Birmingham Brother Rice golf coach Dan Bumpus knew his team had some work to do to catch up in the Division 1 state final June 15-16 at Grand Valley State University.
After the first 18 holes, the Warriors were eight strokes behind and standing in fifth place, meaning in the final 18 holes, Bumpus needed each of his golfers to be at least two strokes better than Battle Creek Lakeview and hope the other three teams in front of them didn’t go low.
Bumpus said the team was confident, knowing that it played well the first 18 but left some shots on the course late in the round.
“Everyone believed we were still in it, so I didn’t need to do any kind of motivating. They all knew they could still do it,” Bumpus said.
On the second day, the Warriors blew past the field, shooting eight strokes better then the next best team and nine strokes lower than Lakeview, giving them their first state championship since 1998.
Rice carded a 602 (304, 298) total, one stroke better than Lakeview and six ahead of third-place Muskegon Mona Shores.
“It was just that they had no pressure on them,” Bumpus said of the team. “They could go out and play loose, and hopefully, shoot a good score. Being eight strokes back after day one, we weren’t really in the mix. I think we were forgotten a little bit, and we took some people by surprise.
“On day two, they finished stronger. They had a good round and kept it going. Any time they had a bogey or a double bogey, they bounced back and made a birdie on the next hole.”
In the postseason, teams sent out five golfers and counted the top four scores toward the team total.
Sean Friel led the Warriors, shooting 148 (75, 73). Kyle Gaines fired 149 (74, 75), while Lucas Belanger carded 152 (76, 76), Jeremy Ball shot 153 (79, 74), and Jeremy Glod tallied 168 (86, 82).
Individually, Friel and Gaines finished fourth and sixth, respectively.
The Warriors have been close to winning a state championship before, finishing in the top four the past two seasons and runner-up in 2006.
“It’s very satisfying (to win it). These guys work really hard, and we’ve come close a number of times and even in this season we’ve come close,” Bumpus said, referring to a second-place finish in the Oakland County tournament. “They put the work in, and I’m very happy to see them have the success.”
Next season, Rice has the task of defending the title without seniors Friel and Belanger.
“They meant a lot to the team. Both were four-year varsity players. Sean led our team all year, and Lucas is a really solid player and an emotional leader, as well. He’d be the one to talk to everyone and make sure they were in the right mental state,” Bumpus said. “It’ll be difficult losing two seniors, but we have some good younger players, and hopefully, we’ll be able to get back there.”