Forest Hills Schools Rule at Forest Akers

June 8, 2019

By Tom Lang
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Brad Smithson of Ada Forest Hills Eastern said he signed to play golf with Michigan State because it’s close to home and he likes the facilities.

Maybe now he loves the facilities.

Smithson just won the Division 2 Final at the home of MSU – Forest Akers West Golf Course – four strokes ahead of DeWitt senior Charlie DeLong, who is next headed to Grand Valley State.

“Hopefully this is a good start to a summer that rolls into the fall, once I get to State,” Smithson said. “Very special (to win here). This is where I’ll be playing golf, so it’s very cool that I was able to get it done here.”

Smithson and DeLong both shot 71 for the lowest scores in the first round Friday, but Smithson went one stroke better with a 70 (141 total) in the final to DeLong’s 74 (145) on Saturday. Andrew Kolar of team champion Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, and Nick Krueger of Spring Lake, tied for third place at 150. Noah Kolar was one stroke off the lead Friday but closed with 79 for fifth place.

“I got a couple really good breaks I’d say; that kind of kept me in it,” Smithson said of the final round. “A lot of par saves through the back nine and really played pretty solid today, in the wind and pretty tough conditions.

“It was hard work, definitely. It was a grind throughout the day. (Friday) was a lot more rough. A lot more bad breaks. Actually, scored pretty well for how badly I hit it. But today I hit it a lot better, got the breaks I needed and was able to get it done.”

Smithson, playing with DeLong, said he knew he had the lead after the 15th hole by at least two strokes, maybe three.

“So, I hit iron on 16 (tee) and made a good par,” he said. “I tried to keep pushing, stay in my same game plan. I didn’t try to change anything.”

Yet he did close out the day with a long birdie that dropped in the cup on the 18th green when he simply was hoping to lag it close.

DeLong said the back nine was the difference maker.

“We were tied after nine holes, but I struggled off the tee and didn’t really get anything going on the back nine,” he said. “But second in the states isn’t too bad.”

Northern won the team championship despite shooting its worst 18-hole score of the season in the second round. With a 296 on Friday and a comfortable 13-stroke lead over DeWitt heading into Saturday, Northern shot 324 to finish at 620. Eastern shot 309 on Saturday and snuck ahead of the Panthers with a 628 total for runner-up honors, while DeWitt dropped to third place with 309-325-634.

Northern coach Brian Telzerow said the team’s previous worst score this year was an 11-stroke difference.

“This feels a lot sweeter just because last year we were right in the hunt and kind of gave it away at the end,” he said of the 2018 runner-up finish to Flint Powers Catholic. “This year we had a great first round, played really well (Friday), that set us up for today. We kind of expected to play better today, and that didn’t happen.  

“Anytime you’re in a round like this, you’ve got to just gut it out. And these guys, I commend them for staying in the game – even after hitting balls out of bounds at times, hitting them in the hazards, and not giving up but just grinding through it. We were fortunate to have yesterday’s lead. That helped us hold onto it today.”

Telzerow said he prefers to have a lead after one round instead of trying to fire up the troops for a come-from-behind effort.

“After yesterday we felt good coming into today and thought we could pull it off,” he said about a team that returned four starters from last year. “Pin placements were a little more difficult … but it’s the state finals, it’s the second day … it’s supposed to be hard.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) The top six finishers from this weekend’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final, including Forest Hills Eastern’s Brad Smithson (far right). (Middle) Forest Hills Northern’s Andrew Kolar chips onto the green. (Click to see more from

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)