St Ignace Stays Course, Surges to Win

June 1, 2017

By Adam Niemi
Special for Second Half

IRON RIVER — Claudette Brown couldn’t help but hold back tears Thursday.

But the fourth-year coach had good reason to feel emotional. Her first class of seniors on the St. Ignace boys golf team had just won the Upper Peninsula Division 2 Final title at George Young Golf Course.

Having coached them since their freshman year, Brown said the team overcame a challenging course for the win, highlighted by Carter Tallaire’s 80. St. Ignace’s 336 edged Iron River West Iron County (346) for the title.

“It was a very good day. They worked hard,” Brown said before pausing and choking back tears. “We had some struggles this season. We had some issues with some kids, so we had to change things up before we came. But they pulled it off, and they came through. I have three seniors this year, and it’s going to be hard to let them go. They’re pretty special. It’s good.”

West Iron County coach Mark Martini said he was impressed by St. Ignace’s ability to navigate the course. His team had played George Young every day the previous week, and the greens played differently each time.

“I thought that St. Ignace played really well for the conditions with the spring we’ve had,” Martini said. “My guys, for the most part, freshmen and a sophomore; I thought that was a good finish for us placing second. The scores were really quite good for all the situations that we’ve had all year weather-wise.”

Brown said the course presented unique challenges, given that her team last played it as freshmen, and the team also traveled four and a half hours prior to competing. She listed off the features of the course that made it difficult for her team.

“Just the greens are fast, pin placement, keeping it straight,” Brown said. “It gets a little narrow on a couple holes. Dog legs are a little challenging at times, some water holes.”

Yet Tallaire’s 80 just edged an 82 by Norway’s Brad Schalow and West Iron County’s Noah Thomson. Tallaire said he struggled with his short game throughout the day.

“It was a little rough. I didn’t putt too well, and I didn’t hit as many fairways as I wanted to either,” Tallaire said. “For the most part, the course played well too; it was nice. I’ve played very well before today. I shot three or four rounds under 80. It’s a tough golf course. It plays long, it plays nice, it was difficult. I’ll take an 80 for how I was playing.

“Under a hundred yards, I just couldn’t get anything going. I’d get it up, and then I’d have to chip and two-putt. I three-putted a couple times. Anything under a hundred yards, it was rough.”

Kody Rickley placed fourth for St. Ignace with an 83, and teammate Andy Metz was sixth with an 85.

Trevor Tchida’s 86 paced Hancock, which did not qualify for a team score.

Newberry finished third with a team score of 371. Ethan Edwards carded a team-low 88 to take eighth overall. Crystal Falls Forest Park (384) took fourth and was led by Riley Hendrickson’s 92.

Brown said part of the challenge for teams is coming from smaller courses that they frequently play to compete for a U.P. title at a course not only bigger, but more demanding in various ways. But the team was confident coming into the day, she said.

“We come from a little nine-hole course, so it’s hard, but it’s a great challenge,” Brown said. “We go down and golf in Gaylord a lot, and this year even West Branch. They get a lot of experience playing the tougher courses, so I think that helps us prepare for the UPs.”

Full results will be linked when available.

PHOTOS: (Top) A player tees off during the Upper Peninsula Division 2 Finals on Thursday. (Middle) Norway’s Brad Schalow sends a putt on the way to finishing individual runner-up. (Photos by Adam Niemi.)

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)