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08-08-2019 Tri-City Area Sports

Coloma Press Box By Dave Vollrath

Berrien County disc golf, can be an enjoyable, and challenging walk through nature

For anyone getting bored with their exercise routine, or their body can no longer handle the kind of stress some sporting activities put it through.  Or maybe as the end of summer nears, they’re just looking for something new, and inexpensive, that they can enjoy with the whole family, and not have to drive a half a day to get to.  Then they should check out a game or two of disc golf.

FOR THE LOVE OF DISC GOLF! Pictured (from the left) are disc golf aficionados Mike Reed, Tom Krisher, and Tim Stump. According Madeline Bertrand county park manager Jay Dean, the trio play disc golf almost every Thursday, when weather permits. (TCR photo by Dave Vollrath)

Disc golf offers all of this and more, and this area happens to have two of the more beautiful and scenic disc golf courses in Michigan, right here in our own back yard. Madeline Bertrand County Park, just outside of Niles, in the south of Berrien County, and a beautiful disc course laid out in Flaherty Park, in the City of Watervliet.

Disc golf is growing in popularity across the country as the population looks to remain active, and is looking for more ways to keep themselves fit, without the impact some sports have on the body.

Most disc golf courses are laid out similarly to regular golf courses, of nine or eighteen holes, but the distances of each hole are much shorter, and measured in feet instead of yards.  The courses are walked by players who throw their discs, (Frisbees), from a teeing area, with some having concrete pads.  The target is an elevated basket, above which hangs a string of metal chains which stop the disc in flight, and then the disc drops into the basket to end the hole.  A score is kept on the number of throws it takes to get your disc into the basket, and just like regular golf, the lower the score the better it is.  It normally takes about 45-60 minutes to play a round of disc golf, with most golfers playing two or more rounds each time they play a course.

According to Jay Dean, who is currently the park manager at Madeline Bertrand County Park, and has worked there for 30 years, the disc golf course has been there for 35 years.  It was designed by Ed Headrick, who is considered the father and inventor of disc golf, and the inventor of the Frisbee.  He designed over 200 courses across the U.S., including the very first course in Pasadena, California in 1975.  The MB Park course winds through the woods and a ravine and is extremely popular with hundreds of golfers playing the course on most weekends.  MB Park also hosts, three sanctioned tournaments each year, in the spring, summer and fall, with contestants participating from around the country. They are sponsored by the Professional Disc Golf Association.

The cost for regular play is $4 for the day of golf. There is also a $3 parking fee at the park, and you can rent a disc for $1.  They also have season passes to make it more reasonable for frequent guests. The park is open all year, and is open daily from 10 a.m. until sunset from April to October, then in the cooler months they are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday thru Sunday.

The disc course in Flaherty Park opened in 2012. It was designed by Andrew Menz, Todd Tracy, and Travis Prueter.  It is a beautiful course located in downtown Watervliet, with Mill Creek winding through the woods and hilly terrain.  It is a challenging course for even the most skilled disc tossers.  There is no fee schedule for this course which makes it a great place to bring the kids for a day outing, because it also includes a picnic area.

There is also a league which plays each Wednesday at Flaherty Park, it runs for 23 weeks from May to October.  The Railhead league has 32 members currently in their first year, according to Andy Jegier, who organized the league.  There is a $5 weekly league fee, which pays for the prizes awarded each week.

Golfers come from all over the state and Midwest to play at Flaherty Park, as it keeps growing in popularity and word keeps spreading among the disc golf community.  The Watervliet Parks department keeps the park trimmed and picked up.   New signage and trash receptacles have been added recently, and future improvements are still in the talking stage.

So for those looking for a change in their workout routine, or just getting out for some additional fresh air and sunshine, give disc golf a try. Expect to get hooked.

Coloma Glad-Peach 5K Run and Walk results

It was a beautiful sunshiny day Saturday August 3, as more than 300 runners and walkers lined up at the starting line for the annual Coloma Glad-Peach Festival race.  There were runners of all sizes and ages who took part in the race, and everything went off beautifully, which is a great testament to the many volunteers who work very hard for the enjoyment of others.

