Grand Blanc’s Kate Brody entered her senior golf season a bit conflicted.
The 2020 Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final champion knew her game was as good or better than it’s ever been, but she wasn’t happy with some recent results.
Then she shot a 62.
“I just was hitting every shot kind of right where I wanted to,” said Brody, who shot 10-under par at The Fortress in Frankenmuth on Aug. 25 during the Saginaw Valley League Preseason Tournament. “I wasn’t really thinking about much while I was playing. I’ve never played that well before. There was probably only one shot that I wasn’t happy with.”
The 62 was a personal best in tournament play for Brody, and could be the spark for the final year of an already illustrious high school career.
Brody has never finished outside the top four at an MHSAA Finals event, taking third as a freshman and fourth as a junior. She was named first-team all-state by the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association after all of her first three high school seasons, and has committed to play golf at the University of Wisconsin when this school year is done.
But Brody wasn’t happy with how her summer season had panned out, and even on the day she shot 62, said she didn’t feel all that confident until she got to the first tee box.
“I didn’t have as good of a summer as I wanted to playing in tournaments around the state,” Brody said. “I wasn’t nervous going into my senior season, but I knew I was going to have to keep working hard to shoot the scores I wanted to. I feel like my game is definitely better than the last couple summers. I think I’ve gotten smarter on the golf course. I’ve definitely gotten better near the green with my chipping and putting, and I’m hitting it a lot farther, too.”
That leaves the main ingredient for Brody’s success in her own head – and she’s mastering that approach as well.
“My mental game has gotten a lot stronger,” she said. “I know that I’m going to have bad shots and a couple bad holes. I’ve tried really hard to keep it together and honestly forget about it and move on.”
All of that work has made this level of success possible for Brody, but she started with quite a foundation.
Brody’s parents, Jenn and Doug Brody, are the LPGA professional and head professional, respectively, at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club. Jenn played at Michigan State and on the LPGA Tour, and was inducted this past summer into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
Kate started playing at 4 years old, although she said there are pictures of her holding a club earlier than that. She didn’t start playing competitively, however, until she was 11.
“I don’t think my parents really wanted to push me into it,” she said. “I just really liked coming out to the golf course in the summer. It was just fun for me. I didn’t really take it super seriously until middle school. I also played travel soccer and basketball when I was little. Those were my main sports over golf until like seventh grade.”
Golf became Brody’s main focus right around the time Glen Bauer took over as coach of the Grand Blanc girls program. And he knew before she took a class at the high school that he had something special.
“I started coaching when Kate was in eighth grade, and I tried to get her on the varsity team when she was in eighth grade,” Bauer joked. “Some young players, you know right away if they have what it takes to be a great golfer and a great person. She just was so far advanced from pretty much everybody that’s been here as a freshman. A lot of that is DNA, but it’s also what she had worked on since she was 4½.”
While Brody grew up rooting for the Spartans, and had a coach who was pulling for her to wind up at Michigan, it was Wisconsin that got the jump on recruiting her and never fell back to the rest of the pack.
Badgers coach Todd Oehrlein was in contact with Brody the first day he was allowed by rule, and a visit to Madison in October of 2021 sealed the deal.
“I could tell that he and (assistant coach Kristen Simpson) really wanted me,” Brody said. “I wanted to go somewhere I felt wanted and felt like I would be valuable to the team. I really felt a good connection with my coaches at the start, and that was a big part in the decision. As soon as I stepped on campus, I really fell in love with it. It blew me away, everything about it. I didn’t have a lot of interest in visiting other places.”
Brody’s commitment came shortly after her junior season wrapped up, and she admitted the recruiting process had created excess pressure in the past.
Now, it’s one less thing to worry about as she tries to focus on the matches and tournaments immediately ahead while working toward the bigger goal of another Finals title.
“Those big goals are always in the back of my head,” she said. “I think it’s really necessary to have them to achieve what you want. But when I’m going to the next tournament, it’s not like I’m thinking about the state championship. I’m thinking about that round. When I’m off the course, I’m thinking of that bigger goal.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Grand Blanc’s Kate Brody, here following through on a putt, has posted a tournament personal best 62 this season. (Middle and below) Brody, as a toddler and a few years older, took to the game at a young age and made it her main game during junior high. (Photos courtesy of the Brody family.)
Detroit Cass Tech boys basketball coach Steve Hall, Farmington Hills Mercy girls golf coach Vicky Kowalski and East Grand Rapids girls swimming & diving coach Butch Briggs and have been named a 2022-23 National Coach of the Year in their respective sports by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association.
They were selected by a committee including representatives from all eight NFHS sections – Michigan is part of Section 4 with Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The following brief bios include an excerpts from each honoree’s coaching philosophy, which nominees were asked to submit after being identified as candidates for the awards.
