By Ryan Stieg
Special for Second Half
MARQUETTE — It isn’t easy to topple a team that has won the last three titles, but the Escanaba boys golf team pulled it off Wednesday afternoon at the Marquette Golf Club.
The Eskymos unseated Houghton as Upper Peninsula Division 1 champion, outlasting neighboring Gladstone by one stroke (319 to 320) to claim the title and leave Escanaba head coach Brian Robinette with a big smile on his face.
“The boys have had the ability to do something like this all year long, and I kept telling them about the idea of making teams beat you,” Robinette said. “For a while, we weren’t doing that, but little by little, they figured out how to fight their way to good scores. They fought hard today up until the moment that they signed their scorecards, and that was great to see.”
For Gladstone, it was a disappointing end to the day after coming up just short of a title once again. Braves head coach Dane Quigley was a little down afterwards, but he was proud of how his squad performed and likes the group he has coming back next year.
“Today was just a heartbreaker,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get that title the last few years, and I thought we might have the team to do it this time, but it didn’t work out. We actually did pretty well with our numbers three, four and five guys stepping up, but unfortunately, Esky had guys in the 70s and that’s hard to beat. The good thing is that we have some really good golfers coming back next year, and I think we’ll have another good chance to win it.”
Negaunee, which finished second to Houghton last year, took third place this time in the 11-team tournament and had its best performance of the year with a 327. As a result, Miners head coach Dustin Hongisto was very pleased with what he saw.
“I was really happy with how we played,” he said. “We had three solid scores and today was actually our lowest team score of the year. My number one guy (Carter Mason) struggled a little bit today, but he’s had a great career with two conference championships and he was medalist last year, so he has nothing to be ashamed about. But his brother (Jordan) made up for that, and everyone else kind of picked up the slack.”
Marquette tied with the Gremlins for fourth place with a 337, while Calumet finished sixth with 338.
Redmen coach Ben Smith felt his young squad learned a lot and thinks there’s a lot of potential for next season.
“Whenever you host a meet like this, you hope that it will give you a good advantage, and it did a little bit,” he said. “Jordan Jurmu had a solid round (81) after battling some cold weather. We had a couple of guys shoot 85s, and that was good. There was a lot of older guys on the other team, and I think that will help us get a taste of what it takes to win. Hopefully, we can build on today and we can keep plugging away for next season. I think we’re going to see some good things.”
Individually, Houghton senior Ben Strong was the medalist shooting a 73. He was happy with his performance and was glad to end his Gremlins career on a good note.
“I think I had a good day overall,” he said. “I made a couple birdies and kept it together mentally throughout the round today. I played really well my four years in Houghton. My freshman year, I placed fourth and now as a senior, I won U.P. Finals. You can’t get much better than that.”
Menominee’s Evan Kramer took second with a 75, and Negaunee’s Jordan Mason finished third with a 77, while the Eskymos’ Johnny Kositzky and Parker La Pointe as well as Gladstone’s Bryce Douglas tied for fourth at 78.
PHOTOS: (Top) Negaunee’s Carter Mason lines up a putt on the way to shooting an 80 on Wednesday. (Middle) Gladstone’s Bryce Douglas watches his approach shot; he finished fourth individually. (Photos by Rachel Oakley.)
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)