NORTON SHORES – One year ago, Paige Anderson and the Reeths-Puffer girls golf team left the city tournament in a pretty grumpy mood.
Anderson, a junior standout at the time, was unhappy with her second-place individual finish, knowing she could have shot better,
Her Reeths-Puffer teammates were unhappy as well, because they only had three available players that day, and it takes four to compete for the team championship.
Forward to Wednesday, when Anderson and the Rockets returned to the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Tournament in an entirely different frame of mind and level of confidence.
Anderson took care of her old business with an exclamation point, shooting a sizzling four-under-par 69 to run away with the individual city championship at Oak Ridge Golf Course.
The R-P senior clobbered the competition, beating Whitehall’s Ava Garcia, the runner-up, by 11 shots.
Meanwhile, the other Rockets, who have been improving and gaining momentum all season, made it a perfect day for R-P by soaring to the team championship.
Reeths-Puffer finished with 353 points, followed by Whitehall (356), Mona Shores (366), Montague (388), Oakridge (433), Holton (439) and Western Michigan Christian (489)
For second-year R-P Coach Matt Pallett, the entire day was a source of great pride.
“I think it all starts with Paige and her leadership,” Pallett said. “She works extremely hard, and the other girls see the example she sets and follow suit. I’m very proud of my girls.”
Anderson, an All-Stater last year, shot the best round of her high school career. She birdied four holes, shot par on the other 14 and basically ran away from the field.
“I was definitely upset last year,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t really thinking about winning today, just playing the best I could.”
After getting off to a great start, however, Anderson admitted that winning was on her mind.
“After I shot one under on the front nine, I figure I could do just whatever, and just keep the ball in front of me,” she said.
Coach Pallett was awed by Anderson’s round.
“I think she was very motivated to come back strong this year,” the coach said. “What an outstanding round. Not one blemish on her scorecard, not one bogie. To go play that solid is truly amazing.”
Two other Rockets also landed in the top 10 individually.
Junior Rowan Bluhm, who spent most of last season injured and out of the lineup, shot an 88 and finished fifth. Freshman Sophia McCollum, the top newcomer to the squad this year, shot a 90 and took sixth place.
Rounding out the Rocket scorers were Avery Luna, who shot a 106, and Abby Haak, who shot 117.
All of the Rockets’ efforts were enough to earn the team championship, something they never would have dreamed of last year, even if they would have had enough players to qualify.
“It was definitely not in the playbook last year, but this summer I played with Sophia and thought, wow, we might have a chance this year,” Bluhm said. “Throughout the whole season we have made some very good improvements. All of us have put in extra time, stayed after practice, worked before practice, because we knew we had a chance.”
When asked if he ever dreamed his team could make such a turnaround this season and win the city title, Pallett hesitated a moment.