This past weekend, two players and two executives were recognized with an industry honor.
By Greg Johnson
The Michigan Golf Hall of Fame recognized a notable foursome on June 2, 2018 during the 2018 Golf Outing and Induction Ceremony at Katke Golf Course at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan.
Those recognized comprise: Tom Harding of South Lyon, a winning tour professional and PGA instructor; Debbie Williams-Hoak of Saline, a former LPGA player, award-winning coach, and Michigan Women’s amateur champion; Gordon LaFontaine of Houghton Lake, executive director emeritus of the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation, or MTF, and groundbreaking fundraiser; and the late Bud Erickson of West Bloomfield, a former executive director of the LPGA and the Golf Association of Michigan.
“I still can’t believe I was included,” Williams-Hoak said. “What an incredible honor. I’m so humbled by this.”
Williams-Hoak, 58-years-old and golf academy director at Brookside Golf Club in Saline, was an All-America track and field athlete in javelin at the University of Michigan before taking up golf at age 31-years-old. It was only nine years later that she was a celebrated rookie on the LPGA Tour. Before turning professional, she was a two-time Michigan Women’s Amateur champion and qualified for seven USGA national championships. She won the Michigan Women’s Open in 2000 and made it to the playoffs twice on the LPGA’s Symetra Tour. She now coaches the boys and girls golf teams at Saline High School and has twice been named a state high school golf coach of the year.
LaFontaine, 73-years-old and owner of Pine View Highlands Golf Course in Houghton Lake, retired in January after 37 years as executive director of the MTF where he administered $500,000 in annual revenue and product funds; helped to raise more than $1.1 million in annual donations of equipment, product, and funds; oversaw $1.3 million in endowments; and was instrumental in the creation of the world renowned Hancock Turfgrass Research Center at Michigan State University. The MSU graduate has also won multiple awards, and is a past winner of the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America Distinguished Service Award.
LaFontaine said his life in golf service an incredible journey.
“In the grass cutting business, I met some of the greatest people in the world,” LaFontaine added.
Harding, another inductee, cited the support of his wife Peggy, her daughter Esther and his three daughters Caroline, Priscilla and Elizabeth—all of whom will be part of the Michigan State women’s golf program in 2019.
“We are a family that plays golf,” Harding said. “This is a big deal to us.”
Harding is a 53-year-old teaching professional at Kendall Academy of Golf in Ypsilanti. He played on the Asian, Australian, and Web.com tours; and won the Canadian PGA Championship in 1991. After his touring career, the Michigan State University graduate and Spartan golfer was twice named the Michigan PGA Player of the Year and won four Michigan PGA Section major titles including the 1997 Michigan PGA Professional Championship. He has been at Kendall Academy since 2004 where he has been named one of Golf Digest’s Top 15 Instructors in Michigan five times since 2011.
Bud Erickson, who passed last August, 2017 at the age of 94-years-old, was an Army Air Corps veteran and graduate of Michigan State University, who before his career in golf was a public relations director and assistant general manager for the Detroit Lions when they won three NFL Championships in the 1950s. In golf he was executive director of the LPGA from 1970-1975 credited with adding tournaments and purses and was executive director of the GAM from 1980-1984. He also served as tournament director for Oakland Hills Country Club as host site of several major championships.
Jon Erickson, the son of the late Bud Erickson, said his father loved the social aspect of golf.
“I always said he wasn’t the life of the party, but he was the guy next to the guy who was life of the party,” Jon Erickson said.
The Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, or MGHOF, is a heralded collection of portraits, plaques, and memorabilia that now commemorates 123 members, including: Walter Hagen, Chuck Kocsis, Horton Smith, and more current notables Dave and Mike Hill, Dan Pohl, Meg Mallon, and Kelly Robbins. The collection will soon be housed and displayed in the new Ken Janke Sr. Golf Learning Center that is under construction at Ferris State University’s Katke golf facility. The late Ken Janke Sr. was co-founder and is a member of the MGHOF.