The game was over before it even started.

There was absolutely no issue.

But don’t tell that to the young talents of Livonia Stevenson’s men’s golf team.

The Spartans certainly weren’t playing like it was a meaningless round of golf.

Wayne Memorial lost the Kensington Lakes Activities Association-East final at Fellows Creek in Canton on Tuesday. The Zebras didn’t have enough players to score as a team, and you need at least four scores.

Stevenson took the win before one of his players took their first swing of the day. It gave the Spartans a perfect 6-0 record in the division, earning them the Eastern Championship, just another accolade to toss on the pile in what turns out to be one of the best seasons ever. of the history of their program.

The Livonia Stevenson Golf Team wraps up a KLAA East Championship with a forfeit win over Wayne High on May 17, 2022 at Fellows Creek Golf Course in Canton.  From left, coach Kurt Hay and golfers C. Hadden, Kyle Kless, Eli Vanderveen, Mitchell Lee, Shain Veliu and Zachary McCloud.

So Stevenson, who brought in a team of mostly underclass men and JV guys, and Wayne’s pair of golfers opted to use their tee times by playing a 9-hole match anyway. .

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And though the divide was already sewn, there was Kyle Kless, attacking the final hole on Fellow Creek’s south course as if the Spartans’ season was on the line. While battling gusty winds and an ill-placed green at the top from a hill, the second hit a point-blank gimme putt to make the par and end his round on a radiator.

“That’s the way to end,” shouted a relative of one of the players. “What a putt! »

This isn’t the first fanfare Kless, along with the rest of the Spartans, has received this spring.

A week ago, he shot an even par 36 to become the individual medalist in a division duel against rival Livonia Franklin. He, along with Stevenson’s other sophomore, Eli Vanderveen, who shot a 37, helped the Spartans outscore the Patriots by 14 shots to not only win the city championship, making them the best team of all Livonia this spring, but also to register the lowest score for 9 holes in the history of the program (151 shots).

It was the second school record the Spartans had broken, as they had previously shot a 307 to win the Highest Honors Invitational at Huron Meadows Golf Course in Brighton to record the program’s lowest team score for 18 holes. And some of the best teams in the state were at that tournament, including Brother Rice, who the Spartans edged out to win the trophy.

Stevenson’s other three starters led the way in this April 30 round. Senior captains Nathan Bond and Evan Westphal shot 74 and 76, respectively, while second Troy Watson (yes, the Spartans have three starting seconds!) added a 77.

The team is warming up at the right time, especially with the KLAA post-season tournament scheduled for next Thursday and Regional Division 1 coming up on June 1. The Spartans are looking to advance to the state finals for a second straight year, which is saying something. Last year was the first time they qualified for the state championship since 1998.

Livonia Stevenson Spartan Eli Vanderveen.

“I just hope they can keep their heads on their shoulders and realize they can do it,” coach Curt Hay said after Tuesday’s game. “They’re starting to have the confidence to know they can compete at this level.”

They will have to rely on strong sophomore scores if they are to return to the National Finals.

But that’s kind of been Hay’s thing since taking over the Spartans nine years ago.

Hay was a professional instructor at Twin Beach Golf Club in West Bloomfield for 30 years.

After his retirement, it didn’t take long for one of his former junior golfers to call him out and pull him out of retirement. It was former Stevenson golfer Ben Zammit, who was a junior at the time.

The Spartans were in desperate need of a new coach after their previous one resigned.

“I basically said, ‘I’m not doing anything, so I’ll come and train you guys,’ and I’m still here,” Hay said.

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Stevenson’s players lack the traditional country club upbringing that many KLAA-West golfers have. Most of them grew up playing on local municipal grounds. Few of them had private instructors or even a good set of clubs to train with.

Most of Hay’s freshmen are pretty raw, but he does his best to train them. And, boy, did he do a good job of lowering their scores.

Take this current team, for example. When Westphal was a freshman, he was named team MVP at the year-end banquet. A year ago, when Watson was in ninth grade, he was also named team MVP (however, Watson has always been a golfer with experience on the junior circuit).

Now Hay is quickly molding Kless and Vanderveen into players of all calibers.

“These kids work hard, and they really gel and try to make it happen,” Hay said. “It’s just a matter of them keeping their heads on their shoulders and not getting too nervous (in big games).”

Kless started playing golf with his father when he was 8 years old. By the time he reached eighth grade, he took the sport very seriously, even buying new clubs and constantly practicing his game.

He and his father toured the region, riding all the local courses in Livonia and trying out all the trails that interested them.

Stevenson's coach, Curt Hay, points out to one of his golfers at Canton's Fellows Creek.

It helped him reduce his 9-hole scores from the 50s in college, to the 40s in freshman year, and now to the mid to high 30s in 10th grade.

“It’s good to know your hard work is turning into results with lower shooting scores,” Kless said. “Seeing your teammates work hard and seeing you improve too is what I really love about golf.”

Vanderveen is a late bloomer, as far as star golfers go. He only started playing when he was 10 years old. He only acquired a private instructor two years ago.

He first started playing golf around the municipal grounds with his father and grandfather. Now he trains at Fox Hills in Plymouth as often as he can.

He even gave up playing several sports to take up golf, and he really loved baseball.

“I just kept getting into it more and more,” said Vanderveen, who dropped his scores to a low of 80 for 18 holes and a high of 30 for 9. “When freshman came , I knew I wanted to try out for the golf team, so I got some new clubs and really started to get into it. lessons, and here we are.

And here we are.

The Spartans enter the KLAA Championship at Kensington Metropark Golf Course in Brighton as underdogs, that’s for sure. Northville, Novi, Brighton, Hartland, Plymouth and Canton are never easy opponents.

Stevenson golfer Kyle Kless plays on a short parr hole at Fellows Creek.

But Stevenson is unlikely to even care who he is up against. The Spartans are too busy trying to outdo themselves. The second want to beat the seniors. The older ones want to beat the younger ones.

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This competitive spirit is something of a rite of passage for the boys at Hay.

“Some of the guys have set the bar high and everyone wants to beat them,” added Hay. “It gets the ball rolling when you have a few guys playing well and a few guys wanting to beat them.”

That’s why Kless was chasing this par on the last hole of a seemingly meaningless match. No issues? No, the stakes come up and are your best, and that’s what Stevenson has been doing all spring.

Brandon Folsom covers high school sports in metro Detroit for Hometown Life. Follow him on Twitter @folsombrandonj.