Rachel Ingram knew her first head coaching job would keep her busy, but she had no way of preparing for the double-duty she is doing these days.
Ingram left East Tennessee State last year to become the head women's golf coach at Samford. Now, she's also running the men's program at the private school in Birmingham, Ala. Samford men's coach Woodie Eubanks was let go in mid-season, and Ingram volunteered to keep the program going on an interim basis.
"When it happened, I went to the athletic director and told him I would be willing to take care of the boys," Ingram said. "I said my girls would still be my first priority, but I felt the boys deserved to have a season and have a coach."
Ingram says her days as a golfer prepared her for working with the men's team.
"It's been a lot of fun," she said. "I've had experience caddying for guys or playing with a bunch of guys. More than anything, they needed someone to motivate them and help them believe in themselves."
Ingram got to Samford in late August, having interviewed, accepting the job and moving in about a week and a half. When she arrived as a 26-year-old first-time head coach, she began to wonder if she did the right thing leaving her family, her hometown, her former school.
Any doubts were alleviated when her team won her first tournament as a head coach.
"It was a really cool feeling," said Ingram, who played at Ole Miss after graduating from University School in Johnson City. "A lot of people here said I should just retire because I had a winning record. It was a good start for me here in Birmingham."
Samford's women captured another title this spring, giving them four top-five finishes under Ingram.
Ingram has taken the men's team to one tournament, the Furman Invitational.
"We actually had a lot of fun at Furman," she said. "They asked me to read putts for them and that's something my girls don't even do. I told them before we went that I want them to have fun, play the game they love.
"I wasn't talking to them like a coach, more like a big sister. The reality is, they take it. After we left Furman, the ones who went with me were very grateful."
Even more amazing than the double-duty is the fact that Ingram does not have a assistant, which makes practice interesting.
"We practice together so everybody is getting something every day," she said.
Next year, when East Tennessee State is back in the Southern Conference, Ingram will face her former mentor, Bucs' coach Stefanie Shelton. Ingram worked under Shelton for three years.
"I learned so much from Stefanie," Ingram said."It will be fun to compete against them. We've got a lot of work to do to be able to hang with the Buccaneers."
Until then, Ingram has this year's Southern Conference tournament to worry about — twice. The SoCon women play April 13-15 in Hilton Head, S.C., while the men are scheduled for April 20-22 in Pinehurst, N.C.
"It's good they're at different times," Ingram said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's been good."comments powered by Disqus