Preview: Contenders Charting Course for LP Championships
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
June 10, 2021
A year off from our spring sports, Lower Peninsula boys golf among them, brings an air of unpredictability as we enter Finals weekend at four sites across the state.
Two of the champions last time we played, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian and Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep in 2019, are back among the highest-ranked in their respective divisions heading into this weekend. A third champion from two years ago – Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern – is among contenders again, but this time in Division 1.
And the individual races are full of opportunities, with the great majority of those who will finish in top 10s this weekend finding themselves in Finals contention for the first time.
Below is a glance at all four Finals including possible contenders for both the team and individual championships. Follow the scoring live on the MHSAA Golf app (by iWanamaker), available for both iOS and Android. Click for the MHSAA “Tournament Home” for more details.
LP Division 1 at Michigan State’s Forest Akers West
Top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Skyline, 2. Detroit Catholic Central, 3. Northville.
It seems like nearly every week lately Skyline is making a headline for winning a big event or shooting a record score, and the Eagles would make their biggest with a first top-two Finals finish – or, of course, their first championship. Detroit Catholic Central is never far from the mix and seeking its first championship since winning three straight from 2015-17. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern finished the regular-season ranked No. 5, but was the most recent Division 2 champion taking that title in 2019.
Ann Arbor Skyline: The Eagles shot a 287 to win their Regional at Dearborn Country Club, with freshman runner-up Vibhav Alokam leading a lineup from which all five placed among the top nine individuals. Another freshman Ieuan Jones tied with senior Vimal Alokam for third. Vimal Alokam and junior Luke Richard were part of the Skyline lineup that finished 11th at the Finals in 2019.
Detroit Catholic Central: The Shamrocks shot a 317 to finish third at Dunham Hills in Hartland among a Regional field that included the unranked Eagles (who won with a 304) but also No. 4 Brighton (runner-up at 306, No. 3 Northville and No. 10 Novi – with Northville and Novi not advancing. DCC was led at the Regional by a returnee who was part of the fourth-place finisher at the 2019 Finals – junior Neil Zhu, who finished fifth last week – and senior Jack Guerrera also was part of that 2019 lineup. Senior Joey Per tied for eighth at the Regional.
Brighton: The Bulldogs, ranked No. 4 as noted above, followed individual medalist Davis Codd to that runner-up Regional team finish in Hartland. He tied for sixth as a sophomore individual qualifier at the 2019 Finals, and is joined in the lineup by another senior and three sophomores – including Winston Lerch, who tied for eighth at the Regional.
Other individuals of note: Codd is the only top-10 individual finisher back from 2019, and he also was Finals runner-up as a freshman after a two-hole tie-breaker playoff. He's also one of the state's top hockey prospects and was slated to play a second season for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League this winter before that season was canceled due to COVID-19. Warren De La Salle Collegiate senior Ethan Tran and Jackson senior Justin Bunch paced the Division 1 Regional fields both shooting 69 to win their respective tournaments; Tran previously played at the 2019 Finals with his team. Other Regional champions last week were Rockford senior C.J. Stephan (after a playoff with Forest Hills Northern junior Jack Zubkus), Fenton senior Dylan Davidson, and Troy Athens junior Akshay Vasudevan (after a playoff with junior teammate Lance Harwood).
LP Division 2 at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley
Top-ranked: 1. Flint Powers Catholic, 2. East Grand Rapids, 3. Williamston.
Powers last won in 2018 and is the favorite again after not making the Finals field as a team in 2019. The champion that season, Forest Hills Northern, is in Division 1 this spring, and the Chargers are joined atop the ranked by an East Grand Rapids team playing for its first title since 2005 and a Williamston program seeking its second top-two finish after coming in as runner-up in Class C in 1984. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, ranked No. 5, is intriguing – four of its top five played on the 2019 team that finished seventh in Division 1, and they shot a Division 2 Regional-best 279 last week. Eighth-ranked Orchard Lake St. Mary’s also broke 300, shooting a 295 to finish second to Rice at Huron Meadows Metropark.
Flint Powers Catholic: The Chargers’ lineup is made up of two juniors and three sophomores, and they shot 329 to finish a stroke back of Williamston last week at their Regional at Pohlcat in Mount Pleasant. Sophomore Robert Burns tied for third and junior Luke Cramer for fifth for a lineup that could make some noise both this weekend and in 2022.
East Grand Rapids: The Pioneers shot a 302 at Lincoln Golf Club in Muskegon to outpace No. 4 Spring Lake and No. 6 Ada Forest Hills Eastern at their Regional. Seniors Jack Seufert and Sam Penney were part of the EGR team that finished ninth at the 2019 Finals, and they tied for second and fourth, respectively, at last week’s qualifier.
Williamston: The Hornets’ impressive win at Pohlcat came not only ahead of top-ranked Powers but also No. 10 Haslett – together the three finished 328, 329 and 330, respectively. Junior Caleb Bond was the individual medalist with a 71, and the Hornets have only one senior in the lineup as they return to the Finals for the first time since tying for 11th in Division 3 in 2014.
