The Bedford High School golf team is, from left, standing, coach Mark Smith, Justin Gross, Luke Berger, and Brandon Henry, and, kneeling, David Genaw and Nate Conring.
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Three years ago Mark Smith made a proclamation regarding his four freshman Bedford golfers that has proved to be true.
"I knew they were special," said Smith, their coach.
Just how special? That will be known after Saturday.
With strong performances over the past two weekends - winning repeat titles at the district and regional tournaments with rounds of below 300 - the Mules have advanced to the state tournament for the second year in a row.
Competition in the two-day tournament begins Friday at Forest Akers West Golf Course on the campus of Michigan State.
Top-ranked Davison, which won the Bedford Invitational in May, will be the team to beat.
"This is the year they have to make something happen," Smith said. "I think they can do it."
The Mules struggled a year ago at state, finishing a disappointing 11th partially due to the suspension of one of its players.
The team has been exceptional the past two weekends, breaking the school record at districts with a score of 294, and following that with a 297 at regionals Thursday at Westshore Golf Club in Grosse Ile, Mich.
"We've all been together since our freshman year, and it's really cool to keep going," senior Nate Gonring said. "I think this year's team is definitely the best team we've ever had. It's just a matter of finishing, so we can show everybody we are the best team this school's ever had."
Gonring shot a 69 at regionals, helping the Mules win by three strokes over Plymouth and Northville, who carded rounds of 300 to also qualify. Rounding out the Bedford's scoring was Luke Berger (74), Brandon Henry (77) and David Genaw (77). Berger, a junior, is the only nonsenior on the varsity team.
The round of senior Justin Gross was not counted because each team's highest individual score is not reflected in the team tally. Ironically, Gross was the medalist at the district meet, scoring a 72.
"I'm so proud of these guys," Smith said. "My individual goal was to just get to state - placing one, two, or three - but to come out on top, these guys just fought to the end."
So strong were the Mules at regionals that a very avoidable error by Genaw was rendered inconsequential.
On the second-to-final hole, Genaw, the team's No. 1 player, mistakenly hit the ball being used by a playing partner. Per rules, Genaw was assessed a two-stroke penalty and ultimately triple-bogeyed the hole. He followed that up, though, with a birdie on the last hole.
"You should always identify your golf ball, but you know, stuff happens," Smith said. "You're human, you can't let stuff get to you. And he birdied the next hole."
Genaw is the only current Mule, who as a freshman, played varsity on the 2007 squad that finished 14th at state. The other three spent much of their rookie season winning freshman tournaments.
"Right now, we're really coming together as a team," Gonring said. "We're all playing really well right now, so hopefully we'll keep it going."
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org