Mercier Repeats, Chassell Earns 1st Team Title since 1995

By Todd Rose
Special for Second Half

June 4, 2021

GLADSTONE – Chassell edged Powers North Central and individual champion Bryson Mercier by two strokes Thursday to win the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 3 team championship at Oaks Caddyshack Club in Gladstone.

The Panthers carded a 377 to the Jets’ 379. The top three were capped off by Engadine at 426.

“It’s just been a really good season,” said Panthers coach Erik Crowley. “It’s not a very long season up here, so we made really good time of the work we were able to do. We saw a lot of improvement from the team. Just a really fortunate season. (We had) lots of good kids, and they all improved a lot.”

The runner-up finish was the highest in North Central’s Finals history on the golf course.

“Spring sports are a difficult time because of weather and sharing athletes with other sports,” said North Central coach Gerald Whitens. “I am so proud of our boys and girls teams for their efforts preparing for this tournament.”

North Central junior Bryson Mercier shot 73 to take the individual win ahead of Ontonagon’s Tomas Immonen (75).

Mercier also was the Division 3 champion as a freshman in 2019 before COVID-19 forced last season to be canceled.

“It’s always nice to get a win,” Mercier said. “I left a couple shots out there, but overall, I played pretty well. (Tomas Immonen), who took second, he played a really good round today. I thought he did very well.”

Chassell golfThe win, Mercier said, wasn’t without its challenges

“The course played pretty tough with the wind,” he said. “I thought I bounced back from a couple bad shots and am pretty happy with how I played.

“I’m really proud of my team. Really proud of my team,” Mercier added. “Second place, that’s the first time our school has ever gotten a runner-up or finalist, so I’m very proud of my team.”

Whitens spoke highly of Mercier’s performance and overall attitude toward the game and school.

“We are led by the top golfer in the U.P., and his score supports that,” he said. “Bryson is an extremely dedicated young man, whether it's academics or sports. Bryson has always put forth the effort to be the best he can be.

“I have had the pleasure of watching him grow up with a golf club in his hand and driving around with his dad on a golf course for hours every day since he was able to walk. I am so proud of him and the way he carries himself on and off the course.”

Immonen, in his final golf event, shot a personal best at 75.

“Just to say that I can be somewhat close to (Mercier) is pretty good,” said Immonen. “He usually beats me pretty bad every meet, so it was nice to come out here and shoot 75.”

Immonen gave a special thanks to his coach Brady Guilbault. “Thank you Brady Guilbault for being the best golf coach ever,” he said.

Cedarville’s Jay Freel and Chassell’s Dean Pietila tied for third individually at 84. Chassell’s team championship was its second in the sport, with the first coming in 1995. The Panthers also finished Division 3 runners-up in 2011.

“It feels good to finally accomplish something after putting in long hours at the golf course,” said Pietila. “Things got a little rough right off the start. I bogeyed a par-three I shouldn't have. Once all the nerves left, then I started settling in and playing golf.”

The rest of the individual top 10 were as follows: Caleb Kohlmann at 89 (Cedarville), Todd Rautiola (Chassell) and Davin Hill both at 93 (Dollar Bay), Ethan Kopt at 97 (Crystal Falls Forest Park), Brayden Wilhour at 98 (Cooks Big Bay de Noc), and Devin Kipela (Chassell) and Brett LaBonte (Powers North Central) both shooting 99.

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PHOTOS: (Top) North Central’s Bryson Mercier putts during his Division 3 championship round Thursday. (Middle) Chassell poses with its first Finals winner’s trophy in the sport since 1995. (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)