GLAD-PEACH 5K RUN WINNERS… Kerry Grabowski (left) from Geneva, IL, and Kevin Carollo (right) from Fargo, ND were the fastest overall female and male runners at the Coloma Glad-Peach 5K run and walk, held Saturday, August 3, as part of the weekend festival. (TCR photo by Dave Vollrath)

GLAD-PEACH 5K FEMALE WALKER… Pictured is Nada Kramp of Stevensville, MI. She crossed the finish line as the first overall female walker, in Saturday’s Glad-Peach 5K run and walk. Nada completed the 3.1 miles in 34:04. (TCR photo by Dave Vollrath)

WALKING FAST! Bruce Brantley was the faster overall male walker in Saturday’s Glad-Peach 5K run and walk. Bruce is from Berrien Springs, and hoofed it around the course in 35:15. (TCR photo by Dave Vollrath)

LITTLE RUNNER WITH A BIG HEART! K. Schilling at 3 years old was the littlest runner in Saturday’s 5K Glad-Peach race, but it takes a lot of heart to complete a 3.1 mile run at any age. However she did just that running with her father Greg Schilling, they completed the race in a fine time of 42:57. The Schillings are from St. Joseph, MI. (TCR photo by Dave Vollrath)

Crossing the finish line first, all the way from Fargo, North Dakota, was Kevin Carollo.  Kevin ran the course in a blistering 17 minutes and 16 seconds. Kevin is 50 years of age.

Coming in first in the female overall category was Kerry Grabowski. Kerry ran in a time of 19:47, and she is from Geneva, Illinois.  The first female walker to cross the finish was Nada Kramp, who turned in a time of 34:04, and she is from Stevensville, MI.  Bruce Brantley, from Berrien Springs, was the first male finisher in the walk, he completed the course in 35:15.

Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele

Remembering “Bobby T” – Coach, Educator, Friend – 12 years later

When I took over the Hartford Press Box last October, I was asked to write a biography about myself, and give readers of the Tri-City Record an inside look into my life. When I did, I mentioned about the days after graduation and how I came back to coach cross country in Hartford with two of the finest coaches around: Thomas Shoemaker and the late Robert Teske. To this day, I consider both of those men like my “second fathers”, because I saw those two men more than I saw my own father during the fall!

Fast forward to 2019, and Coach Shoemaker has long since retired from his coaching and teaching life. He chooses to spend time working in his yard or staying busy around his home town of Paw Paw, volunteering his time to organizations, such as the local Lions Club. I still see him once-in-a-while though, especially around the spring or fall athletic seasons, watching Hartford athletes on the tracks and trails of Southwest Michigan. He has been a long time friend, and never hesitates to say “Hey, J-Rod” and catch up with me; if time allows, of course.

By contrast, unfortunately, you fast forward to this year, and our beloved Coach Teske has been gone from our lives for a little over a decade. The pain of losing a man who was my coach, my teacher and my dear friend has faded, albeit slightly. There are many days when memories of him come flooding into my mind, especially this time of year as we prepare for cross country season, and the beginning of a new school year.

As I write this column, many smiles and tears are overcoming me, so I hope you will forgive me if I ramble on a bit. Because, let’s be honest, this is not going to be easy.

First, I want to share a little background information about the man himself. Robert Randolph Teske was born May 9, 1942 in South Haven, to his parents, Robert and Margaret (Brady) Teske. He spent his entire childhood in the beautiful lakeshore town, and graduated from South Haven High School in 1960. He proceeded to further his education in college, and graduated from Western Michigan University in 1964. After graduating from WMU, he married the love of his life, Diana (Overhuel) Teske on August 24 of that year, at the Church of the Epiphany Episcopal Church in his home town of South Haven.

Right out of college, Mr. Teske was hired by Hartford Public Schools to begin teaching in the district, starting in the fall of 1964. For nearly 43 years, this man, deemed a “Hartford legend” in the minds of many, touched the lives of thousands of students, both in the classroom and on the athletic fields. In the classroom, he taught government, economics, history, physical education and street law, among many other subjects. On most days, students in his classroom could be found getting one of his vociferous teaching lectures, or in his later years, watching taped television shows, such as the “Law and Order” series for his Street Law classes. (And trust me, “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” is my favorite television show, all-thanks to him!)

On the athletic fields, there was never a sport that Coach Teske couldn’t coach. During his illustrious career at Hartford, he was a head coach or assistant coach for five different sports: basketball, cross country, football, softball and volleyball. He had a certain aura about him that could allow him to get the best out of a student athletically. In his early years, it was that “look” he gave, reminiscent of the late Tennessee women’s coach, Pat Summitt. He possessed that fiery persona on the outside, but had the heart of gold on the inside. He demanded the best from his players, just as they demanded the best from him. Because of that, he led several teams to conference championships throughout the years, and trophies dot the halls as a result of that.

