Ontonagon On Target in Repeat Run

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

May 30, 2019

GLADSTONE – It was a great day to be an Ontonagon golf Thursday as the Gladiators retained both ends of the Upper Peninsula Division 3 Finals at Irish Oaks Golf Course.

The Ontonagon boys, placing four among the top 10 individuals, totaled 347 strokes on this sunny and mild day. They were followed by Dollar Bay with 357 strokes and Powers North Central at 370.

"Both teams have a lot of senior leadership which is absolutely helpful," said Ontonagon coach Adam Spaulding of his boys and girls lineups. "We had just three meets coming into the Finals due to poor weather. We had to make up for lost time. Our practices consisted of hitting buckets of balls between two holes. We couldn't get on our course (Ontonagon Golf Club) until about May 15."

North Central freshman Bryson Mercier was boys medalist with a 74. Ontonagon senior Ed Polakowski and Big Bay de Noc sophomore Travis Johnson shared runner-up honors at 82.

"I played real good today," said Mercier. "I had been struggling the past week, but made it stress free today. I was nervous coming in, then I settled down after parring the first hole. It got a little windy and a little hard in the end, although I thought I handled it very well.

“Like any sport, there's always room for improvement. I'm going to practice as much as I can and try to get better."

Ontonagon sophomore Tomas Immonen and Dollar Bay senior Drake Schmitz and junior David Strom shared fourth place at 85. Senior Brad Mhyren shot an 88 to tie for seventh and senior Henry Menigoz carded a 90 to tie for 10th for the Gladiators.

"It was crazy taking it two years in a row," said Polakowski of the team championship. "I didn't think we'd be here again this year. We always stay consistent and play a decent game."

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PHOTOS: (Top) The Ontonagon boys golf team is pictured together after winning the Upper Peninsula Division 3 title Thursday at Irish Oaks in Gladstone. (Middle) Powers North Central’s Bryson Mercier. (Photos by Austin Hemmingson.)

Saline's Williams-Hoak Named National Coach of the Year by LPGA Professionals

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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)