balls off course, sideways and even backwards. This, just a day after many of these same golfers had to deal with steady rain and a soggy course during Wednesday’s Marquette Invitational at the Marquette Golf Club.

Incredibly, a couple of Marquette golfers seemed to thrive in the unfavorable conditions. Jordan Frazier and Avery Rochester were each named medalists and the Marquette boys rolled to a team victory. The Escanaba girls also claimed victory by a wide margin.

Frazier, who shot a 77 Wednesday, actually improved on Thursday, shooting 75, having avoided any double-bogeys.

“Yesterday I shot 77 in the pouring rain in Marquette. That wasn’t as bad as the wind today. It was cold and chilly and definitely windy,” he said. “If I was going up against the wind, I’d club up probably four times and downwind, I’d club down four times. It was a lot of math in the head to do, but I stuck through it. I was getting up and down for par all the time.”

Gladstone’s Adam Scheeneman and Marquette’s Brett Specker tied for runner up honors with 79’s and were the the only other golfers to break 80.

On the girls side, only two golfers broke 90. Rochester led the way with an 87 followed by Escanaba’s Kelsey Motto at 89. Motto certainly didn’t enjoy the elements.

“The wind was pretty brutal, especially on No. 16 and all those par 4’s and 5’s,” she said. “One was nice because it was downwind, but it was pretty brutal. The wind was horrible today.”

Motto led a trio of Esky girls that finished in the top five, a day that should pay dividends at next week’s U.P. Finals she said, “It feels pretty good and it gives us a little confidence boost going into U.P.’s. Hopefully we can match up with Houghton and those other schools.”

Marquette coach Ben Smith said given the harsh conditions, he thought kids adjusted reasonably well.

“I think compared to yesterday, this was far more bearable in terms of functioning, because you mix in some rain and wetness – that makes everything worse, making it harder to grip clubs,” he said. “It’s always windy here, but it was pretty crazy. I saw a kid hit a 170-yard 3-wood that came up short. Then you see a kid hit a hybrid off a tee where the drivers usually go, with the wind. So to make those adjustments on the fly is tough, but I think most of the kids adjusted to the conditions fairly well.”

For the Esky girls, Jalyn Dagenais notched a fourth place finish, shooting an even 100, and Payton Shelafoe came in fifth with 103.

“For my girls, that was a best case scenario for me to wake up and see a real tough day,” said Escanaba coach Brian Robinette. “Their game travels to other golf courses and weather conditions. They have a sound mind and sound golf swings that hold up under pressure. It also gave my girls a chance to have a couple blow-up holes, knowing that everyone is going to have blow-up holes when it’s that tough. It played into my girls’ hands a little bit.”

The Escanaba boys shot 327, falling nine strokes short of the leaders from Marquette, but Robinette was pleased with the score.

“For my boys, (the wind) made the course so tricky and challenging and it magnifies mistakes. IF we could keep mistakes to a minimum, maybe it gave us a chance to sneak in there,” he said. “For all intensive purposes, it worked. I was proud of that score. It was a nice score – 85s, mid to low 80s. 80 was standard, 80 was par.

“Marquette won the tournament but I don’t feel like we shot ourselves out of it. I was very proud and we had two freshmen in the mix and their games held up well. It was a very nice day for Nick Aird, putting an 81 on the board. Dylan Gautheir played a little below probably what he would call a good round of golf, but he bounced back and finished strong. 85 is definitely solid.”

Menominee’s Riley Hegg scored a fifth place finish, shooting an 84. Joe Linn was Kingsford’s leader as he carded an 88.