Peterson Repeats, Houghton Back on Top

By John Vrancic
Special for

May 29, 2019

By John Vrancic
Special for Second Half

ESCANABA – The Houghton boys saved their best for last here Wednesday, earning their fifth Upper Peninsula Division 1 golf championship in eight years and first since 2016.

The Gremlins, with 321 strokes, edged Marquette (323) and two-time reigning champ Escanaba (325) at Escanaba Country Club.

"We had a real solid day," said Houghton coach Corey Markham. "Our No. 1 golfer had a real solid round, and other guys lowered their scores. This was our best score of the season, and we couldn't ask for a better day for it. The day started calm, then the wind picked up about halfway through the tournament. The back nine was real wet, but the kids battled through it and had a great round."

Gladstone senior Rudy Peterson repeated as individual champion with an even-par 71, followed by Houghton junior Jiseung Choi at 74, Marquette sophomore Joe Luke and Escanaba senior Nathan Rousseau both at 78 and Iron Mountain's Ricky Brown at 79.

"I played very well on the front nine, then I struggled a little in back," said Peterson, who's headed for Michigan State this fall. "Playing aggressive in the front helped a lot, then I played a little too conservative in back.

"I felt a little more pressure coming in as defending U.P. champion, but just played my game. I figured if I won, fine. If I didn't win, it wasn't the end of the world. I won't be playing golf in college. I just plan to keep playing it for fun."

Peterson, who fired a sizzling 34 on the front nine, overcame bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16 for 37 on the back.

Choi shot 35 in front and 39 in back on this sunny and windy day.

"My approach shots were a challenge with the wind," he said. "The wind carried the ball a little. I just tried to keep myself focused. It feels great to win as a team. It's really fun."

Marquette and Escanaba also recorded season-best scores.

"We knew the number would have to be around 320, but we couldn't quite get there," said Marquette coach Ben Smith. "Houghton shot a real good score and Escanaba was right there. It took a few tournaments to get into a groove, then we won five in a row coming in here. The three seniors we're losing have been real solid the last four years, and our sophomore shot a real solid round."

Escanaba assistant coach Jake Berlinski was pleased with the leadership provided by Rousseau this season.

"Nathan had an outstanding year and career," he said. "Kids like him just don't come around all the time. He's a golf fanatic. We're going to miss him.

"We return the other four. Hopefully, third place will motivate them. The way Brian (Robinette, who was coaching the girls team Wednesday) coaches is second to none. We'll be back next year."

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PHOTOS: (Top) Gladstone’s Rudy Peterson chips on hole 18 at Wednesday’s Division 1 U.P. Final at Escanaba Country Club. Peterson was crowned champion after shooting an even-par 71. (Middle) Houghton celebrated its fifth team title in eight seasons. (Top photo by Austin Hemmingson, middle by Cara Kamps.)

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)