Hope College has captured its fifth consecutive Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) men's golf championship.
With a come-from-behind effort, coach Bob Ebels' Flying Dutchmen finished 13 strokes ahead of Olivet over the course of the eight-tournament season. Hope did not move into first place until the seventh tournament of the year. The Flying Dutchmen won four of the year's tournaments outright, tied for first in another and were second in three others.
As league champions, Hope has earned a berth in the NCAA Division III championships to be held next spring. It will be Hope's third consecutive trip to nationals, the fifth since 2000 and the ninth in school history. The Flying Dutchmen finished 18th at last year's nationals.
Hope has won the MIAA championship 14 times with eight of them coming over the past nine years. Coach Ebels has guided Hope's golf fortunes since 1991.
This string of MIAA titles ties the conference record for consecutive championships won by a school. Olivet won five straight titles from 1978-82.
For the second time in his career, senior Tommy Yamaoka of Zeeland, Mich. (Zeeland East HS) captured MIAA medalist honors by averaging 73.5 strokes over the season's eight tournaments. Yamaoka was also the conference medalist as a freshman (2004). As a sophomore he was second in the seasonal standings and as a junior was fourth. Over 32 league tournaments in his career, he maintained a 73.3 strokes average.
Yamaoka and senior teammate Matt Lapham of Brighton, Mich. (Brighton HS) earned All-MIAA first team honors four consecutive years. They become part of an elite group of only seven MIAA golfers to achieve that distinction. The only other Hope golfer to be All-MIAA four times was Eric Wohlfield from 1998-2001.
Lapham tied for second place in the seasonal standings with a 73.6 strokes average. Lapham was the conference medalist as a junior (2006), was third as a sophomore and sixth as a freshman. Over 31 league tournaments in his career, he also maintained a 73.3 strokes average.
Senior Ryan Sheets of Saline, Mich. (Saline HS) received All-MIAA second team honors by finishing eighth in the seasonal standings with a 76.6 average. It marked the third year he has been All-MIAA having received second team honors as a junior (2006) and first team recognition as a sophomore.
Other players contributing to Hope's march to the MIAA championship included senior Steve Martindale of Midland, Mich. (H.H. Dow HS), junior Donald Kring of Williamsburg, Mich. (Traverse City St. Francis HS), and junior Donald Scholten of Grand Rapids (Grand Rapids Christian HS). Martindale played in all eight tournaments and place 13th in the seasonal standings with a 78.8 strokes average. Kring played in six tournaments, averaging 78 strokes while Scholten played in two with an average of 75 strokes.
Other members of this year's team included freshman Chris Ansel of Zeeland, Mich. (Zeeland East HS), sophomore Josh Jelenek of Laingsburg, Mich. (Laingsburg HS), junior Dan Oumedian of Jenison, Mich. (Jenison HS)and sophomore Steve Strock of Grandville, Mich. (Grandville HS).