THE ADVENTURES OF A GOLF COACH
April 18, 2007
By: Marissa Ball, Penn State Athletic Communications Student Assistant
In her 14th season as head coach of the women's golf team, Denise St. Pierre has had the opportunity to travel both the United States and the world, all in the name of golf.
When the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina forced the National Golf Coaches Association's (NCGA) annual convention to be moved from New Orleans, the outgoing president St. Pierre realized that serious assistance was needed to rebuild the city.
After contacting the Habitat for Humanity organization, which builds houses for people in need, St. Pierre decided to take action. She reached out to athletic departments at universities across the country and found 30 schools that wanted to participate in building a house for a New Orleans family that was left homeless by Katrina. Athletic departments from schools including Duke, Ohio State, Oregon and Texas A&M helped to raise the $60,000 needed to build a house for Bernadette Coleman and her two teenagers. Penn State assisted by hosting a charity golf tournament to contribute to the cost of building.
Once the money was raised, St. Pierre and 16 other golf coaches traveled to New Orleans for a week to start building. Since the team only had seven days to build, the coaches worked around the clock cutting wood and sizing windows for the framework. By the end of the week, the house was nearing completion, and on June 17, the dedication took place.
"Doing something like this was a great experience for all of us because at the end of the day, we didn't sit around and talk about golf or our players. Instead, we talked about the project and what can we do for tomorrow, with that beam or that window," said St. Pierre. "It was fun to do something other than what we typically do, and also help out a great cause."
After taking several weeks to recruit high school golfers and vacation with her family on Martha's Vineyard, St. Pierre was onto her next adventure.
In early September, St. Pierre traveled to Torino, Italy, site of the 2006 Winter Olympics, to lead the United States women's golf team in the World University Games. St. Pierre coached her team to a gold medal, as well as the individual medalist honors. Leading a team comprised of five collegiate players from across the country, the U.S. team won the gold medal by two strokes over the second place finisher Japan. One of her players, Stacy Lewis of Arkansas shot for two-under par 286 to earn the individual gold medal by three strokes. Seventeen countries were represented in the World University Games, which take place every two years.
Although most of the team's time in Italy was dedicated to golf, St. Pierre and her players were able to enjoy the former Olympic Village and city of Torino. One memorable activity was visiting a local vineyard and learning the process of making wine. In addition to eating wonderful food, the Italian dessert gelato proved to be extremely popular with her team.
"Every night, the girls would ask, `Coach, can we get gelato?'" said a laughing St. Pierre. "Every block had a gelato shop on the corner."
After a whirlwind summer filled with adventure, St. Pierre is back at Penn State for the start of the golf season. She has high hopes for the team that began its spring schedule March 5. "I've got some goals here," said St. Pierre. "We've got to finish in the top 10 and get to the NCAA Tournament."