In the Amateur Spotlight section of this week's Golf World, I wrote about the latest "mid-major" men's program to contend on the national level: the 14th-ranked Tennessee-Chattanooga squad. As impressive as the Mocs have looked through the first half of the 2007-08, however, you could make the argument the UTC women's program actually has had the better season after winning their first three tournaments of the fall with a roster of three sophomores and two freshmen, and climbing to 49th in the Golfstat women's ranking. Making the feat all the more remarkable is the fact that this is the first season the school has fielded a women's team in 23 years.
Credit Colette Murray, a 26-year-old native of Scotland, for ignoring the conventional wisdom that first-year programs have to crawl before they walk. Hired in February 2006 after working as an assistant coach at her alma mater, Jacksonville State, Murray (right) worked overtime in the months between arriving at Chattanooga and the team's first tournament. She played in dozens of amateur events in the Tennessee, hoping to run into a few home-grown players to help field her first squad, eventually attracting Katie Taylor and Kayla Stewart. Her international connections helped her get Christine Wolf (of Austria), Emma de Groot (of Australia) and Kelly Brotherton (of Scotland) to campus.
"I knew I had some [good players] coming in," Murray said. "Did I think we could win three tournaments? Yes, I did. â¿¿ I've got a great bunch of girls here with a huge amount of talent and even a greater amount of heart. You put those two things together and I believe great things can happen."
The challenge now is to maintain their success, a tougher task with recent news that Brotherton, who had the team's second best scoring average, a individual victory and two top-10s in the fall, has returned home to be with her ailing father. Down to four on her roster, Murray recently held an open call for players on campus and has Finland's Milla Junni, the starting goalie on the UTC women's soccer team, set to play this spring to fill in before three solid recruits arrive next fall.
"She mentioned that she's never been more than a Sunday golfer," said Murray, noting Junni's handicap was around a 10, "but right now she's practicing every day with the girls and she's come just so far in a few weeks.
"It's a real shame the way things worked out [with Brotherton], but It's working out well for us," Murray continued. "We've got a tremendous attitude on the team. We're not letting any of that hold us back in any fashion."
The Lady Mocs open their spring season at the Lady Gator Invitational Feb. 22.