Relaxed Approach does FHN's Schab Good

May 27, 2016

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS -- Spencer Schab has a different approach to the game of golf this season.

The Forest Hills Northern senior isn’t taking things as seriously as in past years.

“I thought of it as, this is my senior year, it’s my last high school season, so why put so much pressure on myself and make it less enjoyable?,” Schab said. “I’m just going to go out and have fun.”

Schab’s change of attitude has served him and his team well.

The Huskies entered this week’s MHSAA District Tournament ranked No. 2 in Division 2, behind only Ottawa-Kent Conference Bronze rival Ada Forest Hills Eastern.

Schab, a two-time Lower Peninsula Division 2 all-state first team selection, has felt the pressure to produce low scores in recent years.

“The last couple years I’ve put too much weight on my shoulders to play well,” Schab said. “I’ve found that when I’m more focused on having a good time, like talking to my playing competitors, I end up playing better. This year has been fun.”

Schab has been a mainstay as the Huskies’ No. 1 golfer, but coach Brian Telzerow said his teammates have helped to ease the tension.

“He’s been the go-to guy so to speak and he’s always played in the No. 1 spot, but the nice thing about this year is all five guys who play can easily be the lowest score of the team,” he said. “Spencer doesn’t feel like he has to be the lowest guy, and so I think he is enjoying the game a little bit more because of that.”

Forest Hills Northern has a talented cast of seniors to accompany Schab in the top four. They include Phil Lodzinski, Chase Lebster and Brian McHale.

Josh Belfer is another senior, along with two freshmen.

The experience of the seniors has sparked the team’s success. It’s a group that has played together the past four years and has a strong bond on and off the course.

“That’s my favorite part about the team,” Schab said. “We’re all such good friends, and it makes the experience so much better for all of us because we’re a tight-knit group. We were friends before we were on the team, and being on the team has only strengthened our friendship.”

Lodzinski said the closeness among the seniors helps drive them to perform their best.

“We’re all best friends, and I think you try a little harder when you have friends on the team because you don’t want to let them down,” he said. “We have a good time together, and that makes it an enjoyable experience overall.”

The seniors played key roles in last year’s third-place finish at the Finals. They’re pulling together once again in an attempt to make a repeat trip.

“These seniors have played with each other for four years,” Telzerow said. “They know each other, they like each other and they have a good connection. They have a sense of we’re doing it for each other, just not for our own accomplishments.”

The ability to stay consistent also has been an important aspect, according to Lodzinski.

“We’ve had at least three or four scores in the 70s every tournament, and that comes with our maturity,” he said. “Compared to our freshman and sophomore years, we’re a lot better at managing ourselves on the course, and it’s led to better scoring and more consistency.”

All of the seniors recently graduated, and Schab said the stresses of the past few months have finally subsided. It has allowed time to focus solely on golf.

“I had a lot of extracurricular activities going on earlier in the year with AP exams and graduation, but it’s time to focus on practice and sharpening up for the postseason,” said Schab, who averaged 38.2 strokes for nine holes during the conference season. “Overall, I’m happy with how well I’m playing considering my shift in focus.”

Telzerow said Schab is starting to peak at the most important time of the spring.

“He’s starting to play better,” he said. “I think he did this last year where he kind of had a lull in the middle of the season and then really came on strong in the postseason. He shot 72 at the post-conference tournament and he’s the kind of guy that can go low very easily.”

The Huskies finished runner-up to conference champion Forest Hills Eastern. The two engaged in a competitive tussle throughout the season, and Telzerow hopes it pays off.
“We knew coming in that both of us had high-caliber players and we would be battling each other constantly,” he said. “And that happened. We both want to do well in Districts and Regionals. Our hope is to finish strong at the state tournament, but we recognize that you have to get there first.”

Districts begin today for the Huskies, and expectations are high. A lofty finish at the Finals would be a fitting ending to outstanding high school careers.

“Our whole goal is to win a state championship,” Lodzinski said. “We’re planning on working hard to make it to state and making a run at the championship.”

Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTO: Forest Hills Northern's Spencer Schab follows through on a swing. (Photo courtesy of Forest Hills Northern yearbook staff.)

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)