BY DAN STICKRADT
ALLENDALE — Gabby Yurik has had many memorable finishes in her high school golf career. None will compare to the one she turned in this weekend.
Yurik, a senior at Rochester Stoney Creek and a Michigan State recruit, captured medalist honors at the Lower Peninsula Divisions 1 state finals held Friday and Saturday at Grand Valley State University’s The Meadows Golf Course.
This is Yurik’s first state title and it came on the final weekend of her prep career. Her final total of 153 (78-75) was enough to soar past a talented field that featured several of the state’s top junior golfers. East Kentwood’s Sara White was second (157), Plymouth’s Kelsey Murphy was third (158), Brighton’s Hannah Pietila fourth (161) and Saline’s Emily White fifth (165).
“I don’t know if it has sunk in just yet,” said Yurik. “I have never played in anything like this before. I just had to keep trying. I had to just try to go far pars and not birdies. It feels great to win, though.”
Yurik has followed in the footsteps of several other highly-touted golfers to come through the Rochester area in recent years. Yurik is the fourth straight Rochester area golfer to win the D-1 medalist honors, following Rochester’s Amy Meier (2008) and Christine Meier (2009) and Stoney Creek’s Devon Compton (2010).
Kim Benedict of Rochester Adams was also a state runner-up in 1998 and a state champion in 1999, part of a long list of all-state players from the Rochester area going back to the 1980s.
For those doing the math, that’s five state medalists in 13 seasons that have emerged from this talent-rich region and the fourth straight is believed to be a record for girls golf in this state.
“It’s kind of crazy if you think about it,” laughed Yurik. “I don’t know if that has happened before. There’s been four in a row from one area. That’s incredible.”
Yurik, who averaged 75.33 for 18 holes this season, similar to last season, finished in the top five at every tournament this season. She had seven titles, placed third twice and fourth once and is a shoe-in to make the All-State Super Team for the third straight year.
Yurik was champion at the state, regional, Oakland County Division I, OAA Red Division Tournament No.1, Holliday Inn Express, Grosse Ile Invitational and Mattick Invitational, placed third at the Ann Arbor Pioneer Invitational and OAA Red Division tournament No. 2 and fourth at the Azure Dynamics Invitational. She shot between 71 and 83 throughout tournament play this season with a71 coming at Pontiac Country Club, the sight of the county tournament.
The talented Yurik, who is a top candidate for the Miss Golf award — the same award that former teammate Devon Compton won last year and future Michigan State teammate Christine Meier won in 2009 — has been a model of consistency throughout her high school career, which has included close to 15 tournament victories.
Yurik, also an all-state shooting guard in basketball, where she will be a fourth-year starter this winter, committed to Michigan State over the summer. She rarely finished out to the top-10 at a tournament in her career — “I had one round last year where I blew up and finished with an 86,” she laughed — and was near the top nearly every time this season.
Yurik, who was third at state as a junior, second as a sophomore and fifth as a freshman, fought through the blustery conditions to prevail with her fourth-straight top-five finish but first-ever state title. She also led her team to its fourth-straight top-five finish, including the state runner-up trophy both this season and last season.
Down three strokes entering the second day this season, Yurik came back to shoot a 75 on Saturday, enough to vault her to medalist honors. Yurik shot 78 Friday, which landed her in third behind Plymouth’s Murphy (74) and East Kentwood’s White (75) and set the stage for a second-day rally.
“I knew I was close and I was paired with (Plymouth’s Kelsey Murphy) Saturday,” said Yurik. “I didn’t change my game at all. I just kept playing the way I always do and was able to get a couple of birdies (on the back nine). I finally pulled away.”
“This was a great way to finish,” added Stoney Creek coach Tony Lafferty. “She stepped it up on the final day. I knew she was capable of doing it.”
The talented Yurik has always been a competitor, always consistent with that extra fire to succeed under pressure. She did so to become an expected state champion this weekend and to add to a growing legacy of female golfers in the area.
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