Jets on the green

HOUGHTON – Portage Lake Golf Course was a little soggy Tuesday, but the Jeffers boys’ golf team was crisp from top to bottom at the Jack Sandretto Invitational.

The Jets put all four of their scoring players in the top 10 and beat the big schools with a 310.

“We’re getting ready for U.P.’s, so it’s nice we’re all lowering our numbers,” Jeffers’ Tyler Bailey said.

Jeffers is going for a third consecutive Division 3 crown at next week’s U.P. Finals in Delta County.

Bailey will be a major part of that, especially if he plays like he did Tuesday. He dominated the soft conditions for a 1-under par 71, the first under-par 18-hole round in his career.

“It was wet, but it didn’t really affect me too much,” Bailey said. “I liked it for my chips, because I could chip it a lot closer and it would stop for me.”

Bailey (who started on No. 6) eagled the par-5 18th, which can be a long uphill death march for a decent golfer on a dry day, much less one in which 10 hours of overnight rain ensured there would be no roll in the fairway. He hit driver off the tee and crushed a three-wood for his second, putting him beside the green, where he chipped in for his 3.

Bailey had three other birdies, including one other chip-in. Had it not been for a hooked tee shot and resulting lost ball on his last hole of the day, No. 5, Bailey could have gone even lower.

However, his Jeffers teammates had his back. There were only seven sub-80 rounds on the course and the Jets had three of them, as Stephen Butina ended up tied for fifth individually with a 78 and Christopher Outinen, playing out of the No. 4 spot, shot a 79 for seventh. The other Jeffers golfer, Alex Outinen, still finished in a tie for 10th with an 82.

Jeffers’ team total was four shots better than host Houghton, which was led by matching 74s from individual runners-up Gunnar Stein and Wyatt Liston.

Hancock (332) was third, followed by L’Anse (338), Calumet (349), West Iron County (350), Ontonagon (371), Lake Linden-Hubbell (376), Chassell (397) and Ironwood (403).

Kyle Maki’s 75 was good for fourth individually and the Wykons’ best score, while LL-H’s Trevor Ongie tied with Butina to finish off the top five.

Bailey’s efforts were also enough to put him over the top as WestPAC MVP for the season with an average of 37 per nine holes.

All-conference honors were spread out fairly evenly, with Houghton represented by Stein and Liston, Hancock by Tanner Kearly and Kyle Hauswirth, L’Anse by Tristan Leaf and Ray Miron, West Iron by Maki and Riley Thomson, Jeffers by Christopher Outinen and Butina and LL-H by Ongie.

Where the boys’ competition could be described as a day for the underdog, the girls’ side was business as usual for the dominant Houghton girls.

Led by medalist Noelle Polakowski’s 83, Houghton won its fifth straight WestPAC championship with ease.

Polakowski brought her full rain gear, which combined with a ‘jungle rules’ (legal placing within a club-length radius) format, ensured conditions wouldn’t get too adventurous.

“If anything, today, it helped me because we just came from Ontonagon (a girls’ meet Monday), where the greens were pretty slow, so coming back to Portage, they were faster, but they weren’t super-fast so it was an easier adjustment,” Polakowski said.

Polakowski felt she could have done better after ‘I hopped on the bogey train for a good portion of the front (nine)’ after starting her round on 15. Still, she was able to minimize her mistakes.

“When I was struggling on the front, I could bogey from anywhere,” she said.

Polakowski’s round ended up two shots better than teammate Megan Kelly.

Houghton had four of the best five rounds, with only L’Anse’s Alyssa Norback (92) breaking up the group of Polakowski, Kelly, Adison Cook (97) and Lindsey Sandell (100). The Gremlins go into next week’s U.P. Finals at Marquette Golf and Country Club’s Heritage Course having not lost a meet in four seasons.

Calumet, led by nearly identical scores in the low 100s from the Darnell sisters, took second place as a team with 419, followed by L’Anse (466), West Iron (519), Ontonagon (523) and Jeffers (567).

Polakowski was also crowned WestPAC girls’ MVP with a stroke average of 39.6 per nine holes. Six of her teammates had scoring averages low enough to earn all-conference recognition: Kelly, Cook, Sandell, Taryn Kaurala, Hannah Bershing and Jillian Butvilas. Also named all-conference were Allison, Valerie and Rachel Darnell of Calumet and Norback, from L’Anse.