By Matthew Scheidel
The Grand Rapids Community College golf team won the Michigan Community College Athletic Association despite adverse weather conditions on Tuesday at Arbor Hills Golf Club in Jackson.
The Raiders trailed Oakland Community College by one stroke entering the final round of the tournament. They were able to pull away with strong rounds from freshman Cooper Bell (74), sophomore Nicholas Ward (73), sophomore Ryan Skislak (77), freshman Logan Holtkamp (78), and sophomore Samuel Howard (79).
Head coach John Forton said he was proud of his team, especially considering the tough conditions they had to play in.
“We started out playing pretty well on the first 18 (holes), led by Cooper Bell who did an outstanding job,” Forton said.. “We came back for the next round and we didn’t shoot as well. We woke up the next morning for the final 18 and it was raining and 46 (degrees), and they were contemplating cancelling the match. But somehow the superintendent got the course ready to go so we played. In a total team effort, we were able to take home the championship.”
Bell said that playing in those conditions was tough, especially since they had to play 36 straight holes on Monday.
“We battled through the tough conditions and we knew where we stood after the first two rounds,” Bell said. “We turned on the gas after the first day and won, which was awesome.”
Forton said that this championship adds to the winning culture of the GRCC golf program.
“This has always been a strong program,” Forton said. “This not only means a lot to the players and myself, but to the whole school, the athletic director, the president, right on down. It also means a whole lot to the people that played here before. It’s important that this program continues to show success not only at this level, but at the regional level and at the national level.”
Forton said his team is looking forward to regionals next week, adding that they have found that they are better than they originally thought they were this season.
“We’re fired up,” Forton said, “Before this tournament I think we were kind of underdogs to Oakland. But when we go to regionals, I think we’ll be somewhat favored. Obviously we have to play the games, but we’re very confident. When we woke up Tuesday morning the team came up to me and said ‘don’t worry coach, we’ve got this.’ So I anticipate us finishing first and we’ll be on our way to the national championship down in Indiana.”
GRCC Athletic Director Bill Firn was proud of the team’s effort and believed that the best has yet to come
“They have played some really good team golf as of late and that has shown in their results,” Firn said. “Led by Cooper Bell, Nick Ward, Ryan Skislak, Logan Holtkamp and Sam Howard our team has really picked one another up each day they compete and they have shown to have each others backs. Coach John Forton does a tremendous job of preparing our young men to play at their best each and every time they take the course. It’s an amazing run our golf team has had of late, winning their 11th straight conference title and their fourth MCCAA crown in six years. I am excited for them as all of their goals they have set out to accomplish are still in front of them.”
The Raiders’ next tournament will be the NJCAA Region XII Championship at the Bedford Valley Golf Club in Battle Creek, MI. The tournament starts on May 13.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Friday, May 10 at 7:39 p.m. to include comments from Athletic Director Bill Firn.