Many people around Hartford, and beyond, have that moment seared into their memory of when and where they were when they first met Robert Teske. And while I cannot speak for the countless thousands, and thousands, of people he touched in his 65 years on Earth, I can, however, tell my story from the heart. I encourage everyone to talk to me, or others, about their stories of this man. We owe it to him to keep his memory alive long past his passing, because he impacted all of us in such a personal and special way.

Now, it’s time for me to tell my story…

I first met Robert Teske in the spring of 2000, when I was in just the eighth grade. I was sitting in Mr. Smith’s Social Studies class one day when a bald-headed man I had never seen before came into the classroom and asked to speak to myself and a classmate of mine. As I get out of my chair to walk towards the hallway, I’m thinking to myself, “Who is this guy, and what does he want with me?” We proceed out into the hallway and the man introduces himself as Coach Teske, the High School cross country coach.

As it turns out, I had been running Middle School track during that spring, and our coach had recommended us to him as possible runners in his cross country program at the High School next fall. I remember him making a passionate plea, selling us on the program and telling us that we would fit in perfectly. After returning to the classroom, I was intrigued, yet skeptical I would attempt this. As much as I enjoyed running, I hadn’t done much over an 800-meter event in my career, and this would be 3.1 mile races at least once, or twice, a week. While the composition of the team sounded great, with solid leadership and a gamut of good runners, I truly had to think if I would really fit as he said I would.

I did not think much of it again until the summer came along, and it was almost time for school to start again. Upon remembering the conversation with Coach Teske in the spring, I decided to give it a shot. At that time, I was looking to be active in school, but was not really interested in playing football, because I was short and wasn’t very big. Immediately, I felt I made the right decision. Despite my early struggles adapting to much longer distances in practices and races, Coach Teske never quit on me and kept pushing me to get better, as did the team. We became a family, and I became the team’s “Bill Gates” for my glasses, but that’s for another day!

That first year in 2000 was a memorable one. During that season, I ran in several Varsity events, and dropped my time more than five minutes during the course of the year. At that time, your teammates were instrumental in voting for the Most Valuable and Most Improved runners in a secret ballot. Needless to say when Coach Teske said my name at the awards night following the season, I was honored, yet shocked. There were other members of the team that had done just as good, and I felt like I really didn’t deserve it – they did. Coach Teske did a small speech about me, and I couldn’t help but be proud I was on his team. I knew it came from his heart, and that he meant every word. To this day, that award still hangs on my wall as the constant reminder of what it meant to me.

I ended up running my sophomore and junior years, too, but I could never replicate what I did as a freshman. I ended up getting pain in my lower legs, to the point there were times I couldn’t run at all. Coach Teske did not know this, until one day in his trusty station wagon, he found me walking on the road. If you didn’t know, Coach never ran when I was in school, choosing to drive around in his old station wagon, or in his or Mrs. Teske’s car. The trick of it was he would hide in random areas and watch you from afar. When you came upon him, you could tell if he saw you or not – he’d have that look on his face! I knew many times he caught me, but he would never say it – he just always wanted me to do my best. And I wanted to do my best for him, because I never wanted him to feel disappointed in me.

It was my junior year that I got to have him for a teacher for the first time, and I got an up-close and personal look at him on the educator side. He was tough, but he was fair and honest. My junior year, I had him for government and economics, and decided in my best interest, I needed to have him my senior year, so I took street law. I can honestly remember the books he made us read, and the tough quizzes and tests, and even the fake trial we had in street law where I was a “witness”, and completely botched the whole thing. But I can also take from it the time we played Jeopardy on topics in class – and I was the winner one time.

Just before school got out for the summer my junior year, I made the tough decision to join my friends on the football team my senior year. It was tough telling Coach Teske that I was making this choice, but in the end, he understood despite his disappointment. He wanted me to be a four-year runner, but he also just wanted me to have fun and be successful in whatever I did. When I found out he gave the boy’s program up to Coach Shoemaker for my senior year, it made my decision feel a little better. As much as I love Coach Shoe, and I still do, I could only run for one man – Coach Teske.

