JUNIOR GIRL’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Lilia Henkel of Grand Rapids Tops 2019 GAM Honor Roll

Link to Honor Roll: Points

  FARMINGTON HILLS – Lilia Henkel of Grand Rapids reached a point a few years ago when she decided to choose golf over what she calls other country club sports.

  “I’ve always been a very competitive person,” she said. “I’ve always been competitive in anything and everything I do. I’ve funneled that through golf.”

  Henkel, 16 and the daughter of Kevin and Stacey Henkel, is the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) Junior Girl’s Player of the Year, Ken Hartmann, GAM senior director of rules and competitions, announced today.

  Players of the Year are determined by the Honor Roll points system and totals can be found on a pull down from the Championships tab at Over the next week the GAM will announce the final Players of the Year from among the junior ranks.

  Previously, Dan Ellis of East Lansing and Yurika Tanida of East Lansing were named the Men’s and Women’s Players of the Year, Steve Maddalena of Jackson and Julie Massa of Holt were named the Senior Men’s and Women’s Player of the Year, Ian Harris of Bloomfield was named the Super Senior Player of the Year and August Meekhof of Eastmanville was named the Junior Boy’s Player of the Year.

  Henkel, a junior at Forest Hills Northern High School, highlighted her golf season by winning the Michigan Junior State Amateur title. She was qualifying medalist earning the top seed for match play and then marched through the bracket to top Alissa Fish of Clarklake in the title match.

  “That was by far the best tournament of the summer, and the one I gained the most confidence from,” she said. “All of my shots were working out. I played so well all week, and in the first round of match play and the third round of match play I stuck my first approach shots of the matches to six inches – both times. To get it close and get it in the hole early in matches really gave me great confidence and overall I did not have a lot of misses for the week. It was fun and felt so good to play golf that week.”

   A GAM member through Cascade Hills Country Club, Henkel led the Honor Roll with 1,068 points. Allison Cui of Okemos, a member through her Okemos High School team, was second with 965. Jasmine Ly of Windsor and Sylvan Glen Golf Club (880), Sophie Stevens of Highland and Prestwick Village Golf Club (737) and Nicole Whatley of Northville and Fox Hills Golf & Learning Center (598) rounded out the top five.

  Kyle Wolfe, who directs the junior tournaments for the GAM, said Henkel is continually seeking improvement.

   “She is a great kid with a lot of talent, but has flown under the radar a little bit,” he said. “She is going to be a great player and has a bright future. She has the thing that is hard to quantify in golfers – an inner self-confidence that is going to serve her really well as she moves forward in her golf career.”

  Wolfe said he has noticed her improvement in the last three years as she has worked with Brandon Roby, a teaching professional at Cascade Hills Country Club.

  “The things she is working on and really focusing on are apparent,” he said. “She always makes sure to thank Brandon, which shows maturity and an understanding of what she has to do to be a great player.”

  Henkel said Roby has helped more than her golf swing.

  “My mental game keeps improving and so much a driving factor,” she said. “My main goal over the summer was improving my mental game and my confidence on the golf course. I know now from playing in some national tournaments that I can shoot low scores on big-girl golf courses and play with great players from around the world. It’s something I have to do to achieve what I want to achieve.

   Earning a college golf opportunity and continuing to improve are what she calls the next steps in her career.

  “I’m very honored to be player of the year,” she said. “It makes me super excited for next year. I would love to play (NCAA Division I) golf. I’m confident I’m doing the right things to make that happen.”

-Greg Johnson, [email protected]