EAST LANSING – Richland’s Max VanderMolen and Grand Blanc’s Kate Brody used great starts and steady finishes in winning GAM Junior Invitational titles Sunday at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West Golf Club.
VanderMolen, 14 and this summer’s Michigan Junior Amateur champion, shot 4-under 68 in the first round Saturday and followed it up with a final 2-under 70 for 138, two shots ahead of Drew Miller of East Lansing, who shot 69 to finish, and Winston Lerch of Howell, who shot 72.
Brody, 17, who will sign with the University of Wisconsin golf program in November, fired the low score of the tournament with her Saturday 7-under 65 and closed with a 72 for 137. She finished four shots ahead of runner-up Grace Wang of Rochester Hills, who shot 68 in the final round, and five up on Sophie Stevens of Highland, who shot 73.
VanderMolen and Brody topped an elite field of boy and girl golfers who were invited by the GAM based on performances in GAM championships and a variety of other state and national competitions.
VanderMolen, who won a third GAM tournament of the summer, said he felt some nerves in the final round.
“I got a little nervous at the end because (Miller) was getting closer and I wasn’t making putts like I did in the first round,” he said. “I hit my driver great both days though and that was the key. I stayed out of trouble and made a lot of pars.”
Brody, who has been on a hot steak including shooting 62 for Grand Blanc High in a high school tournament recently, said the 65 felt really good.
“That’s my best score in any tournament other than a high school event,” she said. “It was great to be able to shoot 65 when we were playing longer yardage. I’ve played really good in high school events all season. I’ve only had one tournament where I shot over par.”
Champions were also crowned in 15-and-under age divisions.
Ian Masih of Okemos shot a final 69 for 146 to win the 15-and-under boys’ title by seven shots. Cooper Reitsma of Ada, who shot 76, and Owen Kotowski of Walker, who shot 77, tied for second at 153.
The girls’ 15-and-under trophy went to Grace Slocum of Traverse City, who shot a final 71 for 146. Lillian O’Grady of Grand Rapids, who shot 73 for 148 was second, and Ava Wisinski of Ada, who shot 77 for 154, was third.
VanderMolen, who attends a virtual high school and will live in Florida with his family this winter, said he had a good summer.
“I improved my ball-striking,” he said. “It feels good to win and it shows I have put the work in on the right things.”
Brody said she was tired of top-five finishes and wanted to win her final GAM Invitational.
“I don’t think I’ve won a GAM title since I won the 14-and-under Match Play when I was 14,” she said. “I think I’ve finished in the top five here the last thee or four years but wasn’t able to put two rounds together. I did that today. I played pretty steady, hit 16 greens, just didn’t make as many putts as yesterday.”