Decorated Lutheran North golf coach to be enshrined in state Hall of Fame

By: Jason Carmel Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published March 29, 2019

 Longtime Macomb Lutheran North golf coach Lori Gill instructs players during a 2017 practice. Gill, with 31 years of coaching experience under her belt, will be enshrined in the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame during a ceremony set for May 18.

Longtime Macomb Lutheran North golf coach Lori Gill instructs players during a 2017 practice. Gill, with 31 years of coaching experience under her belt, will be enshrined in the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame during a ceremony set for May 18.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Longtime Macomb Lutheran North golf coach Lori Gill is well-respected.

So much so that her fellow coaches from across the state chose Gill for induction into the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Gill, along with three other coaches, will be enshrined in a ceremony May 18.

“I have to admit I was pretty choked up,” Gill said about finding out she had earned the honor. “I didn’t think I would have that kind of reaction, but I did. When I think that my fellow coaches from all over the state felt I should have a spot among them, well, that really says it all.”

Gill has coached at Lutheran North for 31 years — 21 years with the Mustangs girls team and 10 with the boys.


Laundry list of accolades
The longtime coach sports an impressive résumé.

She led the Mustangs girls to back-to-back state titles in 2016 and 2017 and finished second at the state finals in 2015.

In total, her teams have won 114 dual matches, played in 120 invitational tournaments and won nine conference titles. She has guided the girls to six regional titles, while capturing one with the boys. Her teams have competed in 13 state finals — nine for the girls and four for the boys.

“I have had a lot of thrilling moments,” Gill said. “I think the first time we got to the state (finals) was absolutely one memory that I will always cherish. Getting there for the first time was almost surreal knowing that my team was one of the best in the state.”

All those years ago, Gill said, she took on the coaching position simply out of a true love for the game. In 31 years with the Mustangs, Gill has never been compensated financially for her work.

Over the course of her tenure, Gill has received six MIGCA Coach of the Year awards.

“When asked to coach, I jumped at the chance because it is a sport that I feel parallels life,” said Gill, a Washington Township resident. “If you work hard and you are a person of integrity and honesty, the rewards you will get out of life will be abundant. As a golfer, if you work hard and you have integrity and honesty, your game will be rewarded.”

Honors of this kind aren’t handed out to just any coach. Gill said what she believes sets her apart is her commitment to excellence. Lutheran North, Gill said, has given her free rein to establish the program as she saw fit.

In return, Gill said, she feels the Mustangs program is one of the best in the state.

“I am of the old-school thinking that not everyone deserves a trophy and not everyone is going to be a good golfer,” said Gill, who has run golf clinics for underprivileged children with the Macomb Charitable Foundation. “With that being said, I always tried to see the potential in every student-athlete who came out for the team.

“I can tell you I always set the bar high for my team, and they never disappointed me. When you expect the best from young people, that’s usually what you will get. My feeling is, today, we as coaches don’t set the bar high enough. We don’t expect the best, so the student-athletes don’t perform to their greatest potential.”

Gill saw that potential come out of several golfers. Brian Sparks served as the first of Gill’s golfers to make four state finals appearances before earning a scholarship to play at the University of Detroit-Mercy. Zach Mick in 2010 became Gill’s first individual state champ.

On the girls side, Samantha Martens was a standout player on Gill’s first state finals team. Martens’ younger sister, Sydney, was a key member of Lutheran North’s 2016 state championship team and now plays at Oakland University. Other standout players for Gill include Katie Humphreys, Serena Nguyen, Grace Farquhar and Katie Rittner — all of whom are currently playing at the collegiate level.

“Of course, better players always stand out for their ability, but really every player is special to me,” Gill said.


Strong testimonials
Nguyen, now playing at Florida’s Lynn University, said she was fortunate to have Gill as her coach for four years. Nguyen said Gill provided daily encouragement for each golfer to push them to be the best golfer and person they could be.

Nguyen said Gill made her aware of Lynn University and that attending the school is the best decision she’s made.

“She helped a lot with my mental game on the course and motivated me to keep grinding,” Nguyen said. “My high school golf experience wouldn’t have been the same without her.”

Lutheran North Athletic Director Ryan Wesley spoke glowingly of Gill.

Wesley called Gill a godsend. He said the coach transformed a middling program into a contender at the local and state levels.

“Lori had a process, and that process took time and patience,” Wesley said. “She had very high standards for her golfers compared to most coaches, and those high standards pushed her student-athletes to great accomplishments on and off the course far beyond state championships. Given the time golfers miss in school to make tee times, her golfers did not fall behind in academics. She made sure of that.”


Life outside of coaching
Aside from having a strong coaching résumé, one moment as matchmaker has stuck with Gill for some time.

Former Mustangs golfers Josh Mick and Taylor Duda were married in 2015, and Gill likes to take a little bit of the credit for that union.

“And now they’re the proud parents of a mini Mustang,” Gill said. “Matchmaking wasn’t in the job description, but it was fun to do.”

While it’s clear that Gill loves coaching, she recognizes that the time has come for her to pass the baton.

John Bergmann has taken over as the new coach of the girls team, while Alex Schlump will lead the boys squad. Family is now the priority for Gill, who will continue to coach, but in a different capacity.

“I plan to just work individually with any of the players who want my help,” Gill said. “If the coach wants my assistance in any way, I will always be available, but I am looking to do some caddying for my grandchildren, as they are now old enough to get into tournaments this summer.”

As Gill hits the clubhouse after a long, successful run, it’s not the accolades she wants to come to mind when people think of her tenure.

“I would like to be remembered as a coach the kids could count on,” Gill said. “I always tried to be there for them like a beacon of light they could follow. I tried to set a good example and worked hard for them, and in return, I got more from them than I ever thought was possible.”

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