Golf Association of Michigan History 2000-2009 #GAM100 – Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll: Champion of GAM, MSU and Women’s Golf
By Greg Johnson
Editor’s note: This is the ninth of a 10-part series celebrating the Golf Association of Michigan’s History of 100 years of service to the game. #GAM100
FARMINGTON HILLS – In 100 years of Golf Association of Michigan tournament history no player has won more championships than Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll.
“It is kind of cool when I hear that, but it also tells me I’ve been playing a long time,” she said. “I feel so fortunate to be involved with the game I love. In my mind, I tell myself to keep winning. It’s being competitive. If I’m going to compete, I want to make sure that number of wins is a really high number by the time I’m done playing – when I’m 80 or whatever.”
Wins are a familiar pairing with the 47-year-old Grand Rapids native and Haslett resident who when she isn’t playing in tournaments is Michigan State University’s all-time winningest women’s golf coach.
“Winning is great, but it doesn’t define who I am,” she said. “I play and coach because I love it, love the game, love to compete, to represent our state and Michigan State. If you are going to play, you play to win. That’s all part of it. I play that way. I coach that way. That’s part of me because it’s a big part of what I do. My job is also my passion.”
Her game and passion have played a significant role in her winning 19 GAM titles, including 10 GAM Mid-Amateur Championships since 2005.
Also, on her playing resume is winning the Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship twice (1996, 1998) and a GAM Women’s Championship (1998). She was named the GAM Player of the Decade (2010) and has been Player of the Year four times.
As head women’s golf coach at Michigan State University, she recently completed her 22nd season as head coach, and has guided the Spartans to seven Big Ten Conference Championships and 20 appearances in the NCAA Regionals. She has also been named Big Ten Coach of the Year five times, and in 2017 was inducted into the Women’s Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
Her Hall of Fame career traces back to high school at East Kentwood and then on to play college golf at Michigan State. Leadership developed and her game evolved. She was a two-time team captain, tried professional golf and was in Florida working on her game when her college coach, another Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member, Mary Fossum called.
Fossum needed an assistant, and Slobodnik-Stoll dropped the professional idea and returned to MSU to serve as an assistant from 1995 to 1997. Fossum said she knew right away that Slobodnik-Stoll was the right person for the head job when she retired.
“She is a leader, a great player and a role model,” Fossum said in 2017 when Slobodnik-Stoll joined her in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
Slobodnik-Stoll remains thankful for the phone call.
“I’m so grateful for whatever prompted her to call me and ask me to be her assistant,” she said. “I will say this to the day I die, I truly believe I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I love it. I have passion for coaching, and I love watching young people grow.”
Slobodnik-Stoll was introduced to golf by her parents, David and Sharon Slobodnik, at a young age. Her father, a skilled golfer, instilled practice habits, and sought out others to help instruct her as well. She grew up playing first at Green Ridge Country Club near Grand Rapids, which was sold for development, and then at Egypt Valley Country Club, which was built as a result of that sale.
One of the top golfers at Green Ridge and Egypt Valley for several years has been Joan Garety, who is also in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame. Slobodnik-Stoll calls her a lifetime role model.
“My dad would point to her and say practice like her, play like her, act like her on the golf course,” Slobodnik-Stoll said. “Joan went to Michigan State and is still a great player, one of the best in our state’s history. She’s a mentor. She’s a supporter. I learned a lot from watching her, and as I got older playing with her and against her.”
Garety said it was clear when Slobodnik-Stoll was around age 10 that she loved to play.
“She loves the game, loves to compete and she became everything you would want in a polished amateur golfer,” Garety said. “She appreciates the game. She works at it. She has earned everything she has gotten, and she has done so many great things in the game. Her playing is just a part of it.”
Garety said Slobodnik-Stoll grew up at a better time for women golfers, when the GAM and other organizations started to expand tournament opportunities beyond the national USGA tournaments.
