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South Christian wins girls golf regional one day after coach's death

Golf   | Jeff Dullack

State Champs! Sports Network

Grand Rapids – One day after Grand Rapids South Christian girls golf coach and math teacher Rod VanDyke died when he was struck while riding his bike on Tuesday, the Sailor’s girls golf team was raising the Division 3 regional title at Diamond Springs Golf Course in Hamilton with heavy hearts.

South Christian posted a team score of 357 to win the regional title, besting second place Lakewood by 18 strokes.

Nicole Hoekwater helped lead the way for the Sailors as she finished in second place after falling in a playoff to Emily Barker in a playoff as both players finished their rounds with a score of 84.

Lauren Hofmann finished in sixth place for the Sailors after posting an 88, while Rachel Thuele (92) and Nicole VanderYacht (93) finished in 12th and 13th place and Marissa Smits finished with a round of 98 for the Sailors.

South Christian athletic director Curt Copeland said that the golfers were determined to go out and play on Wednesday, knowing that it’s what their coach would have wanted for them.

“When we got the news on Tuesday about losing coaching VanDyke we were hurting just because of the person he was incredible person and had an incredible personality,” he said. “Not many males can coach females at such a high level. But the cool thing was that every girl on the squad wanted to play for coach VanDyke and they just said that this is what we’re doing, because he would have wanted this.”

The girls golf team had the help of boys varsity golf coach Mark VanStee and junior varsity girls coach Shari Cashen along with athletic director Curt Copeland on Wednesday and will have their assistance through the state finals tournament next week.

Copeland said that having both VanStee and Cashen was very important to have help coach the girls because of VanStee’s experience coaching and playing in tournaments and Cashen

“Mark was a college golfer and played in multiple tournaments as a player and coach and we felt he was a good guy to help lead the charge,” he said. “With Shari, we felt that from an emotional aspect she would do a good job of helping the girls with the ups and the downs and emotions that they would have on Wednesday. Having both gave them a good chance at giving them the opportunity to give them a chance to succeed. We were joking that it took two coaches to fill the shoes of coach VanDyke, because that’s just the kind of coach and the kind of person he was.”

With the regional championship win, the Sailors are now qualified for the Division 3 state finals at Forest Akers East at Michigan State on October 17-18.

Copeland noted that the past couple of days have obviously been filled with emotions for the South Christian golfers.

“It’s just a roller coaster of emotions for them,” he said. “We’re just proud of them as a community and they fought through the adversity and everything that happened on the course and the girls came out with some pretty good scores. They’re still a little bit shocked, they’re excited about the victory and looking forward to next week.  They just want to go out and let the chips fall where they may and they’re just excited to play one more week together.”

MLive.com reported that VanDyke was riding his bike at 6 am on Tuesday and was hit by a car traveling on south on 36th Avenue in Georgetown Township according to Ottawa County Sherriff’s Sgt. Kevin Allman.

VanDyke was 54 years old.

News outlets say that a memorial was planned to be held for VanDyke on Thursday and his funeral is planned for Friday.