Contender makes early case

April 18, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A younger Grand Rapids West Catholic boys golf team felt it left too many strokes on the course in tying for fourth place at last spring's Division 3 Final at Michigan State’s Forest Akers East.

A season older and remembering that disappointment, the Falcons have left some of the state's top teams in their wake in starting this spring among the hottest teams in Michigan.

West Catholic received this week’s team Second Half High 5 after impressive showings in back-to-back tournaments against some of the state’s top competition. The Falcons shot 315 on April 12 to finish five strokes back of top-ranked Division 1 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central at the Kent County Classic at The Highlands. The next day, West Catholic shot a 303 in the Haslett Invitational at Forest Akers East to edge a bevy of strong Division 2 and 3 teams, including the No. 1s in both of those state polls.

“We pretty much expect to contend with anybody,” West Catholic coach Andy Weatherhead said. “We’d like to consistently get to the low 290s. I think that’s possible.”

Four returnees from last season’s team key this line-up. At the top is junior Sam Weatherhead – Andy’s son – who is arguably the state’s top player and finished runner-up at the Division 3 Final after losing a tie-breaker.

He won the individual medal at Kent County with a 68 – four better than Forest Hills Central’s Andrew Yeager, who has signed with the University of Michigan – and then shot a 3-under-par 69 to win at Forest Akers East.

Weatherhead is joined by seniors Matt Kowalczyk and Dalton Drumm and junior Adam Rooney. They all shot 87 or better at Kent County and 83 or lower at Forest Akers East.

All four have taken a jump this spring. Weatherhead shot in the 60s a few times last season, but has been there all this season so far. Kowalczyk and Drumm have cut strokes by improving their course management. And as a group, last season’s Finals jump – the Falcons finished 10th in 2010 – provided a confidence boost they continue to ride.

“No doubt, they were pretty excited,” Andy Weatherhead said of the Haslett Invite win. “We felt going in, as the only west side team going over there, we were in it to win it. We were a little upset the day before because we didn’t win the Classic, but we thought we were good enough. That’s the big thing about golf – thinking you’re good enough.

“It was kind of a spring board last year. We worked hard enough, and we’re good enough to be here.”

Click to read more about this week's other High 5s honorees.

PHOTO: Grand Rapids West Catholic tied for fourth at last season's Division 3 Final at Michigan State's Forest Akers West.

Saline's Williams-Hoak Named National Coach of the Year by LPGA Professionals

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 20, 2022

The LPGA Professionals have named Saline High School golf coach Debbie Williams-Hoak as its national Coach of the Year.

Williams-Hoak was among national award winners who were selected by the LPGA Professionals’ executive committee from a pool of Section Award winners, which were voted on by officers of those regional sections.

More on the award from LPGA Professionals:

The LPGA Professionals Coach of the Year Award was established in 1980 and is awarded annually to an LPGA Professionals member who is actively engaged in teaching and/or coaching golf at the collegiate or high school level.

LPGA Professionals Class A member Debbie Williams-Hoak knows what it takes to compete at the highest levels. She is a former LPGA Tour Player and track & field athlete who represented U.S. Track & Field in Russia and West Germany. She is a four-time Big Ten Champion, a member of the Ohio Track & Field Hall of Fame, University of Michigan Women’s Track Hall of Fame member and a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame as a player, coach and teaching professional. This year, she is being inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor.

Having been a multi-sport athlete accustomed to competing at the highest level, Williams-Hoak brings something unique to her coaching style. She has successfully coached boys and girls golf for the past 16 years at Saline High School in Saline, Michigan, and currently is serving as the first female president of the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association. Williams-Hoak feels proud that every girl on her team shot career lows while maintaining 100-percent academic eligibility this season, while her boys team placed second in the conference championship and qualified for its second-straight state Finals appearance.

She is dedicated to instilling a lifelong love of the game while empowering students through golf and hopes her example will pave the way for other women coaches to lead as well.

Williams-Hoak received the 2017 Sandy LaBauve Spirit Award, the most coveted honor bestowed by LPGA*USGA Girls Golf, for her continued dedication and passion for empowering girls through golf.  She was honored with the Midwest Youth Leader of the Year and Goldie Bateson Award two times, in addition to numerous recognitions as Coach of the Year from Saline High School.

She is deeply involved with the LPGA Professionals organization, which she currently serves as the LPGA Midwest Secretary since 2021. She has been site director for LPGA*USGA Girls Golf of Greater Washtenaw Country since 2015 and acted as an advisor for the Site Director Certification program in 2021. From 2018-2021, she worked as an expert committee member for LPGA*USGA Girls Golf.  She also coached at the LPGA Leadership Academies in Michigan over the last two years.

"I am extremely humbled by this award, as there are so many outstanding LPGA coaches in our association. What an honor to represent the LPGA, the state of Michigan and the game of golf as a coach,” said Williams-Hoak. “It is a privilege to work with so many wonderful players who make coaching so rewarding. I am also fortunate to have such great fellow coaches in Michigan and throughout the LPGA. Thank you so much for this very special recognition."

PHOTO: Saline golf coach Debbie Williams-Hoak, far left, stands for the trophy shot with her girls team after the Hornets won the 2016 Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship. (MHSAA file photo)