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Clinton Township

May 13, 2013

Chippewa golf aims for league championship and postseason success

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Pictured is Chippewa Valley’s Jeff Fifer during a match against Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse. According to coach Brandon Pitcher, the Big Reds have either won outright or been co-division champs three times out of the last five years.

Last season, Chippewa Valley’s boys golf team didn’t qualify for the regional tournament for the first time in the five total seasons that Brandon Pitcher has coached the team.

Nearly a year has passed, and Pitcher still hasn’t forgotten it.

And while watching the season end in districts may have been a painful experience at the time, Pitcher thinks it may have taught his team some valuable lessons that could turn out to benefit it as the program moves forward.

“They may have just taken it for granted that they’re in regionals every year,” he said.  “That didn’t happen. One player (Justin Burns) went to the regional tournament. It was very disappointing for us not to make it as a team. I think they kind of see that, the end of last year ending on a bad note. They can see, even if you’re co-champs in a good league, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re (going to) walk into the regional tournament. That, I think, is in the back of their minds. I know it’s in the back of mine.

“They just need to realize anybody can get beat; anybody can have a bad hole. You just have to stay focused because this game takes a lot of concentration.”

Junior Jeff Fifer has also not forgotten about not making it out of districts last season.

“It’s nice to get past districts and keep going past it,” he said. “It’s (an) important thing, I think. Last year was the first year we didn’t get there in a while.”

According to Burns, he would like Chippewa to make it through as a team this year.

“It is bitter-sweet we weren’t able to make it as a team,” he said. “Be nice to make it as a team. It would be more fun than just going as an individual.”

How much last year’s finish will help the squad will be determined in a week or so, when districts get under way, but Chippewa seems to have moved on rather nicely. At press time, along with Port Huron Northern, the Big Reds sat atop the Macomb Area Conference White Division with a 4-1 record.

If Chippewa is able to come away with a league championship, it would be the fourth time in the last six seasons that it has either won a title outright or finished as co-champs, according to Pitcher.

Pitcher thinks a high standard has been established for Chippewa’s golf program as a result of winning those league championships, and he takes time on occasion to remind his players of the rewards that can come as a result.

“We’ve had some good players come through here, some college golfers that have played well,” he said. “They see the showcases, some of the stuff in the gyms. When you win the league or district, you get some recognition on the banners. They see that stuff, and I make it a point to remind them, ‘When you come back 10 years from now, you (want to) have something to be proud of,’ and kind of keep the tradition going.

“That’s definitely a motivating factor. The kids (want to) be a part of that. They just like to win.”

As much as Pitcher may like the thought of coming away with another league championship, there is also the matter of the postseason to attend to.

Chippewa is scheduled to compete in a Division 1 district tournament hosted by Utica Eisenhower at Cherry Hill Golf Club. Districts are scheduled for May 29-31 or June 1; check with the high school for the exact time and date of the Ike district.

While Pitcher would like to leave the tournament with some better memories this time around, he is also aware of the kind of competition that awaits the Big Reds.

“We play in a very, very difficult district,” he said. “It’s one of the tougher ones around. I could, realistically, see somebody shooting 330, and not making it into the regional final. Maybe 330, 335, somewhere around there’s (going to) be the cut. And in years past, it’s been higher than that and you can still get in. There’s (going to) be a couple really good teams that are left out.”

Pitcher’s postseason goals don’t end with the district tournament.

“We (want to) qualify for the regional tournament, and you hope to get at least one qualifier for the state finals, if not your whole team. It’s not in that order. We’d like to have our team go first, but if (we) can’t get the team, then you hope to get at least one guy that can play well that day.”