HOUGHTON - After the Upper Peninsula's infamous spring of 2013, the golfers at Wednesday's U.P. Division 1 Finals should have known to expect the unexpected at Portage Lake Golf Course.
Sun-splashed, windless conditions prime for scoring and a medalist who played in his team's No. 3 slot and hadn't broken 80 all season certainly qualifies as unexpected.
The man of the hour was Marquette sophomore Scott Frazier, who fired a 1-under-par 71 to earn the medalist honors and lead his team to the overall trophy.
Houghton’s Brendan Longhini stares down a putt on No. 18 during Wednesday’s U.P. Finals at Portage Lake Golf Course. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
"I'm gonna remember this for a while," Frazier said after what he described as the best round of his career.
Marquette posted a team total of 308, 15 better than defending champion Houghton, playing on its home course. It is MSHS's first crown in five years and sixth since competition in nearly-equal divisions began in 2001.
Three over after four holes, Frazier, who started on No. 4, still felt like he had a good round going just a few holes in.
1. MARQUETTE (308) - Scott Frazier 71, Jordan Frazier 76, Mike McGee 78, Brett Specker 83
2. HOUGHTON (323) - Wyatt Liston 78, Brendan Longhini 79, Seth Kaarto 81, Gunnar Stein 85
3. GLADSTONE (330) - Ben Lasecki 79, Adam Scheeneman 83, Kyle Pouliot 84, Max Strasser 84
4. ESCANABA (339) - Dane Casperson 81, Nick Aird 85, Nick LeMire 86, Nick Laviolette 87
5. KINGSFORD (348) - Marcus Andrews 81, Joe Linn 88, Cole Michand 89, Derek Carpenter 90
6. SAULT STE. MARIE (348) - C.J. Wilkins 84, Mason Bailey 87, Adam Anderson 87, Joey Wiater 90
7. MENOMINEE (351) - Riley Hegg 86, Sam Schewe 86, Landen Maccoux 89, Channing Modscheidler 90
8. NEGAUNEE (352) - Andrew Katona 84, David Renald 87, Tanner Uren 89, Mike Wilber 92
9. CALUMET (364) - Reese Lassila 74, Bryce Johnson 91, Kaden Kangas 99, Austin Rilei 100
10. WESTWOOD (375) - Trevor Burke 88, Eric Farley 91, Ben Luttinen 96, Michael Farley 100
11. GWINN (391) - Matt Moilanen 86, Alex Morse 96, Dylan Marpoe 109, Phillip Robinson 125
"My putting was unbelievable. I was one-putting everything and my drives were straight, too," Frazier said.
He stabilized his round with a big birdie on the par-four ninth, then grinded out seven pars and just one bogey over the next eight holes.
He missed the fairway right on the long, uphill par-5 18th and had his second swing partially obstructed by a tree. All it did was set up a stretch of golf to remember.
"I took out a 3-wood, I took a three-quarters swing, I put it right under a tree branch and I knocked it on (the green) about 20 feet away," Frazier said.
He rolled in a straight putt for his eagle 3, then wrapped around to birdie both No. 1 and 2.
Calumet's Reese Lassila, playing with the No. 1's several holes ahead, had no way to know Frazier was catching fire down the stretch.
The 2010 U.P. Finals medalist and the Copper Country's best golfer all season, he signed for a 74 that was pretty good, but not good enough.
"It's not like I played a bad round of golf, I can't be disappointed," Lassila, a senior, said.
Lassila started with his round with a rollercoaster: bogey on No. 9, par on 10, then birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey.
"I think I really could've heated up on the back nine, but I think every time I made a birdie, I followed it up with a bogey and it just killed all momentum," Lassila said.
Lassila finally put two pars together on 18 and 1, then birdied the par-five 2nd to get to even-par for the day, but bogeys on No. 5 and his finishing hole, the long par-3 8th, kept him in black numbers. His 74 was still better than his medalist scores in two Western Peninsula Athletic Conference league meets on this course last week.
Key to Marquette's team success were two more golfers in the top five: third-place Jordan Frazier's 76 and just the second 78 of the year from fourth player Mike McGee.
Jordan Frazier, no relation to Scott, arrived from the Las Vegas, Nev., area to Houghton the night before the meet, but this was no jet-setting trip. Frazier relocated from Nevada to Marquette to play Midget AAA hockey with the Marquette Electricians this season and drove back having not touched a club in four days.
A freshman, Wyatt Liston, led host Houghton to a 323 in an attempt to defend its 2012 championship.
Liston started bogey-double bogey-bogey-double bogey, but was even over the next 14 for a 78, a tie for fourth individually and all-U.P. honors.
"After the first four (holes), I figured that it can't get much worse, so only good scores from there on," Liston said.
After a U.P. prep golf season full of horrors like a Great Northern Conference meet last week played with temperatures in the mid-40s and winds in the low 30s, or a WestPAC league schedule in which four meets were rescheduled and two cancelled outright, leading to three meets in three days last week, Wednesday was pleasant enough to put a smile on the faces of even the golfers who turned in a card full of bogeys.
The course was in remarkable shape considering it opened for the season just 15 days ago on May 14, the latest starting date in recorded history for the U.P.'s northernmost 18-hole track.
"(The weather) is awesome for today, but you wish you could've had it a couple other days as well," Marquette coach Ben Smith said.