By Mark Meyer
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING – Scratch and claw, chip and putt. Scratch and claw, stay composed. Scratch and claw, win MHSAA title by the narrowest of margins.
The Swartz Creek boys golf team hoisted its first MHSAA golf title since 1967 on Saturday in the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final at Forest Akers East after finishing one shot better than Detroit Catholic Central, 584-585, and by five fewer than third-place Rockford (589). The Dragons had entered the final round tied with Catholic Central at 293 and ahead of Rockford by one shot.
Swartz Creek senior Ben Zyber shot a 3-under-par 69 to tie for overall medalist honors with a two-day total of 141, while fellow senior Mike Kelley (72-70) was one stroke off the pace at 142. Senior Jack Weller carded a 77 on Saturday to finish at 146, while junior Hunter Hull rebounded from a 91 on Friday to shoot 75 on Saturday.
“We liked our chances coming into the finals,” said fifth-year Swartz Creek coach Wesley Hull. “These three seniors have played varsity for four years, and lately they’ve been playing excellent golf. We’ve been struggling to find a fourth, but (Saturday) we had a junior come in special for us after a bad round yesterday.
“They played their hearts out today. We’re a grinding team, not a country club team. Every hole counts for us.”
Aside from the MHSAA title, the last time Swartz Creek qualified for the Finals was 1969. Hull’s message to his team prior to the final round was fairly straightforward.
“We have nothing to lose, so let’s go out and have fun,” said Hull, a 1982 Swartz Creek grad who played four years of golf for his alma mater. “This is the chance of a lifetime.”
Midland Dow junior Ben Roeder made the most of his weekend by winning the individual title in a three-hole, five-man playoff over Seth Terpstra of Grandville, Jordan Bohannon of Birmingham Groves, Joel Pietila of Rockford and Zyber.
Roeder made consecutive pars at hole Nos. 1, 9 and 10 to claim the title over Terpstra. On the third playoff hole, Roeder’s gap wedge from 118 yards left him within two-putt range while Terpstra struggled to recover after an errant tee shot.
“I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the past years and knew that one day it would all come through,” Roeder said. “(The playoff) wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I thought it might be. It was great having a big crowd around us with everyone watching.”
Roeder, who reached the MHSAA Finals by capturing one of two qualifying spots in a five-man Regional playoff, kept his head low when Terpstra was attempting to save par on a chip shot from just off the green.
“I’ve watched enough golf on TV where someone made a great shot to continue a playoff, so I didn’t want to get my hopes too high until it didn’t go in,” Roeder said. “I definitely had some help from above because my approach (on the third playoff hole) took a favorable kick into the green.”
Bohannon and Max Rispler of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central tied for lowest score Saturday with identical 4-under-par 68s. The remainder of the individual two-day leaderboard consisted of James Piot (Detroit Catholic Central), Charlie Bolton (U-D Jesuit) and Kelley at 142, while Rispler was joined by Chris Kozler (Plymouth), Justin Pahl (White Lake Lakeland) and Andrew Walker (Battle Creek Lakeview) at 143.
Grandville (596), Plymouth (597) and White Lake Lakeland (598) completed the team top six followed by Detroit U-D Jesuit (604), Battle Creek Lakeview (605), Saline (610) and Ann Arbor Skyline (613).
Fenton junior John Lloyd aced the par-3, 13th hole on Friday to complete a rare double for a pair of classmates. At the 2013 girls Final in October – also on the East course at Forest Akers – Fenton sophomore Madi Shegos aced the par-3 18th hole.
PHOTOS: (Top) Swartz Creek accepts its first MHSAA golf championship trophy since 1967. (Middle) Midland Dow’s Ben Roeder follows through on a drive at Forest Akers East; he won the individual championship after a playoff. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.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)