Theme of 'Team' Plays Well for Portland

May 29, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Team-building, and self-sacrifice for those teammates, are among the many lessons taught through educational athletics.

Portland junior golfer Ethan Getchell has picked them up quickly.

Getchell, an all-league selection in 2017 as a sophomore, will not be playing in Wednesday’s Division 3 Regional hosted by his school – by his own accord.

He instead chose for a senior teammate to take his place.

Raiders sophomore Zach Pier – who tied for third at last season’s Division 3 Final – leads the lineup and was locked in for the Regional. Teams send out five golfers, so four more spots remained. But five others also played significant roles on this season’s Portland team – four of the five earned some level of all-league recognition, and the fifth had the team’s third-best score at the league tournament.

After all the numbers for the season were tallied, the final spot came down to Getchell and senior Devin Miller.

Both earned all-league honorable mention this season. Their competitive stroke averages are separated by less than a tenth of a stroke. So the opportunity to play in the Regional came down to a practice round at Willow Wood Golf Course, where this week’s tournament will be played. Getchell shot a season-best 79, while Miller had an off day and fired a 91.

Getchell earned the spot – and gave it right back after the team’s brief post-practice meeting.

As Portland coach Jon Snellenberger wrote: “(Ethan) felt whether he played or Devin played in the Regional tournament, that on any given day his or Devin’s competitive performance would still help their team’s result. He further explained that throughout the season Devin’s play, along with that of their other four teammates, (saw) at least one of them step up in different matches to make Portland a very competitive golf team to compete against.”

Getchell also noted to his coach, “That being a junior, he would look forward to next season, his senior year, to have the opportunity to play in a state Regional tournament, and that for Devin, a graduating senior, this may be his last chance to play in a high school golf match in his career.”

The next day, Getchell and Miller were called into a meeting with Snellenberger and athletic director Kevin Veale. Snellenberger and Veale suspected Miller – noting his character as well – might turn down the opportunity. Miller did state, according to Snellenberger, “(that) his stats hadn’t met the standard for this tournament’s lineup, but that Ethan’s stats had.”

But then Getchell again made his desire known. Miller, “with a degree of humble reluctance,” accepted Getchell’s spot in the lineup.

Miller will join the lineup and Getchell will be the team’s alternate Wednesday.

But regardless of the results, both starred in how they graciously gave and accepted a meaningful opportunity.

PHOTOS: Ethan Getchell (left) begins a swing this season, while Devin Miller watches after his follow-through. (Photos courtesy of the Portland athletic department.)

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)