By Mark Johnson
Special for Second Half
HARRIS - Back-to-back Upper Peninsula Division 1 golf championships is a sweet payoff for the Escanaba boys golf team.
The Eskymos were the top team again Thursday, after battling a difficult course at Sweetgrass Golf Club, an afternoon heavy downpour and rain delay and the top U.P. boys golf teams.
“The team performed great,” said Escanaba coach Brian Robinette. “You don’t shoot 317 on a demanding course like this unless your players are focused. This course can beat you down if you let it. Our team was tournament tough today.”
Team balance was the key for the Eskymos, and the 2018 champions were led by senior Nathan Rosseau’s runner-up individual finish (41-34-75). Rosseau said he used the rain delay to his advantage.
“It was a momentum change. I am happy with how I came back on the back nine to shoot a 34,” said Rosseau. “It is awesome to win back-to-back U.P.s, and all our guys were putting up numbers. We played well to win on two tough, tough courses at the GNCs and on this course. Here you are one swing away from a double.”
Sweetgrass played 6,400 yards for the Division 1 championship, using the forward tees. And following the heavy rains, it was a wet golf course before the sun bake and temperatures rose into the 80s for the late afternoon finish on the plush Harris layout.
Robinette praised his senior leader Rosseau and his championship team.
“Nathan is a coach’s dream,” said Robinette. “He is always working on his game, and he puts in the time and I am very proud of all our team winning again this year.”
Escanaba’s Brett McDonough shot 35-44-79 to tie for fifth overall, Trevor Denome carded a 42-38-80 and Jaden Gravelle was the fourth scoring player with a 40-43-83 for the winners.
Gladstone’s Rudy Peterson was the medalist firing a 37-37-74 despite a double bogey on his final hole.
“I hit the ball really well today,” said Peterson. “I played probably the best I have in a long time. My driver was good and my wedges were really good today; I only missed three or four greens.”
Calumet was the team runner-up shooting a 322.
Wyatt Tuoriniemi shot a 43-35-78 to led the second-place finishers, placing fourth individually.
Calumet teammate Tyler Johnson scored a 39-40-79 to tie for fifth.
“They have a nice team,” Robinette said of the Copper Kings. “They have four good players, and we always battled with Houghton (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 champions) too for years.”
Robinette’s teams have now won three U.P. team titles with the other championship in 2011.
Gladstone was third in the team standings with a 336 score. Marquette was fourth (340), and Houghton rounded out the top five with a 344 team tally.
Braves’ coach Dane Quigley was disappointed his team did not contend for the title but happy for individual winner Peterson.
“Our team is disappointed, but we have some four-year players who have been with our program a long time and have done well,” said Quigley.
“At our practice round on Wednesday, Rudy shot a 69, and it carried over to the course today. I am impressed with Rudy’s play all season long for us.”
Marquette junior Jordan Jurma shot a 39-38-77 to place third overall and his coach Ben Smith commented on Jurma’s grit.
“Jordan finished his junior year playing really well today. He eagled number four on a hole-out from 100 yards and chipped in on a par five for an eagle,” said Smith. “He battled back from some penalty shots and bad shots, and he hung in there and competed to the end.”
Sweetwater yielded only seven scores in the 70s, and 16 other golfers shot scores in the 80s.
PHOTOS: (Top) Escanaba’s championship team, from left: coach Brian Robinette, Trevor DeNome, Jaden Gravelle, Nathan Rousseau, Nick Ramos, Brett McDonough and coach Jake Berlinski. (Middle) Gladstone’s Rudy Peterson. (Photos by Mark Johnson.)
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)