By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
This could be a weekend of coincidence as all four 2017 Lower Peninsula Boys Golf Finals runners-up are in position to take the most challenging last step and become MHSAA champions.
Grosse Pointe South in Division 1 and Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian in Division 4 entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in their respective divisions after coming in second a year ago – and both are seeking their first MHSAA Finals title in this sport. Flint Powers Catholic in Division 2 and Big Rapids in Division 3 entered Regional week ranked No. 2 in their respective divisions – also as runners-up in 2017 looking to bring home the championship trophy this time.
Below are a handful of possible team and individual favorites at each Final. First-round play tees off at 9 a.m. Friday, with the final round beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. Click for a full list of Finals qualifiers and Regional results.
LP Division 1 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University
Reigning champion: Detroit Catholic Central.
2017 runner-up: Grosse Pointe South.
Top-ranked: 1. Grosse Pointe South, 2. Clarkston, 3. Birmingham Seaholm.
Detroit Catholic Central has won the last three LPD1 championships, and Grosse Pointe South has finished second both of the last two seasons. Twelve of 18 Finals qualifiers shot 315 or lower at their Regionals, which could signal this being a far tighter race than last season when the Shamrocks won by 16 and the Blue Devils cleared third place by another 13 strokes.
Grosse Pointe South: The Blue Devils shot a 300 to win their Regional at The Orchards in Washington ahead of No. 5 Birmingham Brother Rice and No. 3 Seaholm. The top four scorers all shot 78 or better to finish 10th or higher individually, led by runner-up Patrick Sullivan and third-place Coalter Smith. They are two of four back from last season’s Finals lineup, and Smith came in third individually at last year’s championship event.
Hartland: The Eagles entered last week ranked No. 9, but get a mention here after winning a Regional at Dunham Hills in Hartland with a 303, ahead of No. 10 Northville, No. 7 DCC and No. 2 Clarkston. Hartland finished ninth last season, and three of those starters are back this weekend including senior Mitchell Cotten. He tied for the team’s lowest score at the 2017 Finals and finished second overall at last week’s Regional.
Rockford: The Rams are seeking their first MHSAA championship in this sport, but finished fifth last season and look like a contender after shooting 310 to win their Regional at Thornapple Pointe in Grand Rapids by 21 strokes. Junior Kevin Healy was the individual runner-up at 74 and tied for eighth at the 2017 Final. Sophomore Nathan Barton and freshman Oliver Haberle also finished among the top 10 at the Regional, and Barton and senior Daniel Froumis were part of the lineup during last season’s run.
Other individuals of note: Ann Arbor Skyline sophomore Cam Cowland and Birmingham Seaholm senior Henry Scavone were among others who tied for eighth at last year’s Final. Scavone was 14th at his Regional last week but should be in form while leading one of the team contenders, and Cowland was medalist at the Regional at Polo Fields in Ann Arbor in leading his team to the championship. Brother Rice senior Brendan O’Rouke shot 68 to win at the Orchards, while New Baltimore Anchor Bay seniors Tory Saunby and Michael Romanoski both shot 68 to tie for first in leading their team to the title at Oakland’s Twin Lakes. Northville senior Jimmy Dales, Midland Dow sophomore Anthony Zeitler and Portage Central sophomore Will Anderson also won Regionals, Anderson shooting a 66 at Thornapple Pointe.
LP Division 2 at Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley
Reigning champion: St. Johns.
2017 runner-up: Flint Powers Catholic.
Top-ranked: 1. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, 2. Flint Powers Catholic, 3. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
St. Johns’ two-year reign will come to end; the Redwings didn’t qualify this spring after graduating most of their lineup in 2017. Powers finished 24 strokes back a year ago but also 15 strokes ahead of the rest of the field and could be in line for its first title since 2001. Top-ranked Forest Hills Northern is playing for its first since 1983, but finished only second at its Regional to No. 4 Gaylord. Seven teams shot 312 or better at Regionals, led by No. 8 East Grand Rapids at 298.
Flint Powers Catholic: The Chargers won their Regional at Hawk Hollow in East Lansing with a 303, two strokes better than No. 6 DeWitt. Three golfers are back from last season’s runner-up run, led by senior Zach Hopkins – he tied for 10th at last year’s Final and for third with sophomore teammate Grant Tucker at last week’s Regional. Powers’ top four all broke 80 at Hawk Hollow.
Gaylord: The Blue Devils are aiming for their first top-two Finals finish after coming in 11th last season. They shot a 311 to win the Regional at Cedar Chase in Cedar Springs by seven over Forest Hills Northern, with junior Brendon Gouin the individual medalist at 72. Gaylord’s top four finished among the top nine individuals, and all four were part of last season’s lineup as well.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern: Despite the runner-up Regional finish, it’s tough to not see the Huskies among the favorites with five of their top six back from last season’s eighth-place (tied) Finals finish. Three players finished among the top six placers, with ties, at the Regional led by fourth-place junior Noah Kolar. Forest Hills Northern has been ranked No. 1 since the end of April.
