Updated: Nov 18, 2022
The Almont girls golf team has claimed every BWAC title since 2015, winning each time with one common denominator: a smile.
Head coach Mark Bone shares a motto with his athletes every year and they say it makes all the difference: “The best golf is golfing with a smile on your face.”
“No matter how badly you’re doing, he just tells you to keep pushing,” sophomore Olivia Kotelnicki said.
“He never gives up on us,” junior Jesse Kautz added.
“Yeah, he just works on a personal level with all of us and makes sure we understand before he moves on to anything,” Kotenicki said.
The Raiders shot a combined team score of 391 yesterday at the 18-hole BWAC championship tournament at Holly Meadows Golf Course. They were led by Kautz, who was the overall winner and BWAC MVP, with an individual score of 86 strokes.
“I feel like I went through a couple of rough patches,” Kautz said, “but throughout the season I played to the best of my ability, so that’s all that matters.”
Kautz finished the season with a conference-leading nine-hole average of 42.86, nearly eight strokes ahead of the nearest competitor.
Kotelnicki (98) and seniors Autumn Bletch (103) and Bella Moussiaux (104) also joined Kautz in the top five to solidify the Almont victory. Bone said their ability to keep smiling when things weren’t going well was key.
“Bella had a terrible first nine and then played really well and Autumn, when we played our practice round on Saturday, she was super struggling, but today, she played great,” he said. “That’s the thing, just keep smiling, keep having fun, and don’t take yourself too seriously. As long as it’s fun, you can keep going.”
The top-five was broken up by Richmond sophomore Jaelyn Jozwiak, who shot a 98 to tie with Kotelnicki in second.
“I’m super excited and happy for myself. I can’t believe I did it,” Joswiak said. “My front nine was a personal best by one stroke, 45, and the back nine was 53.”
Joswiak grew up playing volleyball, but an injury led her off the court and onto the course last fall.
“Last year was my first year playing golf. I was playing volleyball but then I had an injured foot, and that kind of led me into golf,” she said. “My dad always said, ‘You’d be a good golf player because you’re tall.’ But I don’t think that really matters, I think he just said that.”
These five, along with Yale senior Jessica Upleger and North Branch’s junior Emerson Klutts and freshman Alivia Swoish earned First-Team All-BWAC honors based on their season averages.
The final team standings based on their nine-hole averages and championship tournament placement were as follows:
Richmond head coach Beau Brockett commented on the sport's growing particpation during the awards ceremony, saying he was excited to see more than 10 new girls in the league playing for the first time this fall, several of whom came from his own team.
"We have a lot of new girls. Last year there were only two girls on my team who played golf before," Joswiak said, "so to see where we are now is really impressive. I’m super excited for regionals."
Teams will now prepare for their respective regional tournaments set for Monday, Oct. 3. Almont will play in the Division 4 Region 24 tournament, hosted by Ann Arbor Greenhills. Armada, Imlay City, Richmond, and Yale will join other local teams Marysville and St. Clair in the Division 3 Region 18 tournament, hosted by Goodrich.
Bone said that Thursday’s performance gives him an extra boost of confidence for this coming tournament.
“It’s going to be tough because there are three schools that, on paper, are probably a little better than us,” he said, “but if Autumn keeps smiling and plays the way she did, Bella finds what she found again, Tara [Tencza] kind of gets over those humps, and Jesse’s always steady, I’m way more optimistic after today.”
BWAC Championship Team Scores:
Almont – 391
North Branch – 462
Yale – 467
Richmond – 468
Lutheran Northwest – 471
Armada – 471
Imlay City – N/A
Top 16 Individual Scores:
1. Jesse Kautz (ALM) – 86
2t. Olivia Kotelnicki (ALM) – 98
2t. Jaelyn Jozwiak (RICH) – 98
4. Autumn Bletch (ALM) – 103
5. Bella Moussiaux (ALM) – 104
6. Jessica Upleger (YALE) – 105
7t. Regan Healy (NB) – 110
7t. Emerson Klutts (NB) – 110
9. Alivia Swoish (NB) – 111
10. Olivia Schommer (ARM) – 112
11. Tara Tencza (ALM) – 113
12t. Devyn Manni (LNW) – 114
12t. Teresa Cipriano (ARM) – 114
14t. Melanie Nalezyty (ALM) – 115
14t. Nora Sinistaj (ALM) – 115
14t. Camille Verlinde (ARM) – 115
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
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