FARMINGTON HILLS — Take your pick: grit, spunk, boldness, swagger, even arrogance.
Abby Slankster, Lauren Timpf and Mia Melendez displayed daring fearlessness in their ability to settle their nerves, to reset their mind to the task at hand, and to accomplish marvelous deeds for their teammates and themselves in the state girls golf finals.
Consider Abby, a senior at Farmington Hills Mercy thrust into a leadership role for the Marlins golf team when its No. 1 player, junior Maeve Casey, who had a 73 the first day, would not be with them the second day for the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 finals at Michigan State University Forest Akers East course.
“Maeve’s a AAA hockey player for Little Caesars (amateur team),” coach Vicki Kowalski explained. “They had a huge tournament in Minnesota the same (Oct. 20-21) weekend as our golf (state finals). She has committed to play at Yale. Some Yale officials were going to be there. The coaches agreed to compromise. She missed two games on Friday. They were going to play Saturday and Sunday. She got on a plane and got there in time.”
“Slankster was so upset with the 80 she shot Friday,” Kowalski said. “She had been shooting high 70s, low 80s and had played the course several times.”
“I knew there was pressure on me to step up,” Abby said. “We had a lead but it wasn’t large (eight strokes over Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood). I knew it was my last round and I wanted to go out and feel good about it.”
Abby shot a 2-under 70, her lifetime best. She was 1-over the first two holes but recovered with birdies on 3 and 4 and later on 12 and 13.
“My putts wouldn’t fall the first day,” she said, “but I started hitting the greens in regulation and attacking pins better. It was everything for the team. I wasn’t focused on getting my score lower. It was the team’s (score that) needed to get lower. That was what helped me.”
The team members all responded to the challenge. Junior Lila Polakowski shot 79-79, senior Brinlee Nay 89-89, and junior Macy Morphew 85-81 for a second-day total of 319 for a 17-stroke victory margin of 636-653 over Cranbrook.
Abby’s 150 was fifth best among the top 10 individuals.
Consider Lauren, who is regarded as one of the most accomplished champions in MHSAA golf history. She showed why amidst inclement weather conditions in the Oct. 20-21 Division 3 finals at the Grand Valley State University Meadows course in Allendale.
“The first day I shot (2-over) 74,” she said. “I was almost playing as if I didn’t want to make a mistake, taking safer shots. I needed to play more aggressively if I wanted to win.”
At stake was a rare opportunity to win a third consecutive individual finals medalist title and become the seventh golfer in MHSAA Lower Peninsula girls golf history to do so.
“I needed to prepare myself for the second day,” she said, “to fire at every pin and give myself a better opportunity at making birdies.”
Mother Nature helped her prepare. The weather the first day was mild with off and on rain, “but we played through it,” she said. The next day turned “really cold and we got the most rain.”
On Saturday, “we got our first two shots in,” Lauren said, “and I made the green when play was stopped and we had to restart the whole round.”
Lauren used the nearly hourlong delay to stoke up her self-confidence. Not even a double bogey on the first hole when play resumed dimmed her determination.
“It kind of motivated me to start making birdies because I knew I had just dropped two shots in one hole,” she said. “I looked on the bright side. I had 17 birdie opportunities ahead of me. I blocked the bogeys out of my mind.”
She went on a mission collecting birdies on 3 and 4, then 9 through 12, ending with 16 and 18, a total of eight birdies for a sizzling 67 and a two-round 141 and medalist honors by eight strokes.
As a freshman in the 2020 finals, a bogey on the last hole for a 71 cost Lauren’s chance to be the medalist. She shot 66-73 in 2021 and 70-72 in 2022. She was 11-under par for her seven championship rounds. The 66 is an MHSAA girls finals record.
Lauren is a senior at Macomb Lutheran North, Division 3 champs in 2022. She will make her commitment to take her talents to Purdue University official on Nov. 8.
This weekend, Nov. 3-4-5, Lauren will be competing for the third year in the fourth annual Elite Invitational at Tradition Golf Club at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a 54-hole tournament featuring a field of 66 boys and 42 girls, many of whom have already signed Division I golf scholarships.
Consider Mia, like Abby, improved her second day score by 10 strokes over her first day to win MHSAA Division 4 medalist honors, like Lauren, for the third year in a row.
Mia, a junior at Ann Arbor Greenhills, managed a 79 the first day, putting up with heavy rain and a delay at the Battle Creek Bedford Valley course. She rebounded the next day with a 69 for a combined 148.
Mia shot 143 medalist honors as a freshman and 149 her sophomore year.
“I made a lot of pars and three great birdies,” she said. “It was a really steady round overall. Conditions were really tough. There was a lot of rain, the ground was wet, and it was super cold. But I’m glad I have some experience playing in tough weather.”
However, here’s where Mia will have a chance to one-better Lauren Timpf. She hopes to make it four-for-four in state titles next year. That would make her the first to do so in the Lower Peninsula and first statewide since Paxton Johnson of Escanaba won four consecutive titles in U.P. Finals from 2016-19.
Among the Top 10
In Division 2, sophomore Sydney Behnke of Cranbrook was ninth best with 75-81 (156).
In Division 3, junior Saige Rothey was 10th best at 80-81 (161).
In Division 4, junior Rachel Fay of Wixom St. Catherine of Siena was fifth best with 79-77 (156).
Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].