Gremlin golfers heat up

CHAMPION – It took Tanner Kearly of Hancock just one hole to win the Negaunee Range Bank Invitational boys prep golf title Tuesday.

It was a mighty big hole, however.

Kearly birdied the first playoff hole to beat four other golfers tied with him at 9-over-par 81 at the Wawonowin Country Club.

“It’s my first tournament win,” said Kearly, who posted a 41 on the front nine and a 40 on the back in regulation play.

“I started out rough. I was 8-over after 10 holes, but made six pars on my last eight holes,” he said. “I switched my grip and started to find the fairways more.

“My swing started to warm up, too,” the senior added.

On the playoff hole, the par-4, 305-yard No. 1, Kearly hit his drive to the right side about 260-270 yards out.

“I ended up pin-high -20 yards to the right of the green – and chipped to within a foot (of the cup), he said. “I then knocked it in (for a birdie).”

He beat Negaunee’s David Renaldi, who officially placed second, Brendan Longhini of Houghton, Matt Sanregret of Hancock and Connor Mason of Westwood for medalist honors.

“I was OK with the way I played,” Renaldi said after carding a 42-39 split. “But placing second is good and bad.

“I played my hardest and put myself in a position to win, but I just didn’t.”

The Negaunee senior “chunked” a 3-wood drive on the playoff hole.

“From about 150 yards out, I used a pitching wedge and hit the ball onto the green,” Renaldi recalled. “I two-putted for par after missing a 25-foot birdie attempt.

“I left it about two feet short.”

Houghton, behind medal winners Longhini, Gunnar Stein (82) and Wyatt Larson (83) claimed the team title with a 335. Hancock (339) and Marquette (343) followed in the 12-team meet.

“It’s just our third meet of the season, so those were solid rounds,” Houghton girls’ head coach Corey Markham said, who was subbing for Gremlins boys head coach Jack Kumpula.

The Houghton girls, meanwhile, took top honors with a 404, beating runner-up Escanaba (425) and third place finisher Calumet (462).

“I’m real happy to win the meet,” Markham said. “It’s our first meet of the season. To step in here and get a win is nice.

“I know we have some talented golfers. We’ve won the U.P. title three years in a row.”

Noelle Polakowski captured medalist honors with a 45-42-87. Callie Jensen of Gladstone (88) and Gremlin teammate Megan Kelly (89) followed.

“I came in with no expectations whatsoever,” Polakowski said. “I think that benefitted me because I was relaxed.

“I started off the back nine with a nice drive and it went from there.”

She added she has been practicing indoors with a golf simulator due to not getting outside on a course due to poor weather conditions.

“My putting was good today. It was something I could rely on,” Polakowski said. “I’m hoping it gives me some confidence.”