By DAN O’KANE
DRIVING LESSON: TU Women’s Head Golf Coach Holly Hair gives lessons to Channel 6 broadcaster Mike Wolfe while TU Men’s Head Golf Coach Bill Brogdon looks on.
GTR Newspapers photos
Holley Hair admits that she was a bit more naïve when she took over as the University of Tulsa women’s golf coach. She knew that it would take hard work and long hours. What she didn’t plan for was the truckload of patience the position requires.
Hair is in her third year guiding the program that has produced four national championships, five runner-up finishes and five individual champions under the helm of Hall of Fame coach Dale McNamara.
The program is still among the sport’s elite. The Hurricane women golfers are ranked 22nd nationally by the Golf World Coaches Poll.
However, Hair longs to get the program back to the way it was when she played for the Hurricane. Hair was a member of the 1982 team that won the AIAW and NCAA championships. She was also on the 1983 and 1985 squads that finished runner-up.
“That’s the goal you have to have,” Hair says. “I want to get this program back to where Dale had it when I was playing and contending for national championships.”
Rather than run from the expectations that McNamara created, Hair embraces it.
“You have to use it to your advantage,” Hair says. “There is so much tradition with this program and all that Dale did. It is something that you have to use as a recruiting tool.”
The only problem with that is that today’s recruits don’t know much about TU’s past.
TU’s best known and most beloved former player, Nancy Lopez, was well past her prime when today’s recruits first took up the game. Although they know of her, they don’t know of her Hurricane connection.
That requires education.
Hair not only has to inform recruits of Lopez’s ties to TU, but also that the program has produced 20 first-team All-Americans since Lopez became the first in 1976. The last in that line was four-time first-team All-American Stacy Prammanasudh, who made an immediate splash on the LPGA Tour last year and is currently ranked in the top-30 money leaders.
In addition to its national titles and runner-up finishes, the Hurricane finished in the top-five at nationals 13 times in a 16-year period.
“A lot of these kids don’t know much about our past until they get recruited or are in college,” Hair said. “Things have changed so much. Other coaches know how dominant TU has been, but now it is Duke and UCLA.”
That’s in part because the Hurricane has not been a serious threat at the NCAA Championships since 1989. That year TU finished second to San Jose State by one stroke. The Hurricane hasn’t finished in the top-five since 1990.
“We use what’s happened here, but we also know that it is time for a new era,” Hair said.
That might not be too far down the line. It is too early to determine if this year’s squad has the ability to contend at the NCAAs, but it has thus far shown promise. The Hurricane, which opens up the spring schedule Feb. 21–23 at the Dorado Del Mar Country Club in Puerto Rico, is anchored by the upperclassmen duo of senior Lee-Ann Pace and junior Cas Bridge. Pace had two top-15 finishes in three events in the fall and had the team’s best stroke average at 74.1. Bridge also had two top-15 finishes while posting a 74.5 stroke average.
Perhaps the most promising aspect about this year’s team, however, is its freshmen, including two who competed in all four fall tournaments.
Freshman Michaela Cavener, from Ponca City, turned in the best individual performance for the Hurricane newcomers with a 16th-place finish at the Mercedes-Benz Intercollegiate. Meanwhile, freshman Leisi Hasbrouck, from Kingwood, Texas, had a top-25 finish and the third-best stroke average with a 75.2. Cavener’s average was 75.5. In addition, freshman Polly Travica also contributed with a 76.6 average.
The freshmen are very talented, but they’re young,” Hair said. “They have great futures ahead of them.”
And with that, so does the Hurricane program.
Just as promising is the men’s program, which is led by homegrown talent.
Four golfers are from the Tulsa area, including recent WAC golfer of the week sophomore Brett Myers, who finished 10th in the prestigious Ping Arizona Intercollegiate. The former Union golfer has the top stroke average on the team at 72.5. He is followed by Metro Christian product Ryan Henry, who has a 73.3 average. Former Jenks standout Mitch Cohlmia has the fifth best stroke average at 75.7. Austin Hackett, from Broken Arrow, has played in just one tournament, but showed promise averaging 73.3 strokes per round.
The contributions of the four helped to key TU’s best finish of the year by placing third in the 16-team tournament.