Performance: Gaylord's Brendon Gouin

May 25, 2017

Brendon Gouin
Gaylord sophomore – Golf

Gouin strung together four straight individual first places over the last two weeks to lead his team on a similarly stunning streak of success. From May 11-18, Gouin finished first at four straight 18-hole events, going lowest with a 68 at the Gaylord Blue Devil Open on May 16 to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” His team, meanwhile, had won nine straight events through Wednesday and surged to No. 3 in the Lower Peninsula Division 2 coaches poll – impressive especially since the team didn’t make it out of Regionals a year ago.

That first 18-hole event was the Ogemaw Heights Invitational at the Dream Golf Course, where he shot a 77 to finish as co-medalist. Next came Gaylord’s turn to host the Big North Conference at Treetops North’s Tradition course, where Gouin fired at even-par 70 to finish first. He then did something that almost defied explanation – he switched irons between events, didn’t tell his coach, and then shot a 68 to win the Blue Devil Open at Tradition. Gouin added a first-place 76 at the Big North event at River’s Edge in Alpena to cap the personal run.

Gouin has averaged 78.8 strokes this spring over 13 events, often through tough weather typical to the north this time of year. He also wrestles at 103 pounds during the winter for an annually ranked team in Division 2 – see below for how that’s paid off in his golf game – and played soccer in the fall. As noted above, Gaylord didn’t make the MHSAA Finals last season, finishing only ninth at its Regional while starting three freshmen and a sophomore. Those then-underclassmen are starters again, and Gaylord is the likely favorite at next Thursday’s Regional at Lincoln Hills in Ludington.

Coach Tom Johnson said: “The exciting thing about Brendon is he is just a sophomore. He has no fear on the course. He always seems to work his way out of trouble no matter the circumstances. One bad shot does not lead to another. And he always wants to be the medalist in every tournament we play, knowing that his success is the best way to help out his team’s goal of trying to win every tournament they play in. What I really like about him is that he is never satisfied and works extremely hard to be successful. … The beauty of this team is that Brendon is surrounded by some really good young players that push him to excel to his best. We have sophomore Kyle Putnam that averages 80.3, sophomore Joe Kowatch averages 84.0 and junior Nick Rowley averages 82.1. The best for this team, hopefully, is yet to come. Their potential is unlimited.”

Performance Point: “The day before I ended up shooting a 70, my grandpa (Jim Gilbert, a former tour pro) asked, ‘What’s the number today?’ And I said 68,” Gouin recalled of the Blue Devil Open round. “I went out and shot 68, and it was the lowest round (303) we’ve had as a group, as a team. Last year at our first tournament, we had three freshmen and (shot) our best team score. It was a 315, and we never beat that all year, so to go out this year and beat it more than once was just great for us. … Everything (for me) clicked for a while. I was striking the ball great, my putting was very good, and I had confidence on the course. I was playing aggressively, going right at the pin and trying to do that every time.”

Pressure player: “For some of us, there might be more pressure. I’m different from all the other players; I like pressure. I like the feeling of knowing I have to do good.”

Attack mode: “The way I look at it, if I’m in trouble I don’t look anywhere. My mental (outlook) is I’m not making a par, I’m making a birdie. I’m very aggressive; my grandpa said he’s never seen anyone play so aggressively. It’s very different, my style of playing. A lot of it came from wrestling. I’m not very fearful. When I used to do snocross racing, I’d do anything.”

Grappling with golf: “(Wrestling) got me physically prepared, and mentally. Coach (Jerry) LaJoie is such a great coach. He got me mentally prepared for golf; if you’re not there to win, you shouldn’t be there at all. He’s helped me out so much in every possible way. Even if he knows it or not, he still did.”

On the rise: “We’re really a young team still. Our top four are all below juniors; we have a junior as our oldest. We’re still growing, and we’re all clicking. We have a lot of talent, and we’re starting to get better. We have two or three in the 70s; next year we’ll have three or four in the 70s. We’re going to have a good shot at getting to the top of state … but nine (wins) in a row doesn’t mean anything going into Regionals.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2016-17 honorees:
May 18: Hannah Ducolon, Bay City All Saints softball – Read
May 11: Mason Phillips, Salem track & field Read
May 4: Lillian Albaugh, Farwell track & field Read
April 27: Amber Gall, Shepherd track & field  Read
April 20: Sloane Teske, East Grand Rapids tennis Read
March 30: Romeo Weems, New Haven basketball Read
March 23: Jaycie Burger and Maddie Clark, Pittsford basketball Read
March 16: Camden Murphy, Novi swimming & diving Read
March 9: Ben Freeman, Walled Lake Central wrestling Read
March 2: Joey Mangner, Chelsea swimming & diving Read
Feb. 23: Isabelle Nguyen, Grosse Pointe North gymnastics – Read
Feb. 16: Dakota Hurbis, Saline swimming & diving – Read
Feb. 2: Foster Loyer, Clarkston basketball Read
Jan. 26: Nick Jenkins, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling – Read
Jan. 19: Eileene Naniseni, Mancelona basketball Read
Jan. 12: Rory Anderson, Calumet hockey – Read
Dec. 15: Demetri Martin, Big Rapids basketball Read
Dec. 1: Rodney Hall, Detroit Cass Tech football Read
Nov. 24: Ally Cummings, Novi volleyball Read
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read

PHOTO: (Top) Gaylord's Brendon Gouin watches one of his drives at the Blue Devil Open. (Middle) Gouin follows an iron shot. (Photos courtesy of Gaylord Herald Times.)

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)