BENTON HARBOR — Nick Knowlton is rounding his golf game into form as he prepares to begin his senior season at Trine University, shooting a 73 on Tuesday at Lake Michigan Hills Golf Club in the opening round of the Lakeshore Junior Golf Association Tour’s championship tournament.
“It’s just nice to be able to stay competitive, instead of just going out and having fun,” said Knowlton, a Bridgman graduate. “Everything matters, and you’re not giving putts. It helps prepare you for school when you get back into it.”
That’s exactly what Lakeshore JGA Tour director Barry Shanley had in mind when he added a Collegiate Division this year. The new division is for ages 19-23, and had 14 players participate in at least one tournament in its first season.
“I had done it on a previous tour and it was really popular,” Shanley said. “The reason it’s popular is unless you make the Michigan Open or the Michigan Amateur, something like that, there’s really nothing for college kids to play in the summers. They’re trying to maintain their game, maintain their scholarships, everything else.”
The tour combines a player’s two best scores from nine regular-season events, plus both rounds of the championship tournament. The tour will conclude Monday at HawksHead Links in South Haven.
Knowlton’s 73 was the best score of the day, and moved him into first in the Collegiate Division standings. He entered the day four shots behind Jeremiah Guernsey, but the Dowagiac graduate and St. Xavier University golfer struggled to an 87 on Tuesday.
“I finally made some putts today,” Knowlton said. “Some of the ones that weren’t going in the last couple weeks dropped today. That makes a difference.”
Recent Lakeshore graduate Davis Longyear is also looking to get ready for a college season. He’ll be playing a golf as a freshman at Siena Heights University this fall.
“This has been a great way for me to play some tournaments and stay tournament-ready,” Longyear said. “There were some other tournaments that I could play in, but this is the most convenient. It’s affordable, it’s not too far for me to drive and it’s pretty laid-back.”
Longyear shot an 82 on Tuesday. He is currently tied for the top spot in the Boys 16-18 Division standings with Blaine Shafer of White Pigeon, who had a 77.
“I had to knock the rust off,” Longyear said. “I hadn’t played in like a week.”
St. Joseph’s Ryan Guzzo was third in the division, five shots back after shooting an 81.
Guzzo was recently selected to represent The First Tee of Benton Harbor at the 2019 PURE Insurance Championship Impacting the First Tee.
The tournament will be held in September at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. It pairs First Tee golfers with PGA Tour Champions players.
“I was definitely surprised at first, but I’m definitely very grateful that I have the opportunity to go out there and play two great courses that not a lot of people have a chance to play,” Guzzo said. “I know a lot of people going from the First Tee that I’ve met over the years.”
Guzzo is the fifth local golfer to be selected in the last three years. He joins Longyear, who went last year, as well as St. Joseph’s Cailey Rooker and Mason Dirlam and Lakeshore’s Logan Essig, all of whom participated in 2017.
“They gave me a couple pointers on what I need to know and what I need to do when I get out there to make sure that it’s the best experience for me,” Guzzo said. “Being able to learn from what they did helps me a lot.”
Other division leaders were able to solidify their leads on Tuesday.
Alan Wegner of Cassopolis shot a 79 to lead the Junior Division, Charlie Uzelac of St. Joseph had a 106 and is atop the Boys 13-15 Division, Olivia Cramer of Lawton shot an 82 and is first in the Girls 16-18 Division, and Sydney Barnes of South Haven carded a 94 in the Girls 13-15 Division.
Lakeshore JGA Tour
at Lake Michigan Hills
Junior Division — Alan Wegner (Cassopolis) 79, William Hundt (Stevensville) 88, Connor Geigley (Centreville) 97, Rebecca Guernsey (Dowagiac) 109.
Collegiate Division — Nick Knowlton (Trine University) 73, Collin Hampton (Schoolcraft) 78, Jeremiah Guernsey (St. Xavier) 87, Mitchell McConomy (Stevensville) 95, Alissa Waite (Northwood) 99.
Boys 16-18 — Blaine Shafer (White Pigeon) 77, Ryan Guzzo (St. Joseph) 81, Davis Longyear (Stevensville) 82, Carter Geigley (Centreville) 82, Jackson Glanzer (Stevensville) 92, Peyton Vanderhoff (Otsego) 92, Owen Weber (St. Joseph) 93.
Boys 13-15 — Charlie Uzelac (St. Joseph) 106, Connor Shooks (Watervliet) 107, Jacob Martinez (Lawton) 125.
Girls 13-15 — Sydney Barnes (South Haven) 94, Gracie Thomas (St. Joseph) 106, Madison Jackson (St. Joseph) 106, Ella Yunker (Sturgis) 115.
Girls 16-18 — Olivia Cramer (Lawton) 82, Carli Sanford (Sturgis) 90, Abby Bocock (South Haven) 93, Madisen Percival (Sturgis) 102, Bella Finnigan (St. Joseph) 107, Naomi Norris (Lawrence) 116, Megan Fairchild (St. Joseph) 133.
Contact: bsanders@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSanders