D3 Final Filled with Close Finishes

May 30, 2014

By Keith Shelton
Special to Second Half

HYDE — Two superb players with two scorching scores. Two palpitating playoff holes. One winner. 

Those were the stakes at Thursday’s Upper Peninsula Division 3 Final at Highland Golf Club. 

Cedarville senior Sam Eberts and Carney-Nadeau freshman Hunter Eichhorn both came in even at 71, shooting identical scores of 36 on the front nine and 35 on the back. 

Neither hung around the scoreboard in the 90 minutes that followed as waves of golfers checked in. There were many good scores on the day, including a trio of 75’s. That score would have been good enough to win medalist honors in each of the past two U.P. Division 3 Finals, but not Thursday. 

Inside the clubhouse, another nail-biter ensued as scores from Cedarville and Painesdale-Jeffers came in. When the dust settled, it was the Jeffers Jets by a slim margin, taking the U.P. title for the third consecutive year with a score of 314. Both teams had four golfers all at 83 or under, but Stephen Butina and Tyler Bailey’s dual 75’s were enough to put the Jets over the top. Cedarville was second at 316 followed by Carney-Nadeau at 337, Rudyard 341 and Munising 347.

Eichhorn, the young phenom from Carney, made a splash in 2013 as an eighth grader when he was runner-up on this same course. Putting together a card that was four strokes better and staying remarkably consistent throughout, he nearly still found himself in the same boat.

Eichhorn was the tactician, displaying a wealth of ability and golf knowledge. He had a seemingly large advantage from the tee box, frequently drawing “oohs” and “ahs” with his long drives of well over 200 yards. 

He looked ahead on fairways with a pair of binoculars, measured distance and tested the wind with handfuls of sand, using every available piece of information to his advantage, tactics he said he picked up from watching professionals in the PGA.

“I see what they do, read the greens, test the wind, how they scout holes. I learn from watching the pros,” Eichhorn said.  

On the playoff, both competitors went in confidently, playing in front of a large gallery. There was Eberts, appearing relaxed, smiling throughout and celebrating his small victories, and the stoic Eichhorn, who also enjoyed the crowd. 

“It always pumps me up when there’s a crowd. The more that watch me, the better I do,” he said. “I tried to stay calm, but there’s always nerves on a playoff hole. I just tried to stay as calm as possible.”

Each appeared to make a costly error during the playoff. Eberts drove hard to the left from the No. 10 tee box, falling just out of bounds, but he recovered incredibly well. His next shot went sailing back on course and landed just on the inside edge of the green, where he two-putted for par to force a second playoff hole. 

On No. 11, Eichhorn drove too hard to the right and landed amongst a cluster of trees. His next shot banked off the bark but landed in a favorable position, where had a clear shot to the green. Once there, he two-putted for a bogey. Eberts meanwhile, was in position to match with a short putt. He took his time, lined up his shot, and turned and exhaled when his ball went trickling past the hole. 

Thanks to Eichhorn and Eberts however, both of their schools received a boost with their scores of 71. Carney-Nadeau finished with possibly the best MHSAA Final score in school history, coming in third at 337. For Eichhorn the team finish was more meaningful than the medalist honor. 

“It was nice to win, but nice to finish third and see my team play well and compete with some of the better schools around,” he said. 

The remarkably deep Jets ruled the day. Identical twins Alex and Christopher Outinen capped their team’s scores with a respective 81 and 83 on a beautiful, clear and sunny day with temperatures in the mid-70s, a welcome change from the weather Jeffers had to deal with throughout most of the season.

“We had a rough start with the weather and only having five meets under our belt,” said coach Jason Koski. “But as the year went on, the scores improved. We were in a real competitive West-PAC conference with Houghton, Calumet and Hancock. We only won one meet, but the level of competition helped — Houghton won the Division 1 Finals. 

“This year, after winning the last two years, the kids had a little more confidence. I wouldn’t say they were overconfident, but they had that confidence to them this year.”

The Jets also exhibited another important quality in keeping a level head in the game of golf.

“They’re mentally strong,” Koski said. “Whenever they’d have a rough first nine, they’d pull it together on the second nine. As an example, Christopher (Outinen) had a 46 on the first nine today and ended up pulling in an 83. I always tell the kids, don’t be throwing your clubs, even when you feel like it. You forget it, and move on.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Stephen Butina of Painesdale-Jeffers holds the Upper Peninsula Division 3 championship trophy with his teammates, including, from left; Jacob Zerast, Alex Outinen, Tyler Bailey, Butina and Christopher Outinen on Thursday at Highland Golf Club. Painesdale-Jeffers shot 314 to win its third consecutive U.P. title. (Middle) Hunter Eichhorn of Carney-Nadeau watches his drive on the second playoff hole, No. 11 at Highland Golf Club. (Photos by Keith Shelton.)

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

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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)