By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half
TRAVERSE CITY — Anika Dy already has cemented her legacy as one of the greatest female high school golfers in state history.
Still, she continues to add to that decorated career as she winds down her senior season at Traverse City West.
Dy, the winner of the state coaches association’s Miss Golf Award the last two years, is the two-time reigning MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 medalist and has been the Titans’ top performer on two team state title runs. She caps off her last season for West this weekend at Bedford Valley Golf Course in Battle Creek when she and the Titans look to sweep the team and individual championships for the second straight year.
“I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet. It doesn’t feel like it’s ending, that’s for sure,” said Dy. ““I think I’ll be on a high of emotions. I’m going to come home and probably realize that it’s all over and start reflecting on these four years.”
What a four years it’s been, too.
Dy announced her arrival on a statewide level her freshman year when she was one of only three golfers to break 80 on the first day of action at the 2015 Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final at The Meadows at Grand Valley State. But her chance to finish first was dashed when she three-putted the last hole and closed with a two-day total of 156 — one shot behind Brighton’s Julia Dean, who came from five strokes back over the last 18 holes.
“That really, really stung,” said Dy. “I came back that next year wanting it really bad.”
Since then she’s been unbeatable on the state’s biggest stage, shooting a 143 (72-71) to redeem herself and card the low score by two strokes over Clarkston’s Meghan Deardorff at the 2016 Final at Forest Akers East. She repeated in resounding fashion last year at The Meadows course when her 141 (69-72) put her eight shots in front of Rochester’s Savannah Haque.
As satisfying as those individual victories have been, Dy has been more fulfilled by the team success the Titans have enjoyed. She calls West’s championship her freshman year her most vivid memory from the past four.
“Just because it was so unexpected,” she said of a title the Titans won over Rochester that came down to a fifth counter tiebreaker. “There is a difference for me (between individual and team success). It’s so much more fun when it’s with the team.”
Dy started playing golf at age 6 and surged to an elite level as a model of consistency and with an unequivocal work ethic.
“She has a love for the game and works very hard,” said Scott Wilson, the club pro at Bay Meadows Golf Course in Traverse City who has coached Dy for the past eight years. “She’s always been very consistent. She’s been consistent in her ball striking, and she has a great short game.”
Dy honed her game through Wilson’s junior elite program, first at Crystal Mountain and then at Bay Meadows. She’s maintained a challenging summer tournament schedule as well, taking part in a number of high-caliber events, including the Michigan Women’s Amateur, the Michigan Women’s Open and several USGA qualifiers.
“We’ve always tried to set her up in tournaments that would be challenging to her, almost a little over her head even,” said Wilson. “She’s excelled at every level.”
Dy also has helped spur increased interest in the sport within her school as the Titans’ roster ballooned to 17 players this year on the heels of last year’s Division 1 title.
“She’s put Traverse City West on the map,” said West head coach Karl Gagnon. “She’s helped influence a lot of kids to take up golf. Success breeds success. Kids want to be around programs that are successful.”
Dy has emerged as one of the leaders of that squad, along with fellow seniors Jillian Ellul, Hope Aspenleiter and Evelyn Krueger.
“This year it’s definitely been a challenge to be that leader,” she said. “I’ve had great seniors to look up to my past three years. It was a little tricky at first because we doubled the size of our team from last year. There were a lot more new girls who needed a lot of direction, but it’s been fun getting to know them and watching them grow into better players.”
Those new responsibilities haven’t had a negative affect on Dy’s game. She’s been regularly shooting in the upper 60s and near 70 and has finished as the medalist at every meet this season except one — when her younger sister Anci, a sophomore, beat her at an invitational in Alpena. Anci Dy, a tremendous golfer in her own right, was the Regional runner-up last week after finishing seven strokes behind her sister.
Anci admits it’s bittersweet to see her sister finishing out her high school career.
“It’s going to be our last high school tournament together, and I really want all of us to succeed,” Anci said. “I’m really excited to play on the team with her one last time.”
Next year Anika Dy will head to the University of Michigan for the next stage of her playing career.
“She’s going to a great school,” said Gagnon. “The coaches at Michigan are excited to have her. She’s going to be an asset for them from the very beginning. It’s a progression. She’s accomplished everything she’s going to accomplish in high school. It’s time to see what she can do at a different level.”
As for where golf could take Dy into the future, Wilson said the sky is the limit for his star pupil.
“She’s going to continue to try and put her skills to the test and see where it goes from there,” said Wilson. “It’s all up to her how far she wants to take it.”
Chris Dobrowolski has covered northern Lower Peninsula sports since 1999 at the Ogemaw County Herald, Alpena News, Traverse City Record-Eagle and currently as sports editor at the Antrim Kalkaska Review since 2016. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Traverse City West’s Anika Dy watches a drive during last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Dy leaves the green after finishing a hole during her 2016 championship run. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.