TWIN LAKE — Montague coach Phil Kerr said at the end of last season that his squad was coming for the 2020 GMAA championship, and Wednesday, his team proved him right.
The Wildcats shot a team total of 361 to earn the top spot at the city tournament, ending a 13-year run of either Mona Shores (10 times) or Reeths-Puffer (three times) winning the trophy.
Area squads took the top three spots in the standings, with Whitehall taking second and Reeths-Puffer third. The Vikings, led by individual champion Karli VanDuinen, finished a close second with a team score of 371, and Reeths-Puffer enjoyed its best round of the year to take third with a 395, edging Mona Shores by two strokes.
"Winning the city meet was one of our biggest goals we had this year, if not the biggest," Montague coach Phil Kerr said. "There wasn't a week that went by this summer or fall that we didn't mention the GMAA. Finishing so close to the top last year (the Wildcats were third, five strokes behind champion Mona Shores) and coming up just short certainly left a sour taste in our mouths.
"The girls even referred back to that feeling (Wednesday) morning before the round in an attempt to motivate themselves to not repeat that outcome."
As they have all season, the Wildcats rode their tremendous depth to the title. Five of the top 10 finishers wore Montague blue, led by Megan Brown, who finished third with an 84. Orianna Bylsma shot an 89, taking sixth, and teammates Gabby Moreau and Mackenzie Goudreau each shot 94s to tie for seventh. Katie Unger's 96 ranked her 10th.
"The girls have dedicated everything they have towards achieving this goal," Kerr said. "The girls believed they could do it, they understood the work that would be required to make it happen, and they made the sacrifice to get it done. I couldn't be more proud of this group."
For the Vikes, meanwhile, VanDuinen claimed her second individual city title with a 78, edging North Muskegon's Georgie Kersman by two strokes. VanDuinen, a junior, was city medalist as a freshman at Reeths-Puffer and missed last season by MHSAA rule after transferring to Whitehall.
"Karli VanDuinen is hitting the ball real well," Whitehall coach Greg Boughton said. "She is long off the tee and hitting greens in regulation. This is a tribute to her work ethic and leadership for our team...It is Coach (Bill) Borgman and my hope that Karli's putter will warm up in the next tournaments, and those putts that have been hanging over the lip of the cup will start dropping."
Whitehall's performance, its best 18-hole score of the season, was all the more remarkable because only one Viking that played on last year's second-place team played Wednesday. That was Kenedy Woodring, whose 86 ranked her fourth individually. Freshman Ava Garcia shot a 95, slicing 13 strokes off her previous 18-hole best, to finish ninth.
"The White Lake area is so well represented when it comes to both girls and boys golf," Kerr said. "Both of our programs have tremendous numbers and success to back it up."
The Rockets had their own strong day, and the top player was again Paige Anderson. Anderson finished fifth individually with an 87.