UPLGA Championship: Rochester tops former Marquette teammate Saint-Onge in battle of U.P. champions

CHAMPION – While receiving congratulatory hugs on the 15th hole at Wawonowin Country Club Tuesday for successfully defending her Upper Peninsula Ladies Golf Association title, Avery Rochester was serenaded by a chorus of “Baby Face” from members of the gallery.

You know:

“Baby face, you got the prettiest little baby face, there isn’t another one to take your place, baby face.”

The 17-year-old Rochester just smiled sheepishly and accepted some more congratulations.

She earned it. The June Marquette Senior High School graduate methodically beat 2011 champion and former MSHS teammate Carley Saint-Onge, 5 and 3, by rarely getting into trouble and focusing on the task at hand.

Saint-Onge, who now golfs for the Michigan State Spartans, and Rochester, who will be golfing for Colombia College in Missouri this fall, have combined to win the past six MHSAA U.P. golf titles as Redettes.

“I’m really excited,” said 2012 and 2013 MHSAA U.P. champ Rochester of her second-straight UPLGA Championship victory. “It was a fun round and definitely my best of the tournament. It seems like everything was perfect. I had only two shots that missed.”

She carded “a lot of pars” and “one or two birdies” during her final round. Rochester only had a bogey or two.

“It was a great round,” she said. “My tee shots were great, though I never used my driver once. I used my 5-wood.

“On the driving range before the semifinal round and during that round, I wasn’t hitting my drives straight. So, I went to my 5-wood, and stayed with it.”

For Saint-Onge, she fell behind early and despite a late, brief charge, never could overtake Rochester.

“It was a struggle … and Avery was on fire with that 5-wood,” Saint-Onge said. “I played well in the morning (semifinals) and not so well in the afternoon. I dug myself a hole the first couple of holes.”

Saint-Onge said she recorded eight pars and was “five or six” over par in the 15 holes.

Rochester broke out of the gate by winning three of the first four holes.

“Once I was up, I got some momentum,” Rochester said.

Leading by four holes at the turn, Rochester saw Saint-Onge rally with wins on holes No. 12 and 13.

The latter hit a nice shot out of the sand on No. 12 en route to forging par, while Rochester was long on a sand wedge, sailing the ball over the green.

On No. 13, Saint-Onge buried a 25-foot birdie putt to cut Rochester’s lead to 3-up with five holes to play.

“I thought (at the time) I had a slim chance (to come back),” Saint-Onge said.

Said Rochester: “I was a little nervous and felt a little pressure then. She could have come back.”

But on the next hole, Saint-Onge clanked her second shot only a few yards, then chipped off the green with her third before Rochester took the hole.

The two-time UPLGA winner – with Ben Johnson serving as her caddy – then clinched the victory on No. 15 by carding a par while Saint-Onge posted a bogey.

“My putting was good. So were my iron shots,” Saint-Onge said. “But Avery put her ball in the right spots (the whole round).

“It’s always good to make it to the championship flight final round, though.”

In the semifinals, Saint-Onge trimmed 2012 Calumet High School graduate Zoe Woodworth, 2 and 1, while Rochester was beating UPLGA veteran Nancy Osier of Wakefield 4 and 2.

“I was a little shaky at first, but then I settled in,” Osier said. “My putting hurt me the most, though.

“Avery is just so steady. You don’t see a lot of mistakes with her.

“I was just very pleased to get to the 16th hole against Avery,” Osier added.