Fender Bender: Central ekes out TC West Invite win; Robinson's 2-under 70 takes crown

May 11—ACME — Everyday golfers are going to hate Andrew Fender.

OK, "hate" is perhaps too strong a word. Maybe be jealous of?

The Traverse City Central senior first started playing golf only three years ago. He is in his first season as a varsity golfer and carded a 1-under 71 to lead Traverse City Central to a championship Saturday.

While many golfers take decades to hit the 80s or even 90s, Fender found his calling, demonstrated by an 80-yard hole out for eagle on the second hole in Saturday's Traverse City West Invitational on The Wolverine at Grand Traverse Resort.

Fender used a 56-degree wedge to hole out the 354-yard par-4 No. 2, then punctuated that with birdies on his final two holes to give Central a one-stroke win over host TC West in the tournament, extending the Trojans' hold on the tournament to four years and shooting the tourney's lowest round since 2018 in the process.

Fender birdied Nos. 15 and 16, his final two holes of the day.

"I've never broken par before, so I was shaking over that putt a little bit," Fender said. "But I found the bottom of the cup."

His approach shots left him putts of 6 and 3 feet for birdie.

The 71 was his best varsity round of the year by three strokes, besting his 74 round last week at Bayview Country Club in Petoskey.

"It's just really good to finally put a good round together," Fender said. "And our entire team really played well."

Duffers, you can commence cursing.

Traverse City Central celebrates its fourth overall and fourth consecutive victory in the tournament that dates back to 2013.

Central ended up with a 293, with West one shot back at 294. Traverse City St. Francis placed third in the 18-team tournament at 304.

West junior Winslow Robinson won individual medalist honors with 2-under 70. He carded three birdies on the front nine and two on the back.

"I made two birdies in a row on seven and eight to kind of get me going," Robinson said. "I didn't start off great and kind of had to scramble a little bit. Didn't hit the ball great, but made some made some pars and set up my back nine to make a little run."

Robinson said No. 16 on The Wolverine can sometimes give him fits, but he parred it this time around. He then posted a birdie on 18 that proved to be the difference in holding off Fender.

"I love how he just handled adversity so well," West first-year head coach Todd Hursey said. "The great players sometimes struggle through making pars and bogeys. He's become better at taking bad days and making the most of them. He's put himself in a position to shine as one of the better players in the state."

Robinson joked that he's already getting senior-itis as a junior because he's going to miss seven of the final 20 days of school for golf tournaments.

"Not very many happy teachers," he joked. "The senior-itis just kicks in a little bit now, even though I'm not a senior, but I have to keep it going for a little while."

At least Traverse City St. Francis didn't end up in the bay. Not Saturday, at least.

Six Gladiators golfers ventured out to play a scramble Friday evening on The Wolverine to prepare for Saturday's tournament. The losing threesome had to jump into the bay.

The prep work not only kept Josh Slocum dry Friday but also in the top five Saturday. His foursome of Central's Griffin Mawson, Charlevoix's Bryce Boss and West's Henry Stachnik all peppered the No. 18 green within 20 feet on their second shot on the 452-yard par-5.

Only Slocum converted the first putt for an eagle. Mawson and Boss each carded a birdie, and Stachnik ended up with a par.

"Yesterday, when I was playing with Ben Wolff, I was in the exact same spot," Slocum said of No. 18. "That was very helpful."

Slocum cracked a bit of a smile even before the ball went into the cup, as the eagle gave him an overall 1-over 73. St. Francis already solidified third place behind Central and West, with Slocum's eagle giving the Gladiators a season-best team 304 round. The 73 was his best round this season.

"We started out pretty rough this year, and every tournament we've improved," Slocum said. "Hopefully, we can continue to do that through states."

St. Francis junior Davis Ansley and Central senior EJ Maitland tied for third behind Robinson and Fender with even-par 72s. Slocum and West junior Jason Parrish tied for fifth at 73. Mawson placed seventh, carding a 74, with Stachnik and Elk Rapids sophomore Baron Vollmer tied for eighth. West sophomore Sean Haggerty and Central senior Devin Garner tied with 76s to round out the top 10.

TC West won the Gold Division of junior varsity and smaller varsity teams with a 326, besting Central by six shots.

Central head coach Lois McManus said she doesn't like to sneak looks at the online scoring during tournaments, but thought it would come down to her Trojans and TC West in the end.

"I knew it was close, but I didn't have any idea it was that close," McManus said. "Our teams are so evenly matched. It's great competition and will help both our teams for regionals and states."

West's 294 score was only five strokes off its best score of the season, but it was also its best in relation to par.

"It's fun to have a great matchup," Hursey said. "Central and West played down to the wire. SF played really well."

The Trojans host an invitational at A-Ga Ming Golf Course on Wednesday.

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