Senior-Powered Lansing Christian Makes Good on 2019 Goal, 2021 Promise

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 11, 2022

EAST LANSING – Caden Kinnas had an idea that he and his teammates on the Lansing Christian boys golf team were doing well.

But he didn’t want to hear how well until Saturday’s round at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals was over.

“That makes me a little bit nervous when I see the scoreboard,” the Lansing Christian senior said. “I did that yesterday on my third-to-last hole, and then I ended up tripling then parring out for my last two holes. Today, I was like, ‘I’m not going to look at the leaderboard once.’ I didn’t even know we shot a 304 until five minutes ago. I kept hearing whispers like, ‘You’re crushing us’ from other people, but I was like, ‘Don’t tell me. Let me just play and finish this round.’”

Kinnas and the Pilgrims were crushing people as they cruised to the Division 4 title with a two-day score of 622 (318 Friday, 304 Saturday) at Forest Akers West, 24 shots better than second-place Clarkston Everest Collegiate. Maple City Glen Lake was third at 655, followed by Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep at 665 and Charlevoix at 669.

Royal Oak Shrine Catholic’s Jeffrey Andrus was the individual medalist, shooting back-to-back 72s and finishing even par (144) for the tournament, six strokes ahead of Glen Lake’s Blake O’Connor who finished second.

It was the first Finals title for Lansing Christian, which was the runner-up to Kalamazoo Hackett a year ago. The Pilgrims’ five-man lineup featured four seniors.

“It’s a process – you finish 14th your first year, you get to the big dance and you just get a glimpse of it and it just gets you excited, like, ‘What if?’” Lansing Christian coach Jason Block said. “Everybody from summer leagues to winter simulators to the chalk talks that we do on course management – the courses we played this year … I can’t imagine a schedule tougher to get these guys ready for today. I always think of Nick Saban, trust the process. Just do the little things one day after another, one match after another. To be able to do it on the last day, pretty exciting.”

Clarkston Everest Collegiate golfKinnas, a senior, led the way for Lansing Christian, shooting a 151 and tying 2021 individual champion Remy Stalcup of Everest Collegiate in third place.

He was one of three Pilgrims to finish in the top 10, as senior Davis Garrett tied for fifth at 155 and junior Baylor Brogan tied for eighth at 156. Senior William Combs rounded out the scoring with a 160, while senior Isaac Haley shot a 180.

The 14th-place finish in 2019 came from a Lansing Christian team filled with freshmen. After that tournament, they took a picture with the championship trophy, which was won by Hackett. 

That was all about motivation and putting the possibility of taking a picture with their own trophy into the heads of each of the golfers. 

“We were happy to make it to state that year,” Block said. “Fast forward to 2021, we play at the Fortress against Hackett, with Hackett, and we end up losing the two-day tournament by six strokes. We go home with a runner-up trophy – happy, but you wanted to win the championship trophy. Coming into this year, we wanted to do three things: want to win the conference championship, win the Regional championship, and win the state championship.” 

Kinnas, who didn’t play on that 2019 team, said he thought it was a little odd when he first saw the picture, but was happy to help make it happen three years later.

“Knowing that we had the chance, and realizing the skill we had throughout the last two years, we realized it was pretty winnable,” Kinnas said. “I think that makes it a little more emotional, too, knowing that four out of our five starters are seniors. It really makes you appreciate every hole you play and that we couldn’t have done this without one another.”

The individual title was equally drama free, as Andrus played two incredibly clean rounds on his way to his six-stroke victory.

He did, though, allow himself to check the leaderboard prior to the final hole.

“I didn’t check the leaderboard until my last hole,” he said. “My coach told me I had a big lead. I wouldn’t say I was loose, maybe more conservative.”

For the weekend, Andrus had six birdies, two bogies and two double bogies to go with 26 pars. 

“I hit my driver really well,” Andrus said. “I struggled a little bit at the beginning today, but my short game saved me. Overall, my chipping and driving really helped me out.”

O’Connor shot a 150 to take second, followed by Stalcup, Kinnas and Garrett. Saginaw Nouvel freshman Alex McCarthy and Glen Lake freshman Michael Houtteman each shot a 155 to tie with Garrett in fifth. Brogan’s 156 was matched by Hackett freshman Joey Blondia, Riverview Gabriel Richard senior Blake Wagner and Hillsdale Academy sophomore Rykert Frisinger in a tie for eighth.

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PHOTOS (Top) Lansing Christian's Davis Garrett lines up a putt on No. 9 at Forest Akers West on Saturday. (Middle) Clarkston Everest Collegiate's Remy Stalcup chips toward the No. 9 green. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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)