Local teams get 18 holes in … barely

HOUGHTON – Kicking off a span of three meets in three days, the Houghton boys and girls pulled out a double victory at the Sandretto Invitational at Portage Lake Golf Course Wednesday, fighting through wind, rain and rust in a joint WestPAC and Copper Country Conference meet.

The Ontonagon boys (353) won the CCC side of affairs with a narrow two-stroke victory over Jeffers while Calumet’s Reese Lassila took home the boys medal with an industrious 74 on the 18-hole course and Houghton’s Megan Kelly (87) enjoyed the only sub-90 score for the girls on the day.

The WestPAC teams will be in Calumet today before heading back to the PLGC Friday for the conference tilt.

The 45-hole binge of golf comes after a long spring of inactivity as poor Copper Country weather delayed most of the season. According to Houghton boys coach Jack Kumpula, Wednesday’s meet was only the fifth time his team had teed up on an actual course all year long.

“This is our third meet, and on the course, we have had two practices,” Kumpula said. “So we haven’t even been out for a full week yet. I mean, we did some things inside, but to me, until you get on the course you are kind of wasting your time. You can only hit into the net for so long.”

Combined with a collective shaking off of rust, the Sandretto challenged the locals’ focus Wednesday thanks to constant drizzle and windy conditions.

In fact, Jungle Rules – the ability to move the ball up to one club length be it fairway or rough – were put in play to make it easier for the kids to cope.

“We are playing Jungle Rules, so the kids are allowed to set the ball up however they want. They can roll it around, even in the rough to set up a shot,” Kumpula said. “But it is the grips, and the constant rain that just makes it a mess for the kids. It is just a cold, bad day out there.

“It is a day for extra socks, extra gloves, heck, even an extra towel.”

Always a taxing sport mentally, Kumpula believes it will be the most experienced golfers that can maintain an unwavering focus will who come out of this three-day stretch successful.

The golfers who can minimize damage and give themselves a chance with each shot will be the ones enjoying the abbreviated season.

“You have no confidence or repetition, so it really becomes an endurance test,” Kumpula said. “The kids have to deal with cold, and rain, and wind, and then on Friday it should be nice, so that day is different too. I think the kids with the most experience might have the advantage here.”

This set of meets becomes all the more important with U.P. Finals (May 29) just days away. The Division 1 teams will be heading back to Portage Lake for Finals, while D-2 head to Oak Crest Country Club in Iron Mountain and the D-3 teams will play at Escanaba Country Club.

“How do you get ready for anything without practice?” Kumpula said. “I’m just telling my kids to go out and do the best that they can. I don’t know if you can really get ready for something like this.”