State finals: Renaissance golfer aims high

By David GorickiThe Detroit News

The Detroit Public School League dropped girls golf, but that didn’t mean Renaissance put the clubs away.

Renaissance coach Harry Kennedy made sure his girls kept playing by having a club team, a reason junior Nia Little is eligible to compete for a state championship this weekend in the Division 2 golf finals at Forest Akers in East Lansing.

“I have five girls who are experienced for three years and instead of not playing any golf at all we decided to have a club,” Kennedy said. “I had to go outside of the city of Detroit Public Schools in order to get matches and a lot of the schools were accommodating and nice to us and we played them so we could get qualified for the regionals.”

The top three teams in each regional qualify for the state finals, along with the top three individuals from other teams. Little was the No. 1 player among the individuals to qualify, carding an 84 at Pine View Golf Course in Ypsilanti, 10 strokes better than she did at the same course her sophomore year.

“This year I improved a lot, competing on the Adams Tour during the summer,” said Little who finished fifth among individuals at the state finals last year (94-86,180) at the Forest Akers East course. “Golf is a challenging sport, but it’s a lot of fun. I want to shoot in the 70s this weekend. I feel I have a chance to win it.”

While Little should be among the favorites for individual honors, South Lyon will be trying to come away with the Division 2 team championship. Birmingham Seaholm is the defending champs.

Why South Lyon? Well, for one the Harding sisters are leading the way, senior Caroline, junior Priscilla and freshman Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the medalist in the regional at Pine View.

Oh, and South Lyon also has senior Alex Bernas and junior Lucy Dinsmore, both finishing in the top-10 at regional.

Dinsmore is the big surprise, wiping off more than 20 strokes from her freshman year when she averaged in the mid-60s for nine holes. She shot an 81 for 18 at Fox Hills earlier this season.

“We have a coach where if you’re willing to do the work he’ll work hard with you,” said Dinsmore of South Lyon coach Dan Skatzka, who had just six players seven years ago, building the program up to an elite level with more than 20 girls.

“I realized I could do something with this sport my sophomore year so I’d go out almost every day during the summer practicing, chipping out on the range. I really wanted it so I started playing in the Adams Tour, a junior tour for kids, playing college distances so you have to play longer.”

Now, Dinsmore will be competing in her first state finals.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “It’s going to be fun.”

Seaholm returns three of its top four players — Jamie Greene, Jordan Michalak, Allegra Cunningham — from last year’s team which finished(663) to finish a stroke ahead of Okemos (664).

Plymouth will be going after its third consecutive Division 1 state title at Bedford Valley in Battle Creek. Plymouth returns four of its top five players from a year ago, led by Sydney Murphy and Katie Chipman, along with Alaina Strzalka and Ariana Strzalka.

Golf state finals

When: Friday-Saturday

Where: Division 1 — Bedford Valley, Battle Creek. Division 2 — Forest Akers West, East Lansing. Division 3 — Forest Akers East, East Lansing. Division 4 — The Meadows, Allendale

Defending champions:Division 1 — Plymouth. Division 2 — Birmingham Seaholm. Division 3 — Detroit Country Day. Division 4 — Grosse Ile