Shannon Finds Home on Golf Course

October 16, 2020

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half 

JACKSON – As a freshman at Michigan Center High School near Jackson, Kamryn Shannon was a volleyball player who decided to try golf for the first time. 

“My grandpa (Bob Shannon) was the golf coach for a long time at Michigan Center,” Shannon explained. “He wanted someone in the family to pick up the game. I decided I’d give it a try.” 

Her Cardinals teammates are happy she did. Now a junior and in her third season golfing, Shannon will lead the Cardinals into the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final on Saturday at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West. This will be the second consecutive season the Cardinals have qualified. Last year, Michigan Center finished 15th as Shannon shot a two-day total of 197. 

“Our team has come a long way,” she said. “If we were to finish in the top five, I would be so happy for us. I’d like to see all of our hard work pay off.” 

Shannon, 17, took to golf quickly.  

“It kind of came easy, but I was putting in tons of work,” she said.  

Shannon lives in Vandercook Lake but started attending Michigan Center in the sixth grade. She has two older sisters, one who played basketball for the Cardinals. Besides golf, Shannon plays basketball and softball for Michigan Center.  

Last basketball season, the Cardinals reached the Regional Final before the season ended due to Covid-19. She scored four points, including a 3-pointer, in Michigan Center’s 42-41 upset of Grass Lake. The Cardinals won their final 16 games of the season. 

“We had a pretty good team,” she said. “We had four seniors who were really good and being recruited to play college basketball.” 

Shannon said there was some concern this school year about the golf team being allowed to compete in the conference and Regional tournaments after students were sent home due to the coronavirus.

“The golf season almost ended,” she said. “Luckily, the school pulled through.” 

Shannon finished first at the Cascades Conference Tournament, helping Michigan Center to its first conference golf championship at Ella Sharpe course in Jackson. The team won each of the conference events by an average of 37 strokes, and all five Cardinals golfers – including also Baylee Carlisle, Elly Trefry, Sydney Cramer, and Savana Stewart – made first team all-conference. The team set several records during the outstanding season, and they were ranked throughout. 

At the Regional, Shannon was medalist after shooting an 87 at the Cascades Golf Course in downtown Jackson. 

She now attends school virtually every day. After school she works at The Grande Golf Club in Jackson, on the range picking up balls and cleaning carts. Working there has its advantages. 

“Because I work there, I can use the range and golf for free,” she said. “I was going there a couple of times a week because we live near there and my mom said, ‘Maybe you ought to get a job there.’” 

It was a good idea. Shannon said it’s helped her game. 

“I’m super happy with how I’ve been doing this year,” she said. “Last year I got a lot of double bogeys and triple bogeys. This year I try to hit pars on every hole, but even if I don’t get one, I’m not mad. 

“Golf can be super tough. You have to be able to think about the shot and stay calm, go up to the ball, focus on just that and swing. I’m down about 10 strokes from last year.” 

She credits Steven Saari, the head golf professional at The Grande, with helping her game. 

“I started taking lessons from him, and he’s helped me so much,” she said. “When Steve tells me something, I go and hit one or two buckets of balls every day until I get it down. I knew when he started teaching me that I really had to listen. There are so many little things in golf that make a big difference.” 

Shannon is long off the tee – hitting drives consistently in the 240-yard range. She said she works about three days a week at the course but is there pretty much every day.  

The daughter of Craig and Stephanie hopes to study golf course or sports management and play golf in college. She’s made some unofficial visits already to in-state schools. 

For this weekend, she has a goal. She wants to break 80.  

“I know that I am capable of it,” she said. “I did it this summer in tournament play. That’s what I want to do.” 

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Michigan Center’s Kamryn Shannon watches a drive. (Middle) Shannon was the medalist at last week’s Regional at Cascades. (Photos courtesy of the Michigan Center girls golf program.)

Michigan Leaders in 3 Sports Earn National Honors from NFHS Coaches Association

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

January 16, 2024

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 headshotSteve 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 headshotVicky 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.