Preview: Chasing Familiar Favorites

June 2, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three of last season’s Lower Peninsula boys golf champions are expected to repeat this weekend, and three of last season’s four individual champions also will return.

The lineups at the top of this spring’s MHSAA Finals clearly will be elite – but the reigning champs are no sure things to win again as a number of standouts return throughout the field, including 24 total top-10 placers from a year ago.

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 also beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. Click for a full list of Finals qualifiers and Regional results

DIVISION 1 at Katke Golf Course, Ferris State University

Top ranked: 1. Detroit Catholic Central, 2. Hartland, 3. Grosse Pointe South.

Detroit Catholic Central: The Shamrocks just made the MHSAA Final, finishing third at a competitive Regional at Oak Pointe Country Club in Brighton with 312 strokes – only two ahead of Novi and six ahead of Detroit U-D Jesuit. Sophomore James Piot tied for sixth at the 2014 Final and finished third at last week’s Regional, with sophomore Ben Smith and senior Glenn Piot also back from last season’s lineup and finishing among the Regional top 25. Senior Will Coffman carded a 78 to finish 12th.

Hartland: The Eagles edged DCC at Oak Pointe to finish second at the Regional after missing Finals weekend a year ago. Bryce Messner made the Finals as an individual last season and finished 13th at last week's Regional atop a lineup of all seniors; Beau Breault led the way with a second-place 72, and all five shot 81 or lower.

Grosse Pointe South: The Blue Devils shot 304 at their Regional at The Orchards in Washington; that score was the third-lowest for all LPD1 Regionals. The top three shooters from last season’s 15th-place Final performance will return this weekend, led by sophomore and Regional medalist John Schoof. Senior David Szymanski also played at last season’s Final and was third at the Regional, and junior David Scupolm finished fifth at the Regional.

Other individuals of note: Only four of last season’s top 10 are back this weekend, but among them are two of five who tied for first after 36 holes and went on to a playoff. Midland Dow senior Ben Roeder won that tie-breaker in three holes and is back as a favorite after finishing second at the Currie Golf Course Regional to Midland sophomore Top Kamnark. Rockford senior Joel Pietilla also played in that 2014 playoff, and he took fifth at his Regional at Grand Haven Golf Course – where Battle Creek Lakeview junior Andrew Walker, tied for ninth at last season’s Final, emerged as Regional champ with a 71. Junior Daniel Settecerri led Bloomfield Hills to the team title at Oak Pointe with a first-place 70, and senior Donnie Trosper helped Canton advance with a third-place finish at Dearborn Country Club by carding a first-place 72.

DIVISION 2 at Forest Akers East, Michigan State University

Top ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 2. DeWitt, 3. East Lansing.

Cranbrook Kingswood: The Cranes claimed their second championship in three seasons in 2014 and won their Regional by 14 strokes featuring three of their top four players from last season’s Final. Senior Dylan Deogun was first at the Regional with a 70 and sophomore Devin Deogun was third with a 75, while senior Mason Schultz carded a 79 to finish eighth as all five players placed among the top 19. Dylan Deogun finished third at last season’s Final, and Devin missed the top 10 by only three strokes as a freshman.

DeWitt: The Panthers won a Regional at Binder Park in Battle Creek that featured three teams ranked among the top six in Division 2. DeWitt shot the low Regional score for all of Division 2, 303, with freshman Joey Croley finishing first individually at 72 and senior teammate Mike Coscarelli coming in second at 73. Coscarelli, senior Owen Beyer and senior Geoffry Croley all are back from the team that finished seventh at last season’s Final, where Geoffry Croley also tied for ninth individually and Beyer missed the top 10 by a stroke.

East Lansing: The Trojans finished runner-up to DeWitt at Binder Park at 319 with senior Joe Croom and sophomore Scott Campbell tying for ninth, each shooting 78. East Lansing also finished just behind the Panthers at last season’s Final, taking eighth, but with four players they’ll return this weekend: Croom, junior Ian Carroll, senior Logan Wilcox and senior Paul Gagnier. Croom placed seventh individually in 2014.

Other individuals of note: Hamilton senior Nick Carlson opened his high school career with an MHSAA individual title in 2012 and will try to end with the same after finishing runner-up both of the last two seasons. Ada Forest Hills Eastern junior Zach Robbins was one of three who tied for fourth at last season’s Final, and like Carlson, won his Regional last week. Mason senior Tristan Brunst was among five who tied for ninth place in 2014, and he returns as an individual qualifier after finishing third at his Regional. Linden senior Devon Cota won the Regional at Jackson’s Calderone Farms with a 75.  

DIVISION 3 at Forest Akers West, Michigan State University

Top ranked: 1. Lansing Catholic, 2. Grosse Ile, 3. Jackson Lumen Christi.

