St Johns Says Good-Bye as Repeat Champ

June 10, 2017

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

ALLENDALE – St. Johns boys golf coach Paul Sternburgh referred to it as a storybook ending.

And that’s exactly how it will read for a man heading into retirement and his band of departing seniors.

Sternburgh is retiring after 37 years as a coach, and his team sent him out with another title at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final.

The Redwings repeated as champions Saturday afternoon at The Meadows at Grand Valley State with a two-day team score of 603.

St. Johns bested runner-up Flint Powers Catholic, which finished with a 627.

“You just can’t write a script better than this – to go back-to-back,” Sternburgh said. “Getting the first one is hard enough, but to repeat. Granted, we had the same guys back and had a lot going for us, but I couldn’t be any happier or any more satisfied. It just doesn’t get any better. You ride into the sunset with a smile on your face.”

Sternburgh retired from teaching in 2007, but continued coaching.

Senior Eric Nunn said it was “really special” to end both his high school career and his longtime coach’s with another Finals crown.

“The dude loves us more than anything, and he’s been with me and Zach for four years now and he is always telling us how special and talented we are,” Nunn said. “I’m so happy that we could get it for him again.”

Nunn and teammate Zach Rosendale were the catalysts in the victory.

The Michigan State-bound Rosendale wrapped up his banner prep career with an individual Finals championship.

He fired a closing-round 2-under-par 70 to defeat East Lansing’s Tony Fuentes by four strokes.

Rosendale shot 72 on the first day and finished at 142. He trailed by three strokes entering the final round, but emerged as the only golfer to go under par.  

“I just had the mindset that I’m chasing,” said Rosendale, who recorded four birdies. “I have to play well, because I never know how anyone else is doing. I think they are playing well, so in my head that makes me want to play better.

“I play really well in the wind. I keep my ball low, so I think that was a key factor. Everything was working well. I was hitting the ball well off the tee, and my putting could’ve been better, but lag putting was great. I think keeping the ball low really won me the tournament.”

Sternburgh said Rosendale’s play was indicative of his entire season.

“He’s Mr. Consistent, and he has been all year,” he said. “I think his highest score all year was 75, and his low was 66. He hits everything consistent, and he doesn’t spray the ball. He’s a very solid putter and accurate with hitting greens. There is nobody that has come through St. Johns who is as steady and consistent as Zach has been.”

The Redwings also received stellar scores from others.

Nunn posted a pair of rounds in the 70s (71-76) and tied for third. Seniors Jack Bouck (80-78) and Nate Brown (77-81) each had a 158, while junior Zeke Ely finished with a 165.

St. Johns, which won the program’s first Final a year ago, carded a 298 on the first day to gain a 14-stroke cushion.

“We worked hard on keeping it in play and played better than I expected, although I wasn’t as surprised about the 298 this year as I was last year,” Sternburgh said. “I was more surprised by the lead. You just don’t get a 14-stroke lead like that.”

The Redwings squeaked out a four-stroke win over East Lansing last season, but this one was less stressful.

“Last year was nerve-wracking because we didn’t know where we stood, and it was so close,” Nunn said. “This year with the live scoring and Coach telling us where we were so we were all pretty calm (today). To go out like this, all four seniors and coach, just means a ton.”

The Redwings drew motivation from a loss at last week’s Regional. They finished runner-up to Flint Powers Catholic on their home course, but reversed the outcome when it mattered most.

“We didn’t play bad as a team (at Regionals), we just didn’t play great and to our full potential,” Rosendale said. “But I’m glad on the big stage, we actually did it. Our team played well, and it’s definitely the best way to go out.”

The Chargers placed ninth last year in Division 3, but moved to Division 2 this spring. A strong final-round score of 310 enabled them to jump from fifth place after the first day to runner-up.

“I was glad to see the wind come up because we play our absolute best golf in the wind,” Flint Powers Catholic coach Robert Beach said. “I know it sounds ridiculous and goes against logic, but I know my team. And when the wind came up, I thought we had a good chance to move up in the standings and they pulled it off.”

Junior Zack Hopkins finished among the individual top 10 with a 154 (79-75) for the Chargers, while senior Joe Coriasso was one stroke back at 155 (77-78).

“We beat St. Johns last week so our boys knew we had a chance, but St. Johns played lights out,” Beach said. “We played good, they played great. We tip our hat to them, but I’m always thrilled to take home a trophy and put another banner up in the gym.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Grosse Ile’s Jack Tucker and St. Johns’ Zach Rosendale play together during Saturday’s second round of the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final. (Middle) East Lansing’s Tony Fuentes watches one of his shots out of the brush at The Meadows. (Click to see more from

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)