BY DAN STICKRADT
EAST LANSING — Defending Division 4 state champion Auburn Hills Oakland Christian has fallen from grace.
The Lancers, who won the D-4 boys golf state title in convincing fashion last season, dropped to fourth overall at this year’s state tournament. Oakland Christian posted a two-day total of 642 (321-321) at Forest Akers West Golf Course on the campus of Michigan State University, finishing 18 strokes off the pace.
“I think we all had mixed emotions after the state finals,” admitted Oakland Christian coach Randy Johnson. “We congratulated the other teams and we did that with class. But deep inside I know it bothered the guys because they didn’t play their best golf as a whole. We have played a lot better this season.”
Lake Leelanau St. Mary’s carded a 624 (318-306) to win the state title, pulling away from the pack, as only 18 strokes separating the top four teams. Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic was second at 629 (316-313) and Saginaw Nouvel Catholic third at 632 (321-311).
The fifth place finisher, Kalamazoo Christian, was way back at 678 (348-330).
“We knew it was going to be a four-team race and heading into the second day it was the same schools that I anticipated would be up there,” said Johnson. “I think the disappointing part of it was we were only five strokes back after the first day and in contention. We didn’t step up the way we needed to in order to win it. It’s nice to know that we are 36 strokes better than the fifth place team, but we know that we are better than the scores we posted at the state finals.”
Hackett’s Ted Riker shot 142 (71-71) to earn medalist honors, just ahead of Dave Buko of Nouvel Catholic (77-70-147) and Oakland Christian’s Zach Preuss (74-74-148). St. Mary’s Joel Sneed (75-74-152) and Manistee Catholic Central’s Zack Bialik (78-74-152) rounded out the top five in the field of 75 golfers.
It marked the third straight year that Preuss finished in the top five. He was state champ as a sophomore while still at Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest and fourth last season.
“He’s had a great career, one of the best we’ve had at Oakland Christian,” praised Johnson.
Sophomore John Van Noord also reached the medalist stand for Oakland Christian, as he tied for eighth overall with a 155 (78-77). Tyler Coyne posted a 158 (81-77—158), Spencer Haupert a 182 (89-93) and Brandon Delekta a 186 (88-98) also competed for the Lancers.
The top-five finish marked the third straight season the Lancers had finished in that lofty post. It also marked the fifth straight season Oakland Christian was able to compete at the state finals.
“That’s what I am most proud of, that we have been here five straight years and now we have been in the top five three straight years,” added Johnson. “I know it’s disappointing that we couldn’t defend our title. But when you look at the big picture of what we have been able to accomplish, it speaks volumes of the type of kids we’ve had on the boys golf team here.”
Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest also competed at the state finals for the second straight season. The Crusaders claimed 14th in the 15-school field at 743 (377-366). The state finals appearance gave the Crusaders their first-ever back-to-back appearance at the state finals and just third appearance overall.
Jameson Collar carded a 176 (93-83) to lead the Crusaders. Dan Sauer followed at 181 (87-94), Justin Tignanelli shot 191 (100-91), Austin Kindsvater a 195 (97-98) and Kyle Muthart a 211 (108-103) for Northwest.
Individual-wise, David Smith of Clarkston Everest Collegiate also competed at the D-4 finals. He posted a 160 total (84-76) and became the first player in the school’s four-year history to advance to the state finals.
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