Norway, West Iron's Thomson Take Championship Strides

By Matt McCarthy
Special for Second Half

June 2, 2021

GAASTRA — West Iron County's Nathan Thomson enjoyed the comforts of competing at his home course Wednesday, as the Wykons senior captured the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 boys golf championship at the George Young Recreational Complex in Iron County.

Thomson, a senior, shot a 77 to take home medalist. 

"The greens were really fast today, faster than I have ever seen here," said Thomson. "I play here almost every single day. But it's awesome to win U.P.'s here." 

It was also a blustery day at times, which Thomson noted came up in spurts.

"There was a point on hole 11, where I could see the ball moving on the green because of the wind, as I was waiting to putt," Thomson added. 

Norway golfNorway took home the team title by a significant margin over runner-up Hancock, 328-357, with four Knights finishing among the top seven individuals including runner-up Jeffrey VanHolla with a 78. 

The team title was Norway’s fourth and first since 1988. The Knights had finished Division 2 runners-up six of the last eight seasons, including back-to-back to West Iron County in both 2018 and 2019.

Evan Anderson shot an 80 to finish third, followed by Drew Anderson with an 84 in fifth and Carson Chartier with an 86 for seventh. Tyler Parker with a 105 rounded out Norway's lineup on the day. 

Two years ago (before COVID-19 caused last season to be canceled), Drew Anderson was second and VanHolla and Thomson tied for third at the Division 2 Final which also was at George Young.

"I don't know what else was different here today besides the fast greens, but I usually shoot lower scores here, especially the last two rounds I played here before today," said Drew Anderson, a junior this season.

Fourth place among individuals went to Mason Mikesch of Hancock with an 81. Finishing in sixth place was Jeff Starzynski of Stephenson with an 85, and Justin Carrick of Brimley and Ricky Brown of Iron Mountain tied for eighth place with 87s. Chad Nordstrom of Hancock and Josh Magnusen of Newberry tied for 10th with 90s.

On the team side, Brimley was third with a 382. The next three teams were separated by two strokes – St. Ignace fourth at 405, Iron Mountain fifth at 406 and Pickford seven carding a 407.

Newberry at 416, Watersmeet at 419, Munising at 422, Stephenson at 433 and Bark River-Harris at 520 rounded out the team scores.  

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) West Iron County's Nathan Thomson unloads a drive during his championship round Wednesday. (Middle) Norway celebrates its first team Finals title since 1988. (Photos by Matt McCarthy.)

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)