Ace in the Hole

January 22, 2019

By Audrey St. Clair ’03

Rollins’ head golf coach Julie Garner
Photo by Scott Cook.

The prolific career and immense impact of Rollins women’s golf coach Julie Garner, according to the student-athletes and colleagues who know her best.

This past December, head women’s golf coach Julie Garner was inducted into the Women’s Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In her 23 seasons as head coach at Rollins, Garner has racked up a record six Division II championships, along with five runner-up finishes, giving her a resume that allows her to stake a fair claim as the No. 1 coach in Division II women’s golf.

Under her leadership, the Tars have finished in the top four at the Division II Championships in 13 of the past 17 seasons. The beloved coach is a four-time Division II Golf Pride WGCA Coach of the Year and five-time Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year. She continually separates herself from the pack and raises the bar for the competitiveness of the sport, going after Division I recruits like Charlotte Campbell Daughan ’06, perhaps the most successful athlete in Rollins history.

There’s no doubt Garner is a fierce competitor who gets results on the links, but the players on her team will tell you she cares more about them as individuals—their academics, their happiness, their future—than about how well they swing a club. Garner values finding student-athletes who are the best fit for Rollins and helps provide them a balance in life that feels comfortable and like home, which not only makes them play better golf, but allows them to have a fulfilling college experience.

This is Coach Julie Garner, according to those who know her best.

“Even though she’s an extreme competitor, she’s probably one of the kindest, most thoughtful people you’ll ever meet. Whenever I see her, she always calls out my name and wants a hug. Julie’s a great friend to me and so many other people. She’s not just a coach—she’s an ambassador.” — Robbie Davis, Florida Southern College women’s golf coach

“Coach wanted us to practice and work out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 5 p.m. I, of course, raised my hand and said Friday was a particular problem as it interfered with college social life. Guess what, we did work out on all of those days. I believe at one point I asked her if she realized we were Division II. She did but saw a great future for Rollins women’s golf. No matter what number follows the word ‘division,’ [she has] proven that athletics and dedication can be demonstrated at the highest level.” — Sarah Phillips ’87, a member of Garner’s first team at Rollins

“People think she’s super intense all the time, but she’s really not. Sure, she wants to win—no qualms about that. But she’s also such a good sportsman. She’s all about the betterment of the game and the player.” — Jennifer McNeil, St. Edward’s University women’s golf coach

“Julie radiates charisma, sincerity, and warmth. She is a great motivator, mentor, and friend. Learning from her has shaped me tremendously as a person and coach. She is an extremely caring individual who always puts her program first. Her passion for golf is unsurpassed, and she truly provides the best possible experience for student-athletes.” — Naree Song, Harvard women’s golf associate head coach

“Saturday morning during the loading of buses on SPARC Day [Rollins’ annual day of service for all incoming students], Julie noticed that a student didn't have the required closed-toed shoes for her community-service project. Not missing a beat, Julie literally gave the student the shoes off her feet! Julie consistently goes above and beyond for students across campus, and this is just one more selfless way she continues to find ways to do good. Not to mention that Julie didn't slow down during her morning volunteer shift of loading the buses and cheering on the students while working in the parking lot in her bare feet. That energy, thoughtfulness, and kindness embody the type of coach and person Julie is.” — Steve Booker, Rollins’ associate vice president and director of financial aid

“At Rollins, the golf team is so special, and it’s all built around Coach Julie. I didn’t really know about Rollins until I went to BurgerFi with my sister who was getting tutored at Rollins. I was about to go visit other schools but sent an email to Coach Julie, met with her the next day, and after our two-hour meeting, I was sold. Most coaches want you to focus on just golf; she wants you to improve in all aspects of your life.” — Madison Lellyo ’18, member of the 2016 national championship team

“Here’s to thanking my second mother for all she has done for me, both on and off the golf course. Although the workouts you made me go through have been hard, your constant motivation and encouragement has pushed me to heights I never thought would be possible!” — Seher Atwal ’20, current student-athlete

“I can’t begin to express how excited I am for Julie to be recognized by the WGCA with this prestigious honor. Rollins advertised it had a women’s golf team in the ’60s. Four of us arrived as freshmen in 1965 because of that fact only to find it was a club team. Under Janie Blalock’s leadership we formed a team and played in tournaments as the Rollins College women’s golf team. We dreamed of the day when we would be treated like the women’s tennis team, and Julie has made our dream a reality by building a program we are all so proud of. Her dedication, hard work, perfectionist attitude, and total unselfishness when it comes to the team, including midnight trips to Walmart to reload the snack supply, have brought national championships and a record to be admired by all coaches. Every Tar is beaming with pride.” — Preston Crow ’69, former student-athlete and longtime donor

“Coach Julie Garner has been a key figure in my life for the last 20 years. She believed in me from the early days when other coaches did not. She’s the type of person you want to win for, and boy did we ever. She’s truly an amazing coach and friend, but a better person. I am so honored to have gotten to play for Julie and am proud to have represented her and Rollins in a record-setting way.” — Charlotte Campbell Daughan ’06, four-time NCAA individual national champion, WGCA Player of the Year 2003-2006

“Julie co-taught and helped develop the first-ever Sports Analytics class at Rollins. She always joked that her role was to serve as the color commentator, but she provided invaluable feedback to students as they developed and carried out their consulting projects for different sports teams on campus.” — Alice Davidson, Rollins associate professor of psychology

“By giving me the chance to play on her team, Coach Julie gave me the most formative years of my life, and for that I’m forever grateful. I went to Rollins not only for the opportunity to learn from great professors, but to play under a coach who molds young women into national champions and, more importantly, all-around good people. She was a friend when she needed to be, a mentor for golf and life, and she helped me become a better version of myself. Even now, I still call Coach when I’m in a pickle.” — Hally Leadbetter ’16, member of the 2016 national championship team

“Winning a National Championship is by far the greatest moment of my life, but it’s not the rounds that I remember or holding the trophy at the end of a tough season. It’s the memories of our postseason experience—the team singing songs from The Lizzie McGuire Movie on the way to our final round, seeing the Colorado Rockies play at Coors Field, jet skiing in Key Biscayne Bay after winning the conference championship surrounded by girls who had become my best friends. And none of it would’ve been possible without Coach. She is still the person I go to first for advice, and I know there is still so much I want to learn from her.” — Paige Lyle ’17, member of the 2016 national championship team

“As a recent college graduate, I am now immersed into the so-called reality of life working in New York City for a startup company. Not one day goes by where I don’t think of the life lessons Coach Julie Garner has taught me. Honestly, I would be nowhere near where I am today without her. She was not only my college golf coach, but she was a friend and a second mom to me. During Hurricane Matthew, she invited me and 10 of my friends to her house to hunker down for the storm. We watched movies and laughed—it was one of my favorite college memories. Coach was always there for me and taught me how to be a great human being and a great athlete.” — Lexie Toth ’18, member of the 2016 national championship team

A golf coaches instructs a pair of student-athletes.

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