Q & A with Women's Golf Coach Pat Kotten
Sept. 15, 2005
Pat Kotten is in his 3rd season as head coach of the Women's golf team at Old Dominion University. Under his direction, the Lady Monarchs have shown marked improvement every season, and look to make even further strides in 2005.
1. After improving from a last place finish in your inaugural season, to 7th place last season, what are your expectations for the Lady Monarchs in what is now your third year into a new program? We have a new addition to the conference in Georgia State who is very strong. But I would hope for a top-5 finish, and if everyone stays healthy, that would be well within our reach. Staying healthy is the key, because last year we had one big injury and that's all it took.
2. Who are some of the key returning players fans of the women's golf program should keep an eye on this season? The key returning player to look for would be Meghan Schaefer who was our low scorer at the conference tournament last season as a freshman. She has made huge improvements in her game over the last few months. Amanda Moore was injured two tournaments into the year last season, and we didn't get a chance to see what she could do. From the first tournament to her second last season, we saw huge improvement and we hope to see some more of that this year. Reinie Vugrinec has also made huge improvements in her game and we look for big things from her this season.
3. Last year, your players participated in some of the strongest tournaments held in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic region. What kind of valuable experience did your players receive from playing in such difficult fields and on such challenging courses? First of all, they know how good they have to get. The value of a strong schedule is twofold. One, our players in a young program see the mountaintop, and see who the best players are and what they do. And they learn vicariously through them. The other benefit of having a strong schedule would be recruiting. Because we are known to play a strong schedule, we are starting to get noticed by better players who want to come into our program and play in challenging tournaments.
4. Can you talk about the two new additions (Alexis Garduno and Deztany Jackson) to the program? Alexis is from Sacramento, CA, and her big claim to fame so far was playing in the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, which is a Senior PGA Tour event. She played with Dave Stockton, who is a one-time Ryder Cup captain, and performed very well. She has numerous wins on the West Coast under her belt, and is a tremendous ball striker. Deztany hails from Ft. Washington, MD and is extraordinarily athletic. She is a little on the raw side, but is a very strong player who hits the ball a long way and brings a lot of discipline to the table. It has been gratifying to see her at practice and how hard she works to improve her game. She shot a 68 this summer in a tournament, so she obviously has a ton of upside.
5. What positives has the new practice facility at Lambert's Point Golf Course brought to the program? First of all, we do not have a thirty-minute drive to a practice facility, and with gas prices as high as they are today, that is a huge positive. Also, once the putting green opens within the month, we will have two new 10,000 square foot facilities dedicated solely to working on putting, chipping, sand shots, and other aspects of the short game. The driving range here is absolutely tremendous, and now that we have the ability to videotape our work on the range, we can address mistakes immediately rather than having to wait a day or two when we used our old practice ranges again. The golf course itself, although it is 9 holes and is only a par-34, it is a very challenging course that puts a premium on striking an accurate tee shot. This is something that is really demanded of college players, particularly on the women's side because they have a minimum yardage they have to play. Most courses now are playing longer than 6,000 yards, so players really need to be accurate off the tee in order to set up less challenging approaches to the green, and our course really helps with that. In a recruiting aspect, prospective recruits will see that we practice in a first class facility and that ODU is committed to the women's golf program and our success. And of course, having our own locker room and meeting facilities on campus is a big positive because it gives our players an opportunity to spend more time at the course in their spare time.
6. Old Dominion is the second university in which you have started a women's golf program, UMBC being the first. What kind of an experience is it starting a brand new program from scratch? The key to starting a new program from scratch is patience. There are several ways to start a new program and I've seen them done in several different ways. One of the most prevalent ways is for a new program to spend all of their recruiting dollars right away and get strong really fast. The problem with that is that you do not have the patience to build your program from a foundation, and because you get all the recruits early into the program, that leaves no scholarships left to recruit other prospects for a few years. The way we do things is that we spread out our scholarship dollars so that we have a solid rotation set up. We have one graduating senior this year, and two next year. So we do not have all of our eggs in one recruiting class. The downside to that is that the program is short on numbers for a year or two, and a single injury could be devastating in the short term. The long term benefits of this approach are enormous however.
7. How did you get your start in the field of collegiate golf? I picked up golf when I was 15 after we moved from the Midwest where ice hockey was huge, to Maryland where there was no hockey to be played. We lived across the street from a golf course and our family bought a membership, so I played every day and broke into the business that way. College golf came about while I was working as a club professional at a golf course across the street from the UMBC campus. I wasn't happy as a club professional because of how much the business changed over the last 15 years. Club professionals used to own pro shops, and were able to make almost six figures. That generally is no longer the case. Because I still loved the game of golf and teaching it, I wanted to continue working in the field. There was an opportunity opening up at UMBC when they restarted their men's golf program. I jumped at the chance, and worked part-time for a few years and eventually became full-time after three years. Because of my positive experience there, and working with players who were talented and committed to improving their game, it really attracted me to coaching on a collegiate level. Many times club professionals are tutoring players who do not really want to be there, or who are being forced by their parents to get lessons, so the experience is not as gratifying. With a college player, for them to reach this level in golf, it is obvious that they are dedicated, committed, and have a love for the game.
8. What was it about Old Dominion that gave you the motivation to start yet another women's program? I had a lot of opportunities out there before I made a decision to come here. What really made me decide to start the women's golf program at ODU was their commitment to all of their programs. While this university may be a mid-major so to speak, their commitment to their sports are at a much higher level. While I am sitting in my office, I can look out my window and see a driving range facility and putting green for my players. The new golf course may be owned by the city of Norfolk, but this could not have happened without a commitment to the program from the university. I have locker rooms and meeting areas for my players. Since I have been here, it has been nothing but magic. My family loves the area, and the university has been so good to me. I can't wait to see what happens next.
9. What is it about the sport of golf that appeals to you? Anyone can play the game of golf for almost their entire lives. Whether you're 4, or 90, a golfer can go out and enjoy the day and the scenery. With most other sports, there is a window of opportunity for a person to enjoy that sport during their lifetime. This is not the case with golf. People young and old play the game on a daily basis, and that's what makes it so great. When I started working in golf, I remember very distinctly thinking, "how hard could this job be?" People were coming to me on their day off for the purpose of having fun. How is that a job you don't want? That was my motivation when I got into club golf. You get to have a good time at work, interact with the public, and be friendly. Golf is also a very deceivingly difficult game to play. It is a lot easier to hit a golf ball than a baseball, but there seems to be a whole lot less people to do it well. There are over 1,000 players in major league baseball today, and only 125 or so on the PGA Tour who receive exemptions to play another year. That is a testament to the amount of difficulty involved with playing golf. It's the challenge of it that makes golf such a popular sport.
The Lady Monarchs golf squad next travel to Myrtle Beach, SC to take part in the Unlimited Potential/Baytree tournament from September 23rd-25th.