Eskymos sweep on tough day

IRON MOUNTAIN – Judging by the looks on the faces of many of the high school golfers at Pine Grove Thursday afternoon, it was hard to tell if they just completed 18 holes or a college entrance exam.

With most high school golf teams short on course time thanks to winter’s extended stay, Pine Grove delivered quite the test for the 2014 Great Northern Conference championships, leaving many frustrated with inflated scores.

In the end, it was Escanaba prevailing for both the girls and boys titles.

“I came into this week knowing that this golf course is a tall task for these kids, as little golf as we’ve played,” said Escanaba coach Brian Robinette. “The demands of Pine Grove with the tree lines, difficulty on the greens. I had a sense, no matter how well you played, the course was probably going to win. I knew our kids were going to have to play a mental game and fight through the struggles of a couple bigger numbers.”

The Eskymo boys, led by second-place finisher Dane Casperson with an 83, totaled 348 to edge Marquette by six strokes, the Redmen led by top medalist Scott Frazier’s 82. Gladstone finished third with 359, Kingsford was fourth with 361 and Menominee finished fifth with 388.

Frazier, a junior and the defending U.P. champion, earned league champion honors for the first time in his prep career. All-GNC honors, awarded to the top five finishers, also included Marquette’s Brett Specker in third with an 84; Escanaba’s Dylan Gauthier in fourth with an 85; and Gladstone’s Bryce Douglas in fifth with an 87.

Finishing behind Casperson and Gauthier for the Eskymos was Nick Aird with an 88 and Storm Fournier with a 92.

“They kind of dug deep,” Robinette said. “We kind of got off to a rocky start, but we rallied around the idea that a lot of kids are making mistakes out there, and if we just needed a decent stretch of holes. Six shots is not a lot in a tournament like this, but it feels nice when you win on a course like this because it’s a true indication that your kids are mentally tough, and I was proud of them for that.”

Casperson, playing in the top foursome, saw Frazier hit the turn behind him one stroke better. The two were even over the final nine holes.

“I didn’t putt the best,” Casperson said. “Trying to figure out these greens is a big challenge. My putter just wasn’t there. I had a lot of two-putts, couldn’t really make anything fall in today. The course played really good for how early in the season it is. I was very impressed. Susie Fox did a great job getting it ready.”

While Casperson’s score helped carry his Eskymos to the team title, Robinette said it was his demeanor that had the biggest impact.

“Dane was kind of our anchor today,” he said. “He kind of gave a sense of clam on the trip here, a sense of calm on the practice range. He’s been hitting it pretty well. He just kind of shed this element of confidence. I think it probably got into some of our kids along the way. He was a big key.”

“The team win is most important,” Casperson added. “‘ll take that any day. We’re conference champs and I’ll take that home.”

Frazier, who began his round by paring No. 18, did not use his driver once.

“I didn’t feel confident in it,” he said. “My irons were solid and my putting was great.”

The short game that made the biggest impact for Frazier. A 20 to-30 yard chip on the par 5 No. 2 dropped within inches of the cup for a tap-in birdie.

“The short game saved me a few times, up and down,” he said. ” I had a couple of par saves. I went up and down for a par from about 20 yards away on No. 12. The rest of my round was just solid. My game, overall, is solid right now.”

Frazier gets to defend his U.P. title on his home course next week.

“Last Friday he put in about four hours on the range and really felt like he had things figured out,” Marquette coach Ben Smith said. “Hopefully he’ll be able to build on this and have another great U.P. tournament next week.”

Mike McGee (92) and Drew Leadbetter (98) completed Marquette’s second-place total.

“The biggest thing out there today was just hanging in there,” Smith said. “It’s a tough course, a tough spring. I don’t think too many kids were super thrilled with everything they did out there but that’s what happens out here. The greens are really nice but its tough to get it in the hole. Tees shots, if you don’t hit them in the right spot, it’s pretty tough to hit anywhere close to the green.”

“To shoot 82 like Scott did, hanging in there to shoot four over on the back nine, is tremendous. The course played tough, but its in fine shape, a great test of golf.”

Douglas’ 87 and Adam Scheeneman’s 89 paced third-place Gladstone.

Dylan Dalsanto led the Flivvers continent with an 88. Marcus Andrews and Joe Linn both turned in 89, and Brady Nettell carded 95. With no seniors, Flivvers head coach Jim Myllyla expects to have this same group back next season.

Gladstone’s Callie Jensen managed the only score under 100 for the girls. Her 92 sent her to a nine-stroke win for her first league title. She was second in this meet a year ago.

“I actually didn’t play really well today,” she said. “Pine Grove is a really hard course and it played really tough today. The pins were in horrible places. My putting was extremely off, but I somehow pulled it off.”

Jensen said she did have a few long putts fall to save bogeys on a couple of holes.

“There’s never just a putt that just goes straight in here,” she said. “It’s very unpredictable. It’s hard course for a woman especially because we don’t get many advantages on it. But it feels really good to win. I’m very excited about that, just wish my round could have been better.”

Jensen’s effort was not enough to overcome to the solid one through five effort turned in by Escanaba. The Eskymos came in at 436 to repeat as league champs, topping the second-place Braves by a comfortable 17 strokes.

“It’s kind of the same story we’ve had all year,” Robinette said. “We just have that depth on the team from top to bottom. We seem to be able to get scores, useable scores, respectable scores. The girls seem to be able to put numbers up collectively that make teams have to beat us.”

Kelsey Motto’s 101 paced the Eskymos. Abbey Strom had 108, Amanda Bink registered 112, and Emily Hossele hit 115.

“Callie, it was an awesome golf score here, so hats off to her, but when looking at team title, I really like the idea of having consistency from that top spot to the fifth spot,” Robinette said. “

Kelsey been our leader from the beginning. Abby and Amanda have really made this a solid girls team this season.”

Marquette, led by Hannah Crampton’s 109, totaled 473 for third. Fourth went to Menominee with 479 and Kingsford finished fifth at 521. All-Conference medalists behind Jensen were Motto, Menominee’s Danielle Saucer (103), Strom and Crampton.

Katie Oberthaler had Kingsford’s low score with 114.

The U.P. Division 1 golf finals take place Wednesday at Marquette. Calumet, Houghton, Manistique, Negaunee and Sault Ste. Marie take part in addition to the GNC entries.