Successful Shamrocks Shine Once More

June 10, 2017

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – For the past three seasons, the biggest drama with Detroit Catholic Central’s boys golf team hasn’t been whether or not it would win tournaments it competed in.

Instead, it was a matter of how much the Shamrocks would win by and which player in its loaded lineup would be the medalist.

It’s been a constant battle of bragging rights for a Catholic Central team which entered this weekend’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West having won all of its tournaments the past two years and with each starter finishing as medalist at least once during the run.

“That’s what we strive for,” senior Sean Niles said.

On Saturday, Niles ended up getting the final bragging rights at the finale for a senior class that couldn’t have been much more decorated.

Niles won the individual Division 1 title, shooting a two-day score of 139 to prevail by one shot over Plymouth senior Justin Kapke (70-70).

Grosse Pointe South sophomore Coalter Smith was third with a 144 (71-73).

Catholic Central had two more golfers finish among the top five individually – seniors James Piot and Ben Smith.

Piot was fourth at 146 (72-74), and Smith was fifth at 148 (71-77).

Needless to say, all that firepower helped Catholic Central do what was expected all season, which was win a third straight team championship.

The Shamrocks finished with a total of 581 strokes, ahead of runner-up Grosse Pointe South’s 597.

Plymouth took third with a 610, Clarkston was fourth with a 619 while Rockford rounded out the top five with a 622.

It was the definition of a bittersweet moment for Catholic Central coach Mike Anderson, who while celebrating another Finals title with his players also had to come to grips that it was the last time he got to coach a senior class that graduated with three MHSAA championships and a runner-up finish.

Catholic Central will send three of those golfers to Division I college programs with Piot going to Michigan State, Smith to Georgia Tech and Niles to Oakland University.

Senior Sean Sooch will play at Grand Valley State.  

“They are my friends and my family, and we will be in touch with them for the rest of their lives,” Anderson said. “It’s a special group.”

Anderson said it was actually the finish three years ago when these seniors were freshmen that proved to be the driving force behind their success.

In 2014, Catholic Central finished one shot behind champion Swartz Creek, a painful memory the Shamrocks didn’t forget.

“That was a tough pill to swallow, and they responded,” Anderson said. “They looked toward that as something they didn’t want to happen again, and it didn’t.”

Niles led the charge for the Shamrocks this weekend, following up a 2-under par 70 on Friday with a 3-under par 69 at a difficult Forest Akers West course.

“It is a strategy course,” Niles said. “You are basically doing all you can to keep it in the fairway. It’s a placement course. That is all it is.”

Kapke had a chance to tie Niles on the final hole and force a playoff, but couldn’t connect on what was roughly a 20-foot putt.

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PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Catholic Central, including medalist Sean Niles holding the trophy, stands together a final time after winning a Division 1 title. (Middle) Birmingham Brother Rice’s Brendan O’Rourke punches out of a bunker. (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)