BRIGHTON — Talent has never been an issue for Brighton golfer Annie Pietila.
Following in the footsteps of two older sisters, Pietila stepped right into a strong varsity lineup as a freshman two years ago, playing as the Bulldogs’ No. 2 golfer behind Miss Golf Julia Dean.
But Pietila will be the first to admit that the mental aspect of the game has held her back, particularly in her two state tournaments.
A consistent mid-70s shooter, Pietila averaged 87 in her four rounds in the state tournament.
“Last year I just didn’t have it in me,” she said. “That’s OK, because that’s last year and this is a new year, so I’m not even worried about last year.”
This year Pietila and her Brighton teammates are going into the Division 1 state tournament on a high.
She shot 72 to win medalist by four strokes over all-state teammate Heather Fortushniak and the second-ranked Bulldogs fired 309 to win their third straight regional championship Thursday on their home course at Oak Pointe Country Club.
In Pietila’s last three rounds, she shot 73 to win the East Lansing Invitational, 76 to finish second in the KLAA tournament and now 72 to win the regional.
An indication that Pietila has a stronger grasp of her mental game is that she followed up bogeys with birdies.
“I feel like I was stable,” she said. “We have this thing called Vision 54. It’s how to work on your mental game, because golf is 90 percent your mental game. I’ve been starting to do that and it’s been helping a lot.”
Fortushniak shot 76, Autumn Blaney shot 80 and Maggie Pietila shot 81 for the Bulldogs.
“This year we have so many great players on the team, with Maggie, Annie, all the way down to our fives and sixes,” Fortushniak said. “We’re all good golfers, experienced golfers. I know for sure they always have my back and we have everyone else’s back on the team.”
Hartland had its best regional finish ever, taking second place with a 339 to also advance to the state tournament Oct. 20-21 at Meadows in Allendale. The Eagles were third last year when they qualified for the state tournament for the first time.
“We came in confident this year, a little different than last year,” Hartland coach Mike Joseph said. “Last year we wanted to get over the hump and make it for the first time.”
Sydney Bradford shot 78, Sammi Behen and Audrey Brown shot 86, and Violet Sinishtaj shot 89 for Hartland, which finished 17th out of 18 teams in the state tournament last year.
“We know what it’s like now, so it helps a lot,” Bradford said. “We will be more prepared than we were last year, definitely. This year we’re gonna do a lot better.”
Grand Blanc grabbed the third and final qualifying berth, shooting 353.
Senior Anna Stocker shot 98 to lead Howell, which had only three golfers.
Division 1 golf regional at Oak Pointe C.C.
1. Brighton 309
2. Hartland 339
3. Grand Blanc 353
4. Lapeer 366
5. Grand Ledge 367
6. Davison 380
7. Holt 392
8. Saginaw Heritage 408
9. Howell only 3 golfers
Annie Pietila, Brighton, 72
Heather Fortushniak, Brighton, 76
Sydney Bradford, Hartland, 78
Autumn Blaney, Brighton, 80
Maggie Pietila, Brighton, 81
Brooke Gibbons, Lapeer, 81
Kaylee Hirschman, Grand Ledge, 84
Nateda Her, Holt, 84
Erin Walter, Grand Blanc, 85
Sammi Behen, Hartland, 86
Audrey Brown, Hartland, 86
Vionne Sereseroz, Grand Ledge, 86