Skyline's Favorite Status Stands with 1st Finals Win

By Tom Lang
Special for

June 12, 2021

EAST LANSING – Ann Arbor Skyline was ranked No. 1 all season, which meant bringing high expectations into the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Boys Golf Finals as the prohibitive favorite.

And with a lineup that boasted two freshmen, the Eagles delivered at Michigan State’s Forest Akers West.

Skyline recorded a two-day total 594, placing ahead of runner up Detroit Catholic Central (603), plus Traverse City West and Forest Hills Northern (each at 613).

Three of the Eagles’ five players had never been to the Finals before. 

“So, they really didn’t understand what all the hype was, which kind of served as a good thing, to not know exactly what they were getting into,” said Skyline head coach Ashley Mantha. “But once they got here, they understood what I was talking about. Fortunately, our (program has) been here before so I could share with the newbies on what to expect.”

Skyline had four players place among the individual top 25 to pace the field. Freshman Ieuan Jones was part of a three-way tie for runner-up to medalist Davis Codd of Brighton, followed by Skyline brothers Vibhav and Vimal Alokam at T13 and T23, respectively, plus Mitchell Strickland at T23.

“Usually we’re the underdogs (coming into a state final), so there a big role reversal today,” Mantha said. “We’ve never been in this situation so how do we prepare for people coming for us, so to speak?

“Each player has like a key phrase I can use to get them in the right head space. We talk about things like how they play with their buddies, or I say ‘Washtenaw,’ just little things that kind of bring them back down to their own game.”

Mantha pointed out how the win was truly a team victory as Skyline counted a normally fifth-player score toward Friday’s first round.

“Luke Richard, my junior, shot his best season score on Friday in the five spot,” she said. Normally he’s in the high 70s but he got a 74 for us, which counted because my No. 1 shot his worst score (on Friday). You can talk about how we should play, but he really played to the moment.”

On the individual side, Brighton’s Codd had spent the last two weeks at an NHL prospects hockey camp in Erie, Pa. – and had to return there immediately Saturday night to play in a game Sunday in front of several NHL pro teams’ scouts. 

Yet that didn’t stop the high school golfer from returning to Michigan twice to become co-medalist at his Regional and finish the season at Forest Akers.

Brighton golfAnd did he ever finish it in style.

Codd came back from 12th place after Friday’s first-round score of 73 to shoot 5-under par 67 on day two (140 total), to win the individual championship.

“Going into this day I had a game plan to go out there and make as many birdies as I could,” Codd said. “The entire day I didn’t look at the leaderboard once. After I walked off that green (No. 13) I kind of figured it out (that I’d won). But I had the same game plan all day, to go and attack the hole.”

Attack he did.

Codd birdied his first four holes (Nos. 14-17), and after some up-and-down play midway through the round, he stepped up to the last hole, the par-5 13th, and ripped a drive down the long, skinny fairway to within wedge length. He made a two-putt birdie to top off his final round as a high school player, who happens to double as a professional hockey player for the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit. Prior to joining the Spirit, he finished Division 1 golf runner-up as a freshman and sixth as a sophomore, and he was able to compete again this golf season because the Spirit have not played in over a year.

Codd out-paced three others who tied for runner-up at 143 – Murphy Kehoe of Traverse City West, first-round leader Jack Zubkus from Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, and Jones of Skyline.

“When you start off with four birdies in a row, that gets the wheels going around and sets a pace,” Codd said. “But I had just a different level of focus on those first four holes, and when that happened, I felt like it was my day, and my day to win, so it was great to start that way.”

Codd said he didn’t get in a practice round for Finals, so he didn’t set any expectations for himself. 

“I just went out there to try and enjoy my last two rounds as a high schooler, and it worked out,” he said.

“It’s pretty special to be a part of this Brighton program,” Codd added about the team that took seventh place Saturday. “I was just so fortunate to have my coach, Jimmy Dewling, such a great golf mind and such a great friend, to guide my golf career these last few years and I can’t thank him enough. And I’ve had great teammates over the years. We weren’t the best my first couple of years, but the character in that group set this program on where it’s headed. It’s been a couple of great years in this program.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Ann Arbor Skyline's Vibhav Alokam lines up a putt during Friday's first round. (Middle) Brighton’s Davis Codd connects with one of his putts during Friday’s first round. (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)