When graduation comes along, many are excited to turn the page, and leave Hartford in the dust. I was completely different. Hartford had, and still has, a special place in my heart, and I wanted to be able to help the next generation of athletes in their quests to be champions. So, that fall, I decided I wanted to be a volunteer assistant coach, and what better way to do so then – cross country. Coach Shoemaker and Coach Teske were still there, so I felt extremely comfortable and at ease coming back. I would split my time between the boys and girls teams – if the boys were on the road, I’d help the girls. If the girls were on the road, I’d help the boys. It was the perfect situation for a kid just coming out of high school.

It was supposed to be day-to-day during the fall position, as I wasn’t paid to be there. In the end, we ended up sharing three fantastic years together. The bus rides to random places, as Coach Shoemaker would attempt to sleep, while Coach Teske would work on a crossword puzzle from the newspaper and I’d be reading the sports section. The successes our teams had, getting runners to the state finals, both as individuals and as a team. The conversations we had about our families, life and things we had in common – like NASCAR. We all had things to say, but knew that Coach Teske was in his element – and was the life of the “party”.

As I write this article, several stories came to mind that I’d share, but it would become a book. First, I remember how depressed he was about the death of his beloved Dale Earnhardt, and the sadness that came with taking down the “3” flag that hung in his room. Or when a middle schooler named TaKela showed up at our cross country practice one day wanting to run before her basketball game, and he gave her false information just to give us all a big laugh. Or even when one of his last girls’ teams hid between the baseball and softball fields before one of their practices. He told Coach Shoemaker and me he was waiting 10 minutes for them to come out or he was leaving. Sure enough, 10 minutes came and they hadn’t shown up, so he left. I’m fairly sure the girls paid for it the next day!

He retired from coaching, and teaching, after the 2007 school year. Everyone in our community knew it was closing in, but every year for the better part of over a decade, he’d pull out the retirement card, only to come back the next year. But that year was different – he was ready to move on. I knew our time was growing shorter, so I always tried to catch up with him when I could. I remember our last conversation in May of that year: him saying “J-Rod!” and me asking him “What’s up, Coach T?” That turned into a conversation about how our families were doing and sports topics before we went our separate ways. I always told him I would see him later and always said “Love you, Coach”. Little did I know that was the last time I’d see him alive.

I always joked with him that he was going to do something big in retirement, like go on world trips and cruises all over the world, go golfing more and see his children and grandchildren grow up.

So, when that fateful Thursday morning came and I found out he passed, I was devastated. I can remember sitting in the office at work and my mother coming to tell me she heard rumors he was gone. The tears running down my face as Coach Shoemaker confirmed the news. The feeling of numbness I had going through the rest of the day. The football game at Saugatuck where they held a moment of silence, and the tears I had when Hartford won in his memory.

The community rallied around his family, and it was most evidenced by the incredible turnout for his memorial service a few weeks later. The funeral home was packed to capacity, so much so that people were lined up out the front door. The school opened and held a celebration in the auditorium, where his family and peers shared stories of him. Today, you can find his face on a green plaque outside of the gymnasium in his memory, and the funds received by the athletic department in the wake of his passing were able to build press boxes at both the baseball and softball fields.

It’s difficult realizing it has been 12 years since his untimely passing. I have to wonder what he would think of the world today, and how much it has changed. I am left to wonder what he would have done in retirement, and the incredible stories he would have been able to tell. Most importantly, I have to wonder if he would be proud of the person I’ve become. I often think of him when I’m doing something or volunteering for something new, and say, “What would Coach Teske do?” I hope wherever he is today, and every day, he is looking down and is proud of me. I have lived most of my adult life the way I have because of the lessons he taught me.

Ending this long column, I would ask that you think of your favorite story of Robert Teske, and remember it with a smile or a laugh. And yes, crying and tears are allowed, too. Be sure to share that story with everyone you can, and help us keep his memory alive. I’m sure our community could write a book, or two, with all the memories we have with him in them. I can honestly say that sharing just a little bit of what that man meant to me in this Press Box has brought me smiles, laughs and tears – just as I expected it would when I started.

You’re forever missed, Coach Teske. He’d want me to end this column on a happy note, so, as I always conclude – GO INDIANS!

Press Box Player of the Week!

By Dave Vollrath

This week’s Tri-City Record player of the week is Brody Ashley from Coloma All-Star baseball.  Brody played on the 10U Coloma All-Star team this season, and was nominated by his coach Josh Groendyk.  In Brody, Coach Groendyk sees a young athlete with several outstanding skills, including an abundance of speed, aggressiveness on the base paths, with a glove on his hand or in the batter’s box swinging a bat. Brody was the spark plug that got his team moving.

