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 Golfers head to the fairway in last year’s Oakland County tournament. The best in the area are back at it again May 16 at Pontiac Country Club.

Golfers head to the fairway in last year’s Oakland County tournament. The best in the area are back at it again May 16 at Pontiac Country Club.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Top golf teams look toward tough county tournament

By: Timothy Pontzer | C&G Newspapers | Published May 7, 2018

OAKLAND COUNTY — For over two decades, Pontiac Country Club has welcomed the best of the best in prep golf.

The course has hosted the Division 1 Oakland County tournament, with the next iteration set for May 16. A 23-team field will compete for the top spot in one of the most prestigious events of the season.

“Except for the state finals, this tournament probably has the strongest field of any event we’ll play in this year,” Troy High coach John Getzan said. “Oakland County is a bedrock for high school golf. We’re drawing the best of the best for it. The regionals divide Oakland County up into a few different places, but this has everybody together.”

The event’s format features each side sending five golfers, with the top four low scores counting toward the team total. Last year saw Novi Detroit Catholic Central top the podium as all five representatives placed in the individual top 10. The Shamrocks posted a 4-under-par team total 284.

The bottom three teams from last year’s tournament are sent to the Division 2 county tournament the following season. The top three schools from the D-2 tourney are bumped up to the D-1 event the following season, while the D-2 champion also gets an automatic same-season bid to Pontiac CC.

The D-2 championship was held May 4, after press time, at the Links of Crystal Lake.

This year’s teams in D-1 are Berkley High, Birmingham Groves, Birmingham Seaholm, Bloomfield Hills High, Birmingham Brother Rice, Clarkston High, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day, Clarkston Everest Collegiate, Farmington High, Lake Orion High, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, Catholic Central, Novi High, Orchard Lake St Mary’s, Oxford High, Rochester Adams, Rochester High, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, Troy Athens, Troy High, Walled Lake Central and Walled Lake Northern.

“It’s definitely a high-quality field. The field is always extremely strong,” Getzan said. “It’s a great platform to set you up for the regional. Those two reasons are why we put a big emphasis on it.”

Rochester High coach Vance Kirkwood agreed.

“It has the feel of a regional,” Kirkwood said. “It really offers true tournament play. I know we have other tournaments, but this one has the biggest feel like that for the entire year before regionals. We almost look at it as a preliminary regional round since it is only two weeks before.”

Depending on the area, the regional round takes place between May 30 and June 2.

Kirkwood said it takes a mistake-free round to climb the leaderboard.

“The tournament is a great opportunity, and it brings a different level of fun,” Kirkwood said. “At the same time, it’s a lot of pressure on the guys. It’s not something you can succeed in unless you’re mentally prepared. You have to be calm, cool and collected, because there are so many good high school teams that come and it can almost be overwhelming.”

According to the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association team rankings as of April 29, Seaholm was ranked No. 2 out of all Division 1 teams in the state. Lake Orion was No. 3, with Clarkston and Brother Rice rounding out the top five. Catholic Central was No. 7.

In the MIGCA D-2 rankings, Cranbrook-Kingswood was No. 3, while St. Mary’s was No. 7.

“A lot of people pay attention to this tournament because of all the teams that show up,” Kirkwood said. “It’s good exposure for the kids. You can get your name out there if you do well. It’s just you and the course. It’s not you versus 300 other golfers; it’s just you versus a tough course.”

Pontiac CC is known for narrow fairways and quick greens.

“They do such a good job with that course,” Athens coach Dan Cooper said. “It’s one of the best-kept secrets around. It’s such a challenge.”

Cooper called it a great measuring stick for the county.

“It’s one we look forward to every year,” Cooper said. “It’s a special tournament on a really tough golf course. It really pushes everybody. People may shoot well on a lesser course and think they’re doing well, but if you can finish toward the top at Oakland County, that’s really impressive.”

Last year saw Clarkston take the runner-up spot with a 302, followed by third-place finisher Cranbrook with a 306. Seaholm (309) and St. Mary’s (310) rounded out the top five.