Other individuals of note: None of the 2019 top 10 are back. Four Brother Rice golfers shot 71 or better last week at their Regional, with senior Colin O’Rourke (68) and sophomore Lorenzo Pinili the only two to break 70 at any Division 2 Regional. Also winning Regional championships were Grand Rapids Northview junior Colin Beckett, Byron Center junior Jack Marzolino, St. Joseph senior Ryan Guzzo and Trenton senior Caden Gloss.
LP Division 3 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State
Top-ranked: 1. Hanover-Horton, 2. Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 3. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian.
The two most recent champions are expected to be in the mix again as Hanover-Horton won Division 3 in 2018 and NorthPointe was the champ in 2019 after winning Division 4 the season before. Grand Rapids Catholic Central, meanwhile, is seeking its first top-two Finals finish and making its first appearance in the championship tournament since placing 13th in Division 2 in 2015. The Cougars are entering this weekend coming off the lowest team score at any Division 3 Regional, 317.
Hanover-Horton: The Comets won last week’s Regional at Timber Ridge in East Lansing by 10 strokes, shooting a 330, and with four golfers among the top nine individual placers. Although Hanover-Horton didn’t qualify as a team for the 2019 Finals, seniors Brogan Brockie and Kyler Rod were in the 2018 championship lineup as freshmen. They finished sixth and third, respectively, at Timber Ridge.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central: The Cougars outshot the field by 19 strokes to win the Regional at Egypt Valley in Ada. All five golfers finished among the top 12 placers, with senior Andrew Armock and freshman Will Preston tying for medalist. Armock is the only senior among the starting five.
Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian: The Mustangs arrive after finishing second at Egypt Valley and with four golfers who finished among the top 16 individually – including two who were among the team’s top four on the 2019 championship team. Nelson missed finishing 10th at that Finals by a stroke; he was third at the Regional last week. Junior Luke Schrock also is back from the 2019 lineup.
Other individuals of note: As noted, NorthPointe’s Nelson just missed the top 10 at the 2019 Finals, and two others playing this weekend made that group – Elk Rapids senior Joshua Lavely tied for fourth that spring, and Napoleon’s Evan Brzyski was seventh. Cheboygan sophomore PJ Maybank shot a Division 3 Regional-best 70 to win at Boyne Resort last week. Other Regional champs were Lake Odessa Lakewood junior Trevor Simon, Leslie senior Cannon Risner, Tawas sophomore Alex Kaems and Grosse Ile junior Anthony Naso. Risner and Naso both played for top-10 team finishers at the 2019 Finals.
LP Division 4 at The Fortress in Frankenmuth
Top-ranked: 1. Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep, 2. Lansing Christian, 3. Hillsdale Academy.
Hackett returns as the favorite after also winning in 2019 and then shooting a 306 at its Regional to best the rest of Division 4 last week by 16 strokes. Lansing Christian improved from 15th at the 2018 Finals to 14th in 2019 and posted the second-lowest Regional score last week as it pursues its first top-two Finals finish. Hillsdale Academy is hoping to attain the same, back at the Finals after finishing 14th in 2018 and not qualifying in 2019.
Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep: The Comets bring back the most Finals experience of any contender in any division as seniors Thomas Keyte, Ryan Chafty and Ben Bridenstine all played at the 2019 Finals – and Keyte finished seventh individually. Chafty and Keyte also started on the 2018 team that finished fourth in Division 4. Hackett placed all five golfers among the top eight at their Regional at Pine View in Three Rivers, with Keyte the medalist and Bridenstine the runner-up.
Lansing Christian: The Pilgrims also bring three golfers back from their 2019 Finals team, now juniors Davis Garrett, Isaac Haley and Will Combs. Combs played just the second round during that championship tournament, but two years later he’s leading the way after winning the Regional at Calderone Golf Club in Grass Lake. Garrett finished second last week, and Lansing Christian put four golfers among the top nine. Four of the team’s top five are juniors, with the fifth a sophomore.
Hillsdale Academy: The Colts finished second to Lansing Christian at Calderone led by a pair of individual fourth-place freshmen in Rykert Frisinger and Ridley Fast. Now-senior Christian Gossage was a freshman starter on the 2018 Finals team and missed making the top 10 at Calderone by a stroke.
Other individuals of note: Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart senior Michael Zanoni tied for Division 4 runner-up as a sophomore, finishing just a stroke off the lead. He won his Regional at Waters Edge in Hesperia by a stroke last week. Also claiming Regional titles were Charlevoix senior Jake Beaudoin (after a playoff with Leland senior Aiden Coleman), Sandusky junior Christian Long and Royal Oak Shrine Catholic junior Jeffrey Andrus.
PHOTO: Napoleon's Evan Brzyski tees off during the 2019 Division 3 Finals, where he went on to finish seventh.(Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
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)