Hancock boys make most of sneak preview

HOUGHTON – After medaling in Negaunee earlier this week, Tanner Kearly doubled down Friday, posting a 75 to win the Hancock Invitational as Portage Lake Golf Course opened its gates to the local high school golf teams one day early.

Kearly’s steady round led Hancock to a team victory as well, with the Bulldogs topping Houghton 317-330 in the first local meet of the year. The Gremlins had claimed the team victory at the Negaunee Range Bank Invitational Tuesday by four strokes.

Kearly said the key to his early success has been eliminating expectations. He is simply trying to put a good swing on each shot before moving on to the next hole.

“I’m just taking what the course gives me,” Kearly said. “Not being able to play for so many months, I’m just not really putting any expectations on myself to shoot a certain score. In years past I’ve focused on trying to get good scores but this year I am more relaxed out there.”

Slotted as Hancock’s No. 2 golfer behind Kyle Hauswirth, Kearly believes the internal competition with five golfers capable of breaking 80 on any given round has helped him focus each day.

Hauswirth finished third Friday with a 78 – Jeffers’ Tyler Bailey took second with a 77 – while fellow Bulldog Anthony Fisher cracked the top 10 with an 81. Teammates Matthew Sanregret (83) and William Lucier (85) finished off the lead quintet with more-than-respectable scores.

Sometimes it is more productive competition trying to match and beat your friends than opponents.

“It is nice, because even when we practice daily everybody is within a shot or two of each other and you can really drive each other,” Kearly said. “I’m not looking to beat them really – I’m happy when they do well – but we all kind of push each other.”

On the girls side, Houghton continued its run of success with a runaway team victory while Gremlin top golfer Megan Kelly (85) held off a spirited charge from teammate Noelle Polakowski (87) to take the medal by two shots. Kelly placed second at PLGC last year in the Division 1 U.P. Finals with an 82.

Houghton’s total of 369 cleared runner-up Calumet by 74 shots.

Kelly said her consistency helped carry the round as she put in a 41 on the front nine and 44 on the back end. Polakowski made a run for the medal with by shooting a 39 on the back nine, but couldn’t quite close the gap.

“I’m just trying to remember what kept me successful last year and trying to stay in the zone,” Kelly said.

“You definitely have to keep the cold out of your mind,” Kelly added of the 40 degree temperatures.

Both Kelly and Kearly agreed that success at Portage Lake is pretty straight forward.

Hit fairways consistently, sink a few putts and the course opens up nicely.

“If you find fairways and give yourself a chance to hit greens you are going to have a good round,” Kearly said. “The greens are pretty fast, so you have to putt as well.”

“Keeping the ball straight is pretty much the key at this course,” Kelly added.