By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Last season’s Lower Peninsula Boys Golf Finals ended up among the most predictable in recent memory – Battle Creek Lakeview, Lansing Catholic and Kalamazoo Hackett all entered ranked No. 1 in their respective divisions, and all emerged as champions.
Will this weekend’s MHSAA Finals end up similarly as expected? Those reigning champions all are ranked again among the top three, but with plenty of competition looking to spoil their repeat attempts.
Below are some expected team and individual favorites at each Final. First-round play tees off at 9 a.m. Friday, with the final round beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. Click for a full list of Finals qualifiers and Regional results.
DIVISION 1 at Forest Akers East
Top ranked: No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central, No. 2 Rockford, No. 3 Battle Creek Lakeview.
Battle Creek Lakeview: Last season’s champion and the runner-up in 2012 returns only two golfers from a year ago, but they were key contributors – junior Matt Alderink tied for 10th individually and sophomore Andrew Walker finished only three shots outside the top 10 at the Final. Freshman James Staab was the low scorer at the Regional at El Dorado, tying for fifth, as the Spartans finished second to Rockford. Depth is a strength of this lineup – the top four at the District finished within six shots of each other, while all five scored within eight strokes of their teammates at the Regional.
Detroit Catholic Central: The 2010 champion tied for third a year ago and was one of four teams in LP Division 1 to break 300 at Regionals, and also shot in the 290s at its District. The Shamrocks’ second and third-lowest scorers from last year’s Final are back – junior Glenn Piot and senior Domenic Mancinelli, They tied for fifth individually at the Mystic Creek Regional, although DCC finished second to White Lake Lakeland despite shooting 297 as a team. Freshman James Piot led the way at the Regional, tying for second with a 73. Glenn Piot and senior Dan Ault finished first and tied for fifth, respectively, as the team won its District at Tanglewood with a 294.
Rockford: The Rams are seeking their first MHSAA boys golf championship after finishing 12th last year. Rockford has only one senior – but he could lead a championship effort. A.J. Varekois finished third individually at the 2013 Final, finished third at his District and won his Regional last month. Junior Joel Pietila tied for fifth at the Regional, and along with juniors Michael Cooper and Josh Stephan and sophomore Kevin Kamis, also played in last season’s championship tournament. Rockford, like DCC, was one of four teams to break 300 at Regionals, shooting 298.
Other individuals of note: Four more top-10 finishers from last season’s Final join Varekois and Alderink; White Lake Lakeland senior Alex Kleckner initially tied for first place in 2013 and finished runner-up after a three-hole playoff, while Saline senior Ian Martin, Canton junior Donnie Trosper and Plymouth senior John Tatti all tied for sixth. Trosper is back as an individual qualifier. Playing as his team’s lone representative as well is Ann Arbor Huron freshman Brandon Petzak – he won his District and finished fourth at his Regional. A number of others shot in the low 70s at Regionals – but Lakeland senior Jake Kneen is someone to keep an eye on after he carded a 68.
DIVISION 2 at Forest Akers West
Top ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, 2. DeWitt, 3. East Lansing.
Cranbrook-Kingswood: The 2012 champion hopes to win its second MHSAA Final in three seasons and was one of five teams in this division to shoot 301-305 at Regionals. Three of the Cranes’ top four scorers from last season’s third-place Finals finisher are back. Juniors Dylan Deogun and Todd Fridline and senior Robbie Van Voorhis all three finished among the top eight at the District, and all five in the lineup finished among the top 13 at the Regional – which was won by freshman Devin Deogun.
DeWitt: The Panthers were the low scorers at Regionals of all Division 2 teams, shooting a 301, and will be looking for a big comeback this weekend after trying for seventh a year ago (they won LP Division 2 in 2010 and 2011). Junior Owen Beyer tied for 10th at last season’s Final and for third at a strong Regional at Prairiewood as DeWitt edged host Otsego and East Lansing by three strokes to finish first as a team. All five golfers shot within 11 strokes of each other, with senior Cody White taking fifth. He and junior Mike Coscarelli also were part of the 2013 Finals lineup.
East Lansing: The Trojans are seeking their first MHSAA title since 2000 without a senior in the lineup this weekend – but with two of the top three back from last season’s fourth-place finish and after shooting 304 to finish just behind DeWitt at their Regional. Junior Joe Croom is one the pair returning from last season, and he finished third individually at the Regional. Junior Matt Rogerson also is back after shooting the team’s low Finals score in 2013.
