By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
ALLENDALE – Nine years ago, the Suttons Bay boys golf team won the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final at The Meadows of Grand Valley State University with four seniors and an underclassmen.
History repeated itself Saturday afternoon.
Suttons Bay claimed its first Division 4 championship in nine years by clipping runners-up North Muskegon and Grosse Point Woods University Liggett by two strokes.
Suttons Bay finished at 675, while North Muskegon and University Liggett closed at 677.
“It was very similar from nine years ago in many ways, and this is an incredible feeling,” Suttons Bay coach Todd Hursey said. “I’m just so happy for these seniors, and this was a week where I felt like we were coming in as the underdogs. But I knew we had a shot.
“For these guys to stay resilient on a tough course in these kind of conditions was just amazing.”
Suttons Bay shot 334 Friday and trailed North Muskegon by one shot entering the final round, but made up ground by shooting a 341 Saturday.
Suttons Bay’s title run was even more satisfying given it didn’t make it to the MHSAA Finals a year ago after placing fourth at Regionals.
“We didn’t have a lot of experience in the state finals and that was a concern, but a key to this team was they were able to stay relaxed in some real pressure situations,” Hursey said. “It’s a tough sport to keep composure, but watching them for the 36 holes I had a great feeling about the final result because of how they handed it.”
Senior Devin Capron finished runner-up by two strokes after shooting 148 (73-75).
Senior Lars Thornton carded a 165 (83-82), while Chris Jasinski shot 181 (91-90) and Mason Rohback had a 185 (87-98). Freshmen Thomas Hursey shot 188 (94-94).
“I’m amazed, and I’m so excited,” Capron said. “We’ve been dreaming of this since we were freshmen, and this was our goal. I think there was less pressure being underdogs coming in, and our team has worked super hard. We hadn’t reached our full potential this year, and it’s very special for the seniors.”
Capron qualified as an individual a year ago and placed fourth. He was much happier to have his join him this time around and wasn’t upset at all about finishing second individually behind Leland’s Joel Sneed.
“I wasn’t playing for myself today, and I didn’t care if I won individually,” he said. “I just wanted my team to do well, and we did and we pulled it off.
“I thought I played really well today and kept my head after shooting 41 on the front, but Joel is a great player. I’ve played with him all year, and he’s in our conference. I love to see him win.”
University Liggett was seeking to win its first MHSAA Final in 33 years, but had to settle for its best finish since its last title.
“They fought hard, but we’re disappointed with the result,” said University Liggett coach Dan Sullivan. “Our scores all year have been much better, but this is a very difficult track and we came up two strokes short. Give credit where credit is due to Suttons Bay. They did the dance.”
University Liggett was led by senior Stephen Campau’s 161 (81-80) total.
“It’s tough for me because I had four seniors out there, and this was our one shot to do it so that’s frustrating,” Sullivan said. “But it is a pretty successful season to finish second in the state. That’s pretty good stuff, but just bittersweet.”
North Muskegon was paced by junior Will Mierz, who finished in the top 10 for the second year in a row with a 159 (80-79) total.
Sneed, a senior, repeated as individual champion after firing an even-par 72 on Saturday. He shot 74 on Friday and finished at 146.
“I played really good golf,” Sneed said. “I was a little stagnant early on and made a couple of good putts, but it was just a good steady round. Nothing spectacular.”
Sneed was in a competitive battle with first-round leader Noah Schneider of Jackson Christian, and Capron.
He created breathing room on his 16th hole, the par-5 first hole.
“I played the par-5s horribly until No. 1,” said Sneed, who will play for the University of Nebraska in the fall. “I hit the best drive of my life probably and had 130 yards in. I hit a 52 degree (wedge) to 12 feet and made eagle. I kind of felt a little separation there, and I three-putted my last hole but it didn’t cost me.”
Sneed trailed Schroeder by two strokes after an opening round 74, but liked his position.
“I was right where I wanted to be,” he said. “I didn’t want to shoot 74, but I found that I’m a little more comfortable playing from behind, especially playing with the leader. The pressure is not on you, and you know exactly where you are. It was a nice setup going into the second day.”
Sneed recorded a pair of birdies to go with his eagle.
“It hasn’t really sunk in that I won, but it’s my swan song going out with a state championship,” he said. “It’s the best way to finish my career.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Suttons Bay came back Saturday to earn its first MHSAA championship since 2006. (Middle) Leland's Joel Sneed won his second straight individual title. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).
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)