West Iron County Takes Back Title Trophy

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

May 29, 2015

ISHPEMING — Riley Thompson was just 5 years old when the West Iron County boys were last crowned Upper Peninsula Division 2 golf champions. 

Thompson, now a junior at West Iron, earned medalist honors Friday and helped the Wykons gain their first U.P. title in 12 years with 331 strokes.

“We’re very pleased,” said West Iron coach Mark Martini. “We took the team picture the same way as we did 12 years ago, with the trophy on my grandson’s head. As coaches we more or less talk about the team aspect of it. It’s kind of neat when both things happen. It’s kind of a two-way street. The medalist helps the team and the team helps the medalist.” 

Iron Mountain was runner-up at 336, followed by Norway with 338 strokes, Hancock 348 and Ishpeming Westwood 361.

Thompson fired a 74 at Wawonowin Country Club on this cloudy and warm day, to finish four strokes better than Norway’s Austin Hansen. 

Thompson shot 45 through the midway point and followed that with a 38 over his second nine.

“I just played well today,” said Thomson, who became West Iron’s first individual champion since 2005. “My goal was to keep the ball in play, and I was able to do that. I got pretty good distance on my tee shots, which set me up for the approach. I had good irons on the approach shots and gave myself a chance on the greens, then I made my putts. A four-stroke victory is not what I expected. I thought it was closer than that. I just wanted to par the last hole and I got a birdie putt, which was a big relief. 

“This is the first U.P. title for our school in quite a while, which makes this all that much sweeter. One is icing on the cake for the other.”

Manistique sophomore Louie Berry and Iron Mountain’s Austin Blomquist shared third at 79, with Hancock’s Dylan Paavola fifth at 80. 

“Louie has also been working real hard all year,” said Taylor. “We’re a young team. We’re looking for bigger things next year.”

Raymond Miron of L’Anse placed sixth at 82. Iron Mountain’s Matt Opolka and West Iron’s Kyle Maki and Max Maloney tied for seventh with 83 strokes. Westwood’s Connor and Cameron Mason, Manistique’s Zack Powers and Norway’s Justin Anderson finished in a four-way tie for 10th at 86.

Click for full results. 

PHOTOS: (Top) L’Anse’s Raymond Miron fires an approach shot during his round at Wawonwin Country Club. (Middle) Riley Thomson of West Iron County puts in some work on the putting green following his round Friday during the Division 2 Final. Thomson was medalist with a 74, including a 1-under 35 on the front nine. (Photos by Keith Shelton.)

Saline's Williams-Hoak Named National Coach of the Year by LPGA Professionals

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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)