Other individuals of note: All but the champion from last season’s top 10 are back in the field, led by Hamilton junior Nick Carlson who finished second in 2013 and shot a 69 at his Regional. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern sophomore Spencer Schab (third), Grand Rapids Christian senior Ben Van Scoyk and Croswell-Lexington senior Austin Carter (tied for fourth), Detroit Country Day senior Rishi Patel (sixth), Pontiac Notre Dame Prep senior Jack Zohoury and Otsego junior Logan Haight (tied for seventh), New Boston Huron senior Tyler Olsen (eighth) and Grand Rapids Christian senior Tommy Reitema (tied for 10th) join Beyer in pursuit of individual contention. Remember as well Richland Gull Lake senior Tyler Van Dermolen, who missed the top 10 last season but shot a 68 at his Regional.
DIVISION 3 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University
Top ranked: 1. Lansing Catholic, 2. Jackson Lumen Christi, 3. Hanover-Horton.
Hanover-Horton: The Comets also bring back three players after finishing fourth last season, and junior Kenzie Brockie tied for eighth individually in 2012 when the team finished runner-up. He and junior Brock Spink just missed the individual top 10 last season, and junior Fred Vann also played; those three and junior Kyle Clark and freshman Dakota Fleming give the Comets a lineup capable for making a run not just this season but next. Spink won the Regional ahead of three Lumen Christi players.
Jackson Lumen Christi: The Titans saw a four-year championship run end in 2013, but return loaded for another run with three back after falling to second place. Seniors Jacob Anuszkiewicz and Patrick Campbell and junior Henry Hitt all shot 77s to tie for second at the Regional as all five Lumen Chrisit players finished among the top 12. All five finished among the top 11 at the District on their home course, Cascades, as Lumen Christi edged Hanover-Horton by two strokes.
Lansing Catholic: Last season’s champion returns three of its top five from that day including reigning individual runner-up Brent Marshall, now a senior. Juniors Niko Voutsaras and Adam Elias also were part of the championship lineup. Sophomore Owen Rush took Marshall to a playoff for first at the District this spring, and Rush and junior Patrick Gillespie joined champion Marshall among the top five at the Regional. Coach Charlie Furney has led the Cougars to four championships and two runner-up finishes over the last 12 seasons.
Other individuals of note: Unlike Divisions 1 and 2, Division 3 appears wide open from an individual standpoint with Almont junior Gavin DePauw (tied for fifth) joining Marshall as the only top-10 finishers back from last season. Flint Powers Catholic freshman Blaise Vanitvelt is a name to watch, and Grand Rapids South Christian senior Nick Vander Horst and Williamston senior Parker Ottarson are a few others that could jump up from a balanced field.
DIVISION 4 at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley
Top ranked: 1. Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, 2. North Muskegon, 3. Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central.
Oakland Christian: The Lancers’ 328 was the second-lowest Regional score in LP Division 4 and should be a good indication that the 2011 champions are ready to make a big jump from last season’s tie for seventh. Four of last season’s five Finals golfers return, and all four are seniors – John Van Noord, Aaron Kostich, Spencer Haupert and Austin Miller; Van Noord also played as a freshman on the MHSAA championship team. He, Haupert and junior Jimmy Kern all finished among the top five at the Regional at Westwynd, their home course.
Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central: The reigning champion has an entirely new lineup from the one that placed three among the top 10 individuals in claiming the team title in 2013. But the Fighting Irish won their District by 23 strokes with senior Evan Brennan finishing first among individuals, and then claimed the Regional title by eight with freshman Nick Jasiak taking first after defeating two others in a playoff.
Lincoln Alcona: The Tigers are ranked fifth and posted the lowest Regional score in LP Division 4, 324, with a lineup of five seniors. Four of the five also played on the team that finished 10th at last season’s MHSAA Final. Alcona won its District by 16 with Lucas Weichel taking the individual honor, then won the Regional by nine with Walker Kelly, Weichel and Josh Mead all finishing between fourth and sixth in the individual standings.
Other individuals of note: Leland junior Joel Sneed finished 11th at last season’s Final and is the highest-placing individual back for this weekend. He also shot a 68 at his Regional to go low for all of LP Division 4 and make himself the favorite. Pentwater junior Sam Wagner tied for 12th last season and also could be in the mix. Suttons Bay junior Devin Capron wasn’t far behind those two at the 2013 Final and shot a 70 last month to finish second to Sneed at their Regional at Spruce Run.
PHOTO: The rest of the top-10 placers at last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Boys Golf Final clap for champion Ryan Bayer of Comstock Park. All but Bayer will return for this weekend’s championship tournament. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.com.)
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)