Luke's Medalist Run Keys Marquette's Team Championship

By Justin St. Ours
Special for Second Half

June 3, 2021

HARRIS — The individual winner of the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 Boys Golf Final wasn’t 100-percent sure what his running score was until he stepped up to the tee on hole 18.

Marquette senior Joe Luke, seeing Menominee’s Brady Badker — a Great Northern Conference rival —  watching on from the end of the 18th hole, caught up and realized he had victory in his grasp.

“Just before 18, I had no clue (about my score),” Luke said. “There was this phone app we were using to keep score, and I wasn’t on my phone (beforehand) because I figured I would just put it all in afterwards so I could keep focus on my game. Then, once I got to 18, one of my buddies in the group told me Brady (Badker) was plus-three. So, I was like, ‘Oh, boy.’ I didn’t really want to know that because I was plus-one at the time.

“I came in, and I saw him up on the hill watching me, which is normal. We always played together in the normal GNCs. Then, I ended up bogeying the last hole, and I knew I had to come out with a bogey. I was probably a little bit nervous, but I was also very excited. Maybe a little teary too because it’s my last meet for high school.”

It wasn’t an easy win for Luke on Thursday in Harris. Despite the top two golfers finishing ahead of third place by five strokes, Luke edged Badker by just one with a 2-over 74.

“I didn’t think I was going to come in and win this. I just wanted to shoot a good enough score for the team for us to win,” Luke added. “I felt pretty confident with the team aspect for winning the UPs. It was really nice helping the team out there. Just coming into it, I knew probably after the front nine that I was even, so I was like, ‘I actually have a really good shot at this. I just have to keep playing the way I am, and maybe shoot even on the back too. Maybe I got this thing in the bag.’ It was really exciting. I definitely wasn’t expecting it, and I really enjoyed the round and the course and the people I was playing with.”

The rest of Luke’s team followed his example, as Marquette also earned the team championship by a five-stroke margin (325) over Houghton (330). The title was Marquette's first since 2013 and followed a runner-up finish to Houghton in 2019. The 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19.

Menominee golf“It was fun to watch all five boys play well,” Marquette assistant coach Rick Rhoades said. “They all played solid. This course was playing pretty tough. This is one of the tougher courses in the U.P. It was just great watching them come together as a team. They’ve been playing good all year, so it was nice to cap things off with a win.”

Despite some missed strokes, Houghton coach Corey Markham was happy with his team’s performance.

“I thought it was a real solid performance for our team,” he said. “When you’re five strokes behind the first place, you look back and see a few places where you wish you could have shaved a stroke here or there, but I thought we had a great day on a great course.”

Luke and Badker both finished the front nine at par with two bogeys and two birdies for Luke and one apiece for Badker.

“Some of the harder holes (went better for me) as well,” Luke said. “It’s weird. It’s always the hard holes that I seem to birdie in. … Number four connected pretty good. Off of the tee shot, it was nice right in the middle, and I was able to pull a nice 8-iron up into the wind. Four was probably the big one because it's one of the hardest out there. A hole like that definitely improves the day.”

It was four holes into the back nine, on the 13th, that Luke gained separation. He birdied the dog-legged, long par-4, and it gave him the cushion he needed as he turned up a bogey on the hazardous 14th. He added two more bogeys on holes 16 and 18 for the 2-over finish.

Badker didn’t have the benefit of a birdie cushion entering the 14th, and after back-to-back bogeys and another on the 17th, finished 3-over.

It was a four-way tie at third with Houghton’s Marino Pisani and Brady Schmierer, Ishpeming Westwood’s Tyler Annala and Kingsford’s Matt Solda with 80 strokes apiece.

Following Houghton in the team standings was Calumet with 334 strokes, Menominee with 341 and Kingsford with 347.

Luke finished his thoughts with his thanks.

“I just want to say thanks to my teammates for all the years coming up,” he said. “Also, my family, they’ve been a huge support, and definitely coach Ben (Smith) and Rick Rhoades for being out there. It was a big support for them this year to be with me, and I definitely needed Rick for a few rulings to figure out the best shots here and there. It’s nice to have someone to be able to connect with. Thank you to everybody. It was an amazing experience. I really enjoyed it. Thank you to Brady too. I love the competition we had this entire year.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette’s Joe Luke follows through on an iron shot during his run to the Upper Peninsula Division 1 individual championship Thursday. (Middle) Menominee’s Brady Badker sends an approach toward the green during the UPD1 Final. (Photos by Justin St. Ours.)

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)