Lansing Catholic: The Cougars are looking to win their third straight LP Division 3 title with four of their top five back from last season’s Final. Senior Patrick Gillespie tied for fourth individually in 2014 and senior Niko Voutsaras was tied for fifth after the first round. They finished third and fifth, respectively, last week as Lansing Catholic as a team won the Regional at The Sawmill in Saginaw by 30 strokes at 303. Junior Owen Rush (fifth at Regional) and senior Adam Elias (10th) also started last season; Elias and Voutsaras also were among the starting five on the 2013 championship team.

Grosse Ile: After tying for 11th last season, the Red Devils are expected to make a big jump led by last season’s top Finals shooters Nick Bonamici and Adam Kopp. Grosse Ile finished second at its Regional at Grande Golf Club in Jackson, but only six strokes back of Jackson Lumen Christi. Kopp finished third individually at 74, and Bonamici was tied for seventh at 79. Senior Matt Simone also played a round at last season’s Final, and he was 14th at the Regional.

Jackson Lumen Christi: The Titans finished runners-up to Lansing Catholic the last two seasons after winning four straight titles from 2009-12, and should be in the mix again after winning the Regional at Grande Golf Club with four players from last season’s Final. Seniors Henry Hitt and Tyler Moser were the team’s top scorers at the 2014 Final – Hitt finishing individual runner-up – and they finished tied for fifth and tied for ninth, respectively, at the Regional. Junior Will Double and sophomore Luke Girodat split the fifth spot at last season’s Final, and they too made the top 10 at last week’s Regional, Girodat tying for seventh and Double tying for ninth as well.  

Other individuals of note: Five of last season’s top 10 are back this weekend, including four of the top five. Joining Hitt and Gillespie from that group are Macomb Lutheran North junior Scott Sparks, who won last season’s individual championship by seven strokes, and junior Rhet Schrauben, who finished third at the Final. Both were Regional champs last week. Ludington junior Chase Lakari tied for ninth last season and helped his team to a Division 3 Regional-best team score of 302. Senior teammate Spence Hackert was Regional medalist at Katke Golf Course with a 71, and Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central senior Andrew Skibski took the Regional at Grande with a 70.

DIVISION 4 at The Meadows, Grand Valley State University

Top ranked: 1. White Pigeon, 2. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, 3. North Muskegon.               

White Pigeon: The Chiefs are a good pick to repeat as champions with nearly the same lineup as that which won by nine strokes a year ago. White Pigeon won its Regional at Klinger Lake in Sturgis by 11 strokes over No. 4-ranked Kalamazoo Hackett. Sophomore Jorden Olsen finished runner-up at his Regional with a 76, falling in a playoff, and senior Riley Olsen was third at the Regional and tied for sixth at the 2014 Final. Seniors Andrew Mann, Christian Ryall-Shoup and Jack Tippman all also played in last season’s Final, Mann and Ryall-Shoup both rounds and Tippman one of two. Mann tied for eighth among individuals.

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart: The Irish shot 336 at The Emerald in St. Johns to edge two teams including North Muskegon by only three strokes to win the Regional. Sacred Heart is expected to take a big jump from last season’s 10th place at the Final as it pursues its first MHSAA championship in the sport since 1985. Four starters, all juniors, are back from that team: Ayush Mohan was third at the Regional, Jake Starry was seventh, and Sam Kindermann and Casey Ervin also bring Finals experience.

North Muskegon: The Norsemen finished only 11 strokes back in 2014 and return three of their top five led by junior Will Mierz, who tied for 10th individually last season. Sophomore Connor McEvoy and senior Mitch Edick also played on last year’s fourth-place finisher, and all five players finished among the top 21 at The Emerald.

Other individuals of note: Nine of 12 who finished among the top 10 (with ties) will play this weekend, led by reigning champion Joel Sneed of Leland, runner-up Sam Wagner of Pentwater, third-place Noah Schneider of Jackson Christian and fourth-place Devin Capron of Suttons Bay. Sneed, a senior, won a loaded Regional at Mistwood in Maple City, shooting 72 while East Jordan sophomore Logan Smith was second at 75, Mesick junior Alex Stanton (tied for 10th at 2014 Final) was third at 78 and Capron – also a senior – was fifth at 80 behind senior teammate Lars Thornton. Wagner, a senior, won the Regional at The Emerald, and Schneider, a junior, won the Regional at Polo Fields in Ypsilanti ahead of Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett senior Stephen Campau (tied for eighth at 2014 Final). Clarkston Everest Collegiate junior Tyler Rozwadowski could be among those who break into the mix; he won the Regional at Westwynd in Oakland Township with a 76. So too could Kalamazoo Christian freshman Colin Sikkenga, who won the playoff over White Pigeon's Olsen. 

NOTE: West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy will play its Division 4 rounds Wednesday and Friday. 

PHOTO: Leland’s Joel Sneed watches a shot during last season’s run to the Lower Peninsula Division 4 individual championship. Sneed has signed with the University of Nebraska.

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)