Success with Honor: Women's Golf Coaches Share Special Bond
June 16, 2009
By Courtney Agnew, Penn State Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Many athletes share a close relationship with their coach and see them as a mentor in their life. However, few of them ever get the opportunity to work alongside their coach and mentor another generation of athletes. For Penn State women's golf coaches Denise St. Pierre and Sara Doell, that is exactly the path their relationship has taken.
Doell and St. Pierre share one major similarity from their early careers. Both are Penn State graduates who played for the Nittany Lions women's golf team. St. Pierre played for the Nittany Lions from 1979-83 and Doell was a member of St. Pierre's Penn State team from 1996-00.
"For me, she was more than just a golf coach," said Doell. "She taught me a lot of life lessons both on and off the course. She was very intent on teaching us to keep balance both on the course and in life."
For St. Pierre, Doell was an important and memorable player during her time as a Nittany Lion.
"Sara was a hard worker," said St. Pierre. "She loved to practice and learn new things. She loved to compete and represent Penn State in the process. She was a great team player."
After graduating from Penn State, Doell worked as a volunteer assistant women's golf coach during the fall 2000 season. From 2001-05, she served as the assistant golf professional at the Ballantyne Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"I think the most important thing was that we stayed in close contact after I left for five years," said Doell. "We went from having a player-coach relationship to something closer. It began to feel like we were on the same level. So when she asked me to come back and coach with her, I felt very comfortable."
The new level and strength of their relationship has allowed them to grow and advance their own talents and coaching techniques. St. Pierre credits her assistant coach with keeping her calm in stressful situations while Doell says that St. Pierre has taught her to keep her life balanced and remember that less is more.
"You definitely have to find a way to connect with each player but there are times when you have to step back and not say anything," says Doell. "I watch other coaches during events and I feel like some of them over-coach. Denise has a different approach."
St. Pierre says that she has seen a great deal of growth in Doell since her days on the team.
"She is really maturing as a coach," she says. "Sometimes it's hard for younger coaches to keep the separation that is needed to gain respect. Each season she is doing better with allowing herself to be seen as more authoritative."
Despite their level of equality on the course, St. Pierre is continuing to coach Doell. Now she teaches her the ropes of being a coach instead of a player.
"I would say she's taught me a lot about fairness," says Doell. "She's really tried to be very consistent in her coaching and the decisions she makes about starting lineups and such. You really have to be fair and weigh all options. I've also learned a lot about respecting the differences between all the players and fitting those differences."
The upcoming season will mark Doell's fifth year with the team and St. Pierre's 17th season. As they continue their collaborative relationship, they share a united front and similar goals for their team, including a Big Ten win and an appearance at nationals.
"I would like to see the women's golf program gain some prominence in the Big Ten and national levels," said St. Pierre. "First, I'd like to help each athlete reach their goals. This requires bringing in the type of player that has the same vision for Penn State golf and one that is willing to put forth the effort that it will take to get it there."
"I do a lot of recruiting and so I'd like to see that continue to go well and bring in better and better players," Doell agrees. "We would love to win Big Tens and to go to nationals every year."
As these two coaches continue their close relationship on and off the course, the Penn State community will be watching their progress and success.