“For my career, the GAM’s involvement in women’s golf came a good 20 years too late,” she said. “When I was younger, we had the state Amateur, which the GAM didn’t run then, we had the Spring Lake Invitational and in Grand Rapids we had the Women’s City tournament. That was about it.
“Now, between what the GAM has done and the national schedule and junior golf, good grief, it’s amazing how much there is to play for the young golfers. Juniors can play as much as professionals.”
Slobodnik-Stoll said in her youth she thought about the GAM simply as a group that ran some tournaments.
“But over time and looking at it as a coach and player, and after being on the GAM team in the (USGA) State Team Tournaments and hearing what other states do, and seeing if from different sides, I’ve come to realize what the GAM truly does well is provide opportunities to play as well as any association in the country and better than a lot of them,” she said.
“The woman who competed before my generation did not have the same opportunities. The GAM was a men’s private association for most of its history. I’ve been so fortunate that has changed, included women and now seems to always be striving to improve and be better. That’s really the best thing about the GAM now. They genuinely want to get better.”
Slobodnik-Stoll and Garety point to individuals like Jeanne Myers, Betty Richart and Sara Wold, who were GAM volunteers as well as leaders in other golf associations and pushed the playing opportunity for women as an agenda in the last 30 years.
“It took those women to get the attention of the GAM, which used to be just men at private clubs,” Garety said.
Slobodnik-Stoll said those women leaders joined Garety in her mind as awesome female role models.
“You can see their impact today just in the way the GAM runs tournaments,” she said. “Teddy (Newton, GAM tournament staff member) and Ken (Hartmann, senior director of rules and competitions) seem to always be looking for new ideas to get the female population in their tournaments.”
Slobodnik-Stoll said a GAM tournament in 2019 comes with a guarantee of sorts.
“I’ve known a lot of the rules officials and volunteers since high school, and they are so professional at what they do, and then every tournament has a sponsor now,” she said. “That is such an awesome thing. It’s clear the association cares about every tournament, and all of them from the Michigan Amateur to the Four-Ball to the Tournament of Champions is run that way.”
Another Stoll will show up on a GAM tee sheet this year. Just last July, then 14-year-old Olivia Stoll told her parents (Stacy and Jim Stoll) that she wanted to play golf.
“She obviously had always been around it, but we never forced it and she never really seemed interested in playing,” Slobodnik-Stoll said. “She’s playing now. It’s pedal to the metal. She is working with Chris Mory (Jason Guss Golf Academy coach), which is amazing because when my dad would get frustrated with me, he would ask Bill Mory (Chris’s father) to work with me. We’re planning to play the GAM Four-Ball tournament with me as her partner. She has exemptions to play in the two AJGA tournaments in Michigan.”
Slobodnik-Stoll has long urged her players at Michigan State to play in GAM tournaments.
“It’s great for them to compete to improve, but also you know a GAM event is going to be a good experience,” she said.
As for the coach herself, Slobodnik-Stoll plans to continue competing with her clubs, even in the Michigan Women’s Amateur for as long as she feels she can compete with the top golfers in the state.
“I’m around young athletes and I’m very familiar how far they hit it, and I know I can’t hit it that far, but I still love to compete,” she said. “I think it has helped me as a coach. I can relate to them as a coach who has been where they are. Playing in the same tournament with them isn’t really a problem. It has only been a little bit awkward when I’ve had to play one of my players in match play in the Amateur. Even then, the experience has probably been good for both of us.”
#GAM Golf Association of Michigan History – Did you know?
In 2003 Paul Beaupre became the first GAM president who represented a public golf facility. The owner of Plum Brook Golf Club in Sterling Heights, he was the 35th president of the association. “While continuing to serve the private clubs, it became apparent that the major growth in golf is in the public sector,” 2001 and ’02 President Fritz Balmer penned to the GAM membership. Balmer also described Beaupre’s appointment as “a big step forward for the GAM.”