Van Johnson headed to MIGCA Hall of Fame

Published 5:21 pm Thursday, November 21, 2013

Former Dowagiac golf coach Van Johnson will be inducted into the MIGCA Hall of Fame March 9. (Leader photo/Provided)

Former Dowagiac golf coach Van Johnson will be inducted into the MIGCA Hall of Fame March 9. (Leader photo/Provided)

Veteran Dowagiac golf coach Van Johnson, who retired from coaching boys golf after 35 years, will be elected into the Michigan Interscholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame March 9.

“I am pleased, proud and honored just to be considered, but then to get in on the first try is kind of unbelievable,” Johnson said. “I have had some help there along the way. I had a couple of good assistants who helped with what we were trying to do and, of course, we had some really good players here who wanted to succeed in the game of golf.

“Without them, this honor certainly wouldn’t be possible.”

Johnson, who has coached the girls team for the past 10 years, will be joined at Eagle Eye Golf Club in Lansing during the Hall of Fame and Coach of the Year luncheon by Michael Soltysiak of DeWitt, Jean Holbert of Clio and Al Kebl of Bloomfield Hills.

During the course of those 35 years, Johnson’s teams have won 1,303 matches, five conference titles, played in 26 invitationals. Won four times and finished in the top four 13 times.

The Chieftains have played in six MHSAA state finals.

Johnson and Dowagiac have hosted numerous tournaments throughout his three-plus decades, including seven MHSAA regionals and one district tournament.

Johnson has served on the state championship rules committee, worked with the minority youth golf program, conducted Elks golf clinics for kids and served on the Southwest Junior Golf Tour board.

Johnson has been named conference coach of the year five times, MIGCA District Coach of the Year twice and Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

Former Niles golf coach Greg Gunder, a 2012 inductee, was one of the driving forces behind getting Johnson to complete the nomination form.

“He encouraged me to apply and was sort of like a mentor to me through the whole process,” Johnson said. “He also spoke on my behalf, along with Roger Fuller of Coldwater. You know you play against those guys in matches and at tournament, and to know they think enough of you to do this is quite an honor.”

Besides Gunder and Fuller speaking on Johnson’s behalf, a former coach, a former player, a fellow teacher and former superintendent and a PGA professional all wrote letters to the committee.

Former Coloma golf coach Ed Irvin, Jordan and Larry Crandall and Steve Miller of Indian Lake Hills, all penned letters on Johnson’s behalf.

“It’s been a heckuva ride here,” Johnson said. “When I came to coach here I kind of inherited the boys team. When we decided to start a girls program I had to get out of track. After three years of really good numbers they decided to make it a varsity sport.

“We had a lot of good years with the boys teams and our numbers were good for the girls right up until the last couple of years. The switching of volleyball to the fall hurt our numbers.”