I grew up around the game of golf as my father is a PGA professional, and most everyone in our family loves the game of golf. I fiddled around with the game from age 5 and on and began competing on the junior circuit in Southern California at age 8 or 9. Some of my father’s students included Bobby Clampett, Janet Coles, Duffy Waldorf, and Dan Forsman, who all inspired me as a junior golfer to take the game more seriously.
After playing on a boy’s golf team in high school, I was asked to join the women’s golf team at Oklahoma State University. Fortunately, we were able to win quite a few events as a team, and I won a handful of events and awards throughout my junior and senior years. I enjoyed twenty-three top ten finishes in college, which was really quite fun. Shortly after graduating from Oklahoma State University, I turned professional and qualified to play on the LPGA tour, and then spent the next five years competing on the Ladies European Tour, the Players West Tour, as well as the Futures Tour throughout the years of 1996 – 2000. Some highlights as a touring professional included qualifying for one British Open, as well as two US Opens, and several top five finishes on the Futures Tour.
How difficult is it to recruit at your university?
I was asked to begin the program at Morehead State University eight years ago. That year, I brought in over 30 women in order to begin competing the following year. Essentially, for every three women who came in, one agreed to help begin our program. I still get teary eyed at how those ten women really took a leap of faith to buy into a brand new program, believed in something bigger than themselves, and really have left a lasting legacy. Within three years of starting the program, some of those players won their conference title and became a top 100 teams. I have really been able to recruit well based on what they built. Some years, recruiting seems tougher than others. Sometimes you have your heart set on a certain player and they just want something different than what you can offer. However, it seems like each year things have worked out well for our program and team. It helps that our university has several great academic programs, a wonderful staff, and owns its own golf course.
What are some of the other schools in your league or conference?
We tend to compete against a wide variety of teams from all over the country. Some of the top teams in our Ohio Valley Conference include Eastern Kentucky, Murray State, Jacksonville State, Belmont, Austin Peay, Tennessee Tech.
How difficult is it for your team to qualify for the NCAA Tournament?
Our team, like the majority of mid-major programs, needs to win our conference title in order to qualify for the NCAA’s. There is a lot of pressure that week as there are several teams who can really step it up that time of year. But it is really exciting to know that a victory also qualified you for the NCAA’s.
What is rewarding about your job as coach?
I find coaching very rewarding and feel so blessed that I was given the opportunity to lead this program. I’m actually about to enter my 17th year as a Division I head coach, 15 of those years as a full-time coach, so I can go on and on about all the rewarding aspects of a coaching career. Much of what I find rewarding has actually very little to do with golf, and mostly to do with our students. I never would have believed I would feel that way when I first began coaching as I thought it was all about golf. What is rewarding to me is the growth of our students, the maturing of leaders, the great faculty, administrators, and donors involved with our universities, parents, the game, the lasting connections, the list just goes on. Helping these ladies work so hard to accomplish their goals in the classroom, at practice, in workouts, and together as a team is rewarding in itself.
Stephanie Barker, LPGA Member
Headwomen’s Golf Coach
Morehead State University