Brody played mainly in the middle infield positions, second base and shortstop, and not many balls got by him.  Brody also played well roaming out in center field. He showed a good pitching arm in the final All-Star tournament of the season, played up in Allegan, where his team played with live pitching for the first time this season.

Brody batted in the lead-off position, and was almost always on base. In the instances he was held to a single, he more times than not would go on and swipe second and sometimes third base, giving his team ample opportunities to drive him home.

Brody’s family is well rooted in Coloma, his parents Kenny and Sara Ashley both graduated from Coloma, and his mom currently works at Coloma Schools as the business manager. His dad will once again be the Comet varsity wrestling coach this coming year.

Brody also plays and excels at several other sports including football and wrestling.  When not playing organized sports, Brody likes hanging with his friends playing wiffleball or kickball, or just being outside riding his bike, or his dirt bike. Brody will be a fourth grader at Coloma Intermediate School in the fall.

Congratulations Brody and best of luck in all of your activities in the future.

Watervliet Press Box by John Oliphant

Watervliet boys basketball goes big

It’s been a year of change at Watervliet schools with a new superintendent, a couple new principals, a new boys sport, and several new coaches. Back in the spring long-time football coach Jeremy Andrews stepped down and Josh Tremblay has taken over. Kevin Eastman, a long-time assistant in the Watervliet program, has stepped up to take charge of the junior varsity football program. Perhaps the most interesting change is happening at the boys basketball program, where athletic director Ken Dietz and Superintendent Ric Seager have pulled a rabbit out of their hat and landed Dan Hoff, a coach with a long and impressive resume.

If you know any boys who are undecided about playing basketball this year, show them Coach Hoff’s bio, which follows.

Coach Hoff was born in Detroit and grew up in suburban Royal Oak. He graduated from class A University of Detroit High School where he was an all-state basketball player and an all-Catholic baseball player his senior year.  He was awarded a full basketball scholarship to Eastern Michigan University.

Hoff competed in baseball at EMU for two years and was on the Hurons basketball team for four years. While there he was recognized as a Mid-American Conference All-Academic basketball player during both his junior and senior year, as well as an Honorable Mention All-Conference basketball player during his junior year. He captained the team as a senior.

Following his senior season, he was also awarded an NCAA Post-Graduate Scholar scholarship, one of just fifteen awarded in the nation, and was recognized as a Second-Team NCAA Division I Academic All-American.

After his playing career at Eastern, Hoff entered the coaching ranks as a graduate assistant for the Hurons for one year. Following a two-year head coaching stint at his high school alma mater, U of D High, as well as one year as an assistant at Henry Ford Community College, Hoff traveled to Australia where he competed in basketball as a player-coach in Mackay, Queensland for four years.

Upon returning to the U.S., Hoff resumed his high school coaching career, first for one year at Ogemaw Heights High School, followed by 27 years as the head coach at Mattawan High School. There, Hoff’s teams won seven district crowns and numerous conference championships. As well, many Mattawan players went on to compete at the collegiate level during his time there. At Mattawan, Hoff was selected as the Regional Coach of the Year as well as the Class B state Coach of the Year.

In 2013, Hoff joined the basketball staff at Western Michigan University as the Director of Basketball Operations. The Broncos won the Mid-American Conference during Hoff’s first year, advancing to the NCAA Tournament. Hoff retired from the Broncos after the 2017-2018 season. In 2015, Hoff was inducted into the University of Detroit Jesuit High School Athletic Hall of Fame in just the second Hall of Fame class in the school’s 138-year history.

Hoff is married to Lynette Brown and has two children, Katie and Thomas.

Ladies Monday Night Happy Hour Golf League

August 5 Golf Report from the Paw Paw Lake Golf Club:

Weekly Event Winner – Cheryl Hutchins (6 bogeys); Low Gross – Cheryl Hutchins with 49; Low Net – Cheryl Hutchins with 36; Low putts – Cheryl Hutchins with 12; Pars – Cheryl Hutchins on #16, Colleen McKeown on #13, Katherine Rodriguez on #13 and Kathy Osborne on #13; Pitch-ins – Maureen McGrath on #4, Cheryl Hutchins on #14.


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