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Ellis ready for competitive atmosphere of state finals

Courtesy Photos Alpena High School senior Kennedy Ellis will compete in the Division 2 girls golf state finals on Friday at Forest Akers West in East Lansing. Ellis, who also competed in the finals last year, is counting on the experience she gained last season to finish her high school career on a high note.

The pressure will be on for Kennedy Ellis on Friday.

But as she prepares to compete in the final golf match of her high school career, the Alpena High senior wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ellis will compete in the Division 2 golf finals Friday at Forest Akers West in East Lansing and has shown during her career that she can adapt and thrive under pressure.

“I’m used to a very competitive atmosphere and to have (an atmosphere) where everyone is competing for their school and not just themselves is really great and wonderful,” Ellis said. “When you get to that high level match, that’s where you’re going to find girls who are passionate about the game and you have to prove yourself.”

The finals are normally held over two days, but this year, the format has been changed to a one-day, 18-hole tournament due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Ellis got a taste of the state finals experience last season as a junior and said she should have better control of her emotions this time around. She shot a first-round 94 last year, while adjusting to the competitive atmosphere and shot a second-round 83 for a two-day total of 177, good for 23rd overall.

She hopes to be dialed in Friday, stay focused and ultimately prove herself in a field of more than 100 of the best golfers in Division 2, including last year’s Division 2 champion, South Lyon’s Gabriella Tapp.

“I didn’t shoot as well my first day (last year). I was so excited, so nervous and had so many emotions going at that time,” Ellis said. “On day two, that’s when I started thinking about something other than golf. Knowing what I did before will help me this year.”

It’s been quite a journey for Ellis, who is only in her fourth year playing competitive golf. As an underclassman, she watched Lizzy Heath and Courtney Nunneley reach the state finals and told herself that’s where she wanted to be.

Since then, she’s progressed to become a team leader for the Wildcats, a consistent top-10 finisher in tournaments and one of the Big North Conference’s best.

“I’m a huge dreamer and I’ve always had high standards for myself,” Ellis said. “I always knew it was something I wanted and I have far exceeded my expectations.”

Competing on the Traverse City Junior Golf Association’s Northern Michigan junior golf tour over the summer, Ellis finished ranked second overall in the girls elite division. At the tour’s 36-hole championship, Ellis finished in third place and earned the TCJGA’s “Spirit of the Game” award.

By her own admission, Ellis hasn’t carded her lowest scores during her senior year with the Wildcats, but she’s been nonetheless impressive.

She finished third during last week’s regional meet after shooting an 86 and earned first team all-Big North honors on Monday with a 92, the fourth best score during the Big North Championships in Traverse City.

During a home meet last month at Alpena Golf Club, Ellis shot an 81 to finish second and has several other top 10 finishes this season.

“I was hoping to shoot a little lower, but I’m proud of the accomplishments I’ve made more than what I’ve wound up shooting,” Ellis said.

As she heads into Friday’s final, Ellis will look to put a cherry on top of an impressive career at a course that’s known to be challenging. Forest Akers West is the home course of Michigan State University’s golf teams and is known to have faster greens and really challenge golfers on different aspects of their game.

Ellis played last year’s Division 2 final at Forest Akers East.

“There is quite a bit of difference. The challenge of it will be different,” Ellis said. “I’ve played the course a couple of times, so I know what (elements of my game) to bring.”

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