News & ToursMay 8, 2007

Two more big-name coaches resign

Two women’s coaches at high-profile Division I schools have resigned from their posts within the last 24 hours, one quite shockingly and the other, unfortunately, not so much.

The latter was Susan Watkins, who had been in charge at Texas the past 14 years. Watkins was one of only two coaches to run the women's program at her alma mater and had led the Longhorns to top-six performances at the NCAA Championship five straight years from 2000-04, including a runner-up showing in 2002 and third-place finishes in 2000, 2001 and 2003. Yet her recent track record was far less glowing: UT failed to be selected for NCAA regional play this season after just one top-five finish in nine tournaments. Meanwhile, the Longhorns haven’t played at nationals since 2004.

“Basically the last week and over the weekend I was focusing on where this program has been and where it is right now. And you know it’s just not up to standard,” Watkins told Golf World this afternoon, shortly after the university issued a release regarding her resignation. “It’s what the University of Texas is all about. We’ve been on top for so long and not to be in that position right now, it was only right for me to step down and allow them new leadership.”

Watkins, who said that she intends to stay in golf in a teaching or coaching capacity, noted that the current squad is young (only one senior played in more than one event in 2006-07) but has a lot of talent. “I don’t think I’ve done things that much differently [in recent years], but I think it’s just time for the kids to hear it differently.”

Watkins’ announcement comes on the heels of the surprise resignation of Georgia women’s coach Todd McCorkle, announced Monday night and effective immediately. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 3 in the latest Golf World/NGCA coaches’ poll, are the top seed in the NCAA Central Regional that begins Thursday at the University of Michigan GC in Ann Arbor, Mich. Assistant coach Veronique Drouin will serve as acting head coach at the Central Regional and if the Bulldogs advance to the NCAA Championship later this month at LPGA International.

A release issued by the school stated McCorkle was leaving for personal reasons and that he would remain on the Georgia athletic association staff in another capacity. “Coaching at Georgia has been a great experience,” McCorkle said in the release, “ but this will allow me more flexibility in assisting my wife [Jenna Daniels] with her LPGA career.”

McCorkle, named co-SEC coach of the year after his squad won the conference title last month, did not return a call to his cell phone for further comment on his decision to step down.

Watkins was as energetic as any coach in women’s golf. She was big on fitness, a point I learned when I covered my first women’s NCAA Championship I covered in 2002, outside Seattle at Washington National GC and heard that Watkins had gotten a week-long membership at a local gym to make sure her squad continued on with their work-out schedule. Yet ultimately, she had begun to struggle on the recruiting front, failing to attract top juniors nationally and in the state of Texas to come to Austin in recent years. Long story short, if you can’t recruit, chances are you’re not going to have success. Regretfully, it caught up to Watkins.

As for McCorkle, speculation is rampant as to why, just three days before he was to begin the NCAA postseason with the most talented team he had had in Athens since his 2001 Georgia squad won the national title, he would suddenly step down. Players aren’t commenting on the matter and others inside the Georgia athletic department won’t discuss any specifics regarding the departure.

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