Other individuals of note: Ada Forest Hills Eastern junior Brad Smithson tied for third at last year’s Final and leads another team that easily could be in contention – he finished third individually at Cedar Chase as Forest Hills Eastern followed Powers and FHN. Spring Lake junior Nick Krueger tied for fifth in 2017 and was runner-up to Gouin at the same loaded Regional last week. Allendale senior Asher Meekof just missed the top 10 individuals at last year’s Final and will return as a Regional champion. Marshall sophomore Matt Flynn also was a Regional champ; his sophomore teammate Hayden Chapman tied for 10th a year ago at the Final. Mason junior Alex Jordan, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep senior Jack Williams and Trenton senior Brent Trela also were Regional champions last week.
LP Division 3 at Forest Akers West at Michigan State University
Reigning champion: Jackson Lumen Christi.
2017 runner-up: Big Rapids.
Top-ranked: 1. Grosse Ile, 2. Big Rapids. 3. Schoolcraft.
Jackson Lumen Christi and Lansing Catholic have won eight of the last nine championships in this division. But Grosse Ile is favored to win its first since 2003, and Big Rapids is seeking its first since 2008 after finishing runner-up and eight strokes back a year ago.
Big Rapids: Four of the five starters from last season’s runner-up team will be back this weekend, led by junior Pierce Morrissey. He tied for fifth at last year’s Final and was the medalist last week at Willow Wood in Portland as the Cardinals edged No. 8 Grand Rapids West Catholic by a stroke for the team title. Two others finished among the top seven individually as Big Rapids shot a 314.
Grosse Ile: The Red Devils have held down the top spot in the state poll since late April, coming off a fourth-place finish in Division 2 a year ago. Three golfers are back from the six that played at least a round at last year’s Final, and senior Joey Test was the medalist last week at Hantz Golf Club in Tecumseh as Grosse Ile won the team Regional title.
Hanover-Horton: The No. 4 Comets get the slight nod ahead of Schoolcraft after winning their Regional ahead of reigning champ and current No. 9 Jackson Lumen Christi last week. Hanover-Horton shot a 313 at Hunters Ridge in Howell to clear the Titans by 11 strokes, led by sophomore and individual runner-up Jack Brockie. Senior Garret Spink tied for fourth at the Regional and tied for fifth at last year’s Final as the Comets finished fifth as a team in 2017.
Other individuals of note: In addition to Spink and Morrissey, four others are back from last year’s top 10. Tawas senior Daniel Shattuck was runner-up last spring after advancing to a playoff for the top spot. Portland sophomore Zach Pier is back after tying for third, while Houghton Lake senior Brock Decker also tied for fifth and Grand Rapids West Catholic senior Anderson Ryan was eighth. Ludington senior Evan McKinley finished a stroke ahead of Decker last week at Grandview Country Club in Kalkaska for a Regional title, while Morrissey won by a stroke over Pier. Jonesville senior Grant Baker, Napoleon freshman Evan Brzyski and St. Louis junior Grant Mills also won Regional titles.
LP Division 4 at Forest Akers East at Michigan State University
Reigning champion: Clarkston Everest Collegiate.
2017 runner-up: Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian.
Top-ranked: 1. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian, 2. Suttons Bay, 3. Clarkston Everest Collegiate.
Clarkston Everest Collegiate will seek to win its third straight Division 4 championship, but NorthPointe was last year’s runner-up 11 strokes back – and 13 ahead of the rest of the field. Suttons Bay didn’t make the field as a team last year but has one of best individuals on the card. Those three teams were the only three to clear 330 at last week’s Regionals.
Clarkston Everest College: Four of five starters are back from last year’s championship team, and three were on the 2016 winner as well. Junior Mitch Lowney was the runner-up at the 2017 Final and also won last week’s Regional at Whitmore Lake Golf Links as his team cleared the field by 24 strokes. Junior Mia Korns was the one player not in last year’s starting lineup, but she finished third at last week’s Regional and was seventh at the 2016 Division 4 Girls Final.
Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian: All five golfers are back from last season’s runner-up showing, when senior Logan Holtkamp came in sixth individually. NorthPointe won the Regional last week at Muskegon Country Club by 32 strokes with Holtkamp the medalist, junior Erik Fahlen and senior Hayden VanErmen tying for second and senior Ben Farrell coming in fourth.
Suttons Bay: The Norsemen won Division 4 as recently as 2015, and although they didn’t play the Final as a team last year senior Thomas Hursey tied for eighth as an individual qualifier. Suttons Bay won the Regional at Grand Traverse Resort last week by 21 strokes with Hursey finishing first and senior Parker LaPointe tying for second.
Other individuals of note: The last two individual champions are back this weekend, and they are among eight of last year’s top 10 returning to the field. Clinton junior Austin Fauser won last year’s Final and last week’s Regional at Concord Hills. Lansing Christian senior Parker Jamieson was the 2016 Final champion, tied for eighth last season and finished second to Fauser last week. Kalamazoo Christian senior Colin Sikkenga, Harbor Springs senior Cole Ketterer and Kalamazoo Hackett sophomore Will Verduzco came in third-fifth, respectively, at last season’s Final, and Sikkenga was a Regional champion last week. Bad Axe junior Colby Meeks also is coming off a Regional title.
PHOTO: St. Louis’ Grant Mills watches a shot during his Division 3 Regional title run last week at Pine River Country Club. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.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)