It's Championship Time for Badker, While Houghton Holds On for Team Title

By Todd Rose
Special for Second Half

June 1, 2022

BARK RIVER – From the Division 3 boys basketball championship game at the Breslin Center to the Great Northern Conference golf final at Escanaba Country Club, the story of much of Brady Badker’s senior year has been second place.

That changed Wednesday afternoon, as Menominee’s Badker won the individual championship at the Upper Peninsula Division 1 Final at Sage Run Golf Course in Bark River.

“This one feels good to get off my chest,” Badker remarked after the win. “The last two things I cared about most were basketball and golf, and (it was) runner-up, runner-up. But, this one was kind of the one I wanted really bad because last year I came up short.”

Badker shot a 75 on Wednesday to earn a three-stroke win over Houghton’s Marino Pisani.

Badker marked the front nine as the place where he earned his advantage.

“I’d say on the front nine my approach shots were kind of getting real close,” he said. “I got good looks at birdies instead of those long five-foot par putts. Those are the ones you have to save out here because it’s a tough course. When you’ve got those five-footers for birdie instead of five-footers for par, that really helps to keep your mindset going.”

Aside from the added challenge of wind, the Sage Run course itself presents a challenge on its own.

“A lot of courses that we play up here, you’re hitting wedges and all that in the greens,” noted Badker. “Here, you’re hitting 8-irons and 9-irons, so it’s a little bit higher. You have to think about the wind and the bunkers around the green and behind the hole. If you can hit it long or if you can hit it left, it’s a lot tougher. You kind of have to hit your spots or you’re going to struggle here.”

Runner-up Pisani, a Houghton sophomore, felt he had a bit of a rough start and end but still enjoyed the sunny, warm day at Sage Run.

“I thought it was a pretty solid round,” Pisani said. “I started off slow. I had a triple and a couple doubles but rebounded well, stayed composed and kept level-headed. … Somebody told me I was about one back of (Badker) with four to go, and I struggled to close out a bit. I took a double on one of my last holes and had a couple missed putts, but I’ll try not to think about it too much.”

Houghton golfWhile Pisani finished runner-up in the individual standings – ahead of a three-way tie between Cole Myllyla (Kingsford), Cooper Pigeon (Iron Mountain) and Tyler Annala (Westwood) for third – his Houghton Gremlins shot a collective 329 to take home the team championship.

“Overall, I thought the team did great,” Pisani said. “Every guy performed well, and I think it was just a great day for golf in general.”

Houghton coach Corey Markham shared his excitement as well.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” he added. “We had never seen the course until yesterday. We came down to do a practice round, and the wind was howling like 30, 35 mile an hour. So it was hard to get a read on how you’re playing the course in those kind of winds. But, they got to see the course and how it was laid out, so that really was great.

“They showed up. I told them going in if we could average between 80 and 85, we’d be right in the mix. We had Marino go down into the 70s, and the rest were all between 80 and 85. So, I’m really proud of how they played today.”

The U.P. Finals championship rounds out a successful year for the Gremlins, who also collected top honors in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference.

“It was a really good year for us,” said Markham. “We started off slow. We had a late spring, and we had no practice before we played our two first meets and our course opened one day before our third meet. We had a slow start, but once we started playing and getting in a groove we won most of the meets we played in the last quarter of the season.”

Finishing second with a score of 334 was GNC champion Marquette.

“Going in, I thought if the guys played well and had a really good day there would be a good chance we’d be in the mix,” said Marquette coach Ben Smith. “I bet if you asked the kids while they were out there, you probably wouldn’t get too many ‘it’s going great Coach’ responses. But, conditions were tough out there. Obviously, the wind and the course itself is not easy. … But, credit to the kids, they hung in there.”

Smith added that close matches throughout the season helped prep Marquette for the competitive nature of the U.P. Finals.

“We’ve had a couple matches this year that came down to a shot or two,” he said. “So, I think the kids kind of bought into the idea that every swing matters and even if it doesn’t seem like it’s your day, just try and get the ball in the hole. Credit to them, they hung in there for each other and were able to come out with a second-place finish.”

The margins at the top of the team standings were thin as the top five all shot within 12 strokes of each other. After Houghton (329) and Marquette (334) were Calumet and Kingsford tied at 337, with Escanaba rounding out the top five at 341.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Brady Badker of Menominee tees off on hole 16 at Sage Run Golf Course during Wednesday afternoon's MHSAA U.P. Division 1 Boys Golf Final in Bark River. (Middle) Houghton holds up its first-place team trophy. (Photos by Todd Rose.)

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)