Steve Hall guided Detroit Cass Tech to its first MHSAA Finals championship last season as the Technicians capped a 28-1 run. He’s 160-30 in his eighth season directing Cass Tech, with his team 9-0 this winter, and he has a career high school record of 370-103 having also coached at Detroit Rogers (1996-97 through 2004-05) and Detroit Northwestern (2005-06 through 2007-08). He led Rogers to three straight Class D championships from 2003-05, led Northwestern to its first Detroit Public School League championship in 30 years and Cass Tech to its first in the PSL in 19 seasons. He also coached collegiately as an assistant at Duquesne University (2008-09 through 2011-12) and Youngstown State University (2011-12 through 2014-15) before taking over at Cass Tech for the 2015-16 season. He has received multiple state Coach of the Year awards during his tenures at Rogers and Cass Tech, and also serves the latter as athletic director and boys cross country coach.
“My coaching philosophy is ‘Learning Life Skills Through Basketball.’ I have encountered many youngsters that value basketball more than anything. Therefore, I use basketball as a carrot to dangle to help them acquire life skills and other necessities that can benefit them in their lives. Ultimately, when the ball stops bouncing they may be quality fathers, husbands, principals, CEOs, etc., and positive contributors to society. My motto is, “Be better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today.” My athletic philosophy is scholarships and championships in that order! We love to win. But winning is not only on the scoreboard but also in life. Accountability, Reliability, Dependability and Responsibility. “Do what you are supposed to do, be where you are supposed to be, every play and every day.” God has blessed me with high morals, values and unmatched energy to leave my student athletes better than I found them.”
Vicky Kowalski completed her 46th season this fall coaching Farmington Hills Mercy’s girls golf team, and led the program to its second-straight Lower Peninsula Division 2 championship and fourth MHSAA Finals title overall. Her teams also have won seven Regional and 21 league championships and were 220-50 in matches entering the season. She has received several coaching awards over the years including statewide awards from the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association (MIGCA) and Michigan High School Coaches Association (MHSCA). Kowalski also is in her 22nd season as Mercy’s girls bowling coach and has coached multiple subvarsity seasons of basketball and volleyball as well. She’s been inducted into Halls of Fame by both MIGCA and the Michigan High School Interscholastic Bowling Coaches Association (MHSIBCA).
“I have always believed in participation. On all the teams I have coached, everyone plays – no one sits the bench. All my athletes have their opportunities to grow in the sport. I have always preached dedication and sportsmanship. The athletes practice well to perform well. They encourage teammates as well as competitors. I enjoy interaction with other coaches. We share coaching techniques and ideas for improving team performance.”
Milton “Butch” Briggs has led the East Grand Rapids girls swimming & diving team to a record 26 MHSAA Finals team championships, the first in 1978 and including six straight from 1981-86 and the program’s current three-year title streak. His girls program also has celebrated 105 individual or relay Finals champions and clinched 33 league team titles. Briggs has received several coaching awards, including nationally for his sport (girls and boys combined) from the National High School Athletic Coaches Association (NHSACA) in 2000 and the NFHS Coaches Association for boys swimming & diving in 2011. He entered this past fall season with a dual meet record of 522-65-1 over his career, which has spanned 49 years total, and his boys teams have won 12 MHSAA Finals. Briggs also has served as an assistant track coach at multiple schools and as MISCA president, and is in the MHSCA Hall of Fame.
“My coaching philosophy has been, and continues to be, a work in progress. I have formed relationships with hundreds of amazing young people. They have taught me life lessons in real time and real situations. As a neophyte coach, the experience revolved around winning. We worked together as a team, supported each other in and out of the pool, and won often. Thankfully, I became aware of the value within each athlete. Today, I attempt to interact with each athlete at every team activity and follow their progress in non-swimming endeavors. In short, when I removed my ego from the team's expectations and outcomes, the entire atmosphere was much more enjoyable and productive. And we are still capable of being successful. The Lord has put me in the right place at the right time.”
Six more Michigan coaches earned honors in Section 4. Stefanie Kerska was honored in boys swimming & diving after leading Ann Arbor Pioneer to its third-straight Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals title under her leadership, and Asa Kelly was recognized in boys track & field after leading Benzie Central to the LPD3 Finals championship. Mt. Morris volleyball coach James Pender was honored after leading his team to the Division 2 Quarterfinals in 2022, when he also eclipsed 1,000 career coaching wins in the sport, and Traverse City St. Francis’ Julie Duffing was awarded in cross country after leading her program to the 2022 LPD3 Finals championship, the program’s second under her leadership. Haslett/Williamston girls lacrosse coach Chad Pastor was honored after leading his team to the Division 2 Semifinals last spring, and Hartland competitive cheer coach Candace Fahr was recognized after leading her team to the MHSAA Finals for the fourth time in her six seasons guiding the program.
The NFHS has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982.