By Adam Niemi
Special for Second Half
IRON RIVER – West Iron County defended its home turf, sweeping the boys and girls MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 2 Finals on Thursday.
The Wykons' boys carded a team score of 319 at George Young Resort, located 10 miles east of Iron River.
Norway (366) took second place, followed by Hancock (362), St. Ignace (366) and Newberry (388) to round out the top five.
Trey Bociek paced West Iron County with a first-place 74. Norway's Drew Anderson (77) was second, and teammate Jeff VanHolla (78) tied with the Wykons' Nathan Thomson for third.
The team championship was West Iron’s second straight and third in five seasons.
"Obviously No. 1, very pleased," West Iron County head coach Mark Martini said. "No. 2, I think it's overlooked how both teams (boys and girls) started poorly and fought through it like a fourth-quarter football game. They fought right back, and I'm kind of proud of that. That was really good."
West Iron County's girls team won with a 433.
Norway head coach Joby Sullivan said the UP Finals bring out the best in the team aspect of golf.
"I know that some of the boys thought they weren't playing a great round of golf. But holistically, that's what’s great about these individual-dual sports is you may not be doing so well but the overall team, the big picture of it, can come around," Sullivan said. "A couple West Iron kids might have triple-bogeyed a par-3, and then one of their other kids on 15 had a bad hole. That opened the door for us to make a push down the stretch. We didn't capitalize on that, which would've been what we needed to do to make it close.
"It's exciting. When there's something that's happening, it's like the mile relay in a track meet where one team can end up winning it based on the results of that. Down the stretch, it was going to be close for that. It would've been nice to capitalize on that stretch on 13 through 18."
Sullivan said Anderson's 77 was his personal best.
"Drew came in with a 77, which was I think that's his best round ever," Sullivan said. "He was one under all the way through until a double bogey on 16 for his back-nine score. Which was great. Jeff (VanHolla) came in and played well with a 78. He had a couple putts at the end to finish out. He really played some good golf. He and Drew really did a nice job.”
The course was personally designed by the late George Young, a millionaire and passionate golfer whose design for each hole on the Iron County course was derived from the favorite holes he played from different courses around the world.
A wet course from recent rains slowed the greens and made various parts of multiple fairways a mud hazard of sorts. But the sand traps were dry and fooled golfers who landed in bunkers from a wet fairway, causing some to anticipate a heavy sand impact and instead overshoot the green.
If that wasn't enough, the woods hug most fairways. Some tee shots resulted in the echoing sound of a ball bouncing off tree branches, trunks and a heavy sigh from golfers.
The course difficulty and conditions meant Thursday was simply about limiting mistakes.
Austin Salani placed eighth for Hancock with an 85. His brother Colton tied for 12th with a 92. Brimley's Justin Carrick and St. Ignace's Reid Marshall also carded a 92.
PHOTOS: (Top) West Iron County's Nathan Thomson fires an iron shot during Thursday's championship round. (Middle) The Wykons girls and boys championship teams. (Photos by Adam Niemi.)
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)