July 16, 2002
TEMPE, Ariz. - Tulsa head coach Melissa McNamara has been hired as the sixth head coach of the Sun Devil women's golf program, Arizona State athletics director Gene Smith announced Tuesday.
McNamara comes to ASU after spending the past two seasons as the head women's golf coach at her alma mater, the University of Tulsa. McNamara, a former four-time All-American for the Golden Hurricane, succeeded her mother, Dale, who retired in 2000 following a 26-year career that saw her Tulsa teams win four national championships.
"When my fianc?, Mark, and I came to visit, the day we had, the total package at Arizona State knocked our socks off. We see it as a great opportunity to be in the No. 1 coach's job in the country," McNamara said.
In her two seasons as Tulsa's head coach, the younger McNamara led her team to seven tournament titles including back-to-back Western Athletic Conference and NCAA Central Regional championships in each year. The 2001-02 season saw her team win five tournaments, including the 2002 PING/ASU Championship at Karsten Golf Course, earn a No. 3 national ranking for most of the season and finish 12th at the 2002 NCAA Championships. McNamara was named the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in each of her two seasons and was the 2002 Central Regional Coach of the Year.
"We are very excited about Melissa coming to ASU," said former ASU head coach Linda Vollstedt, a five-time National Coach of the Year who led her team to six NCAA titles. "Melissa was a great college player and a great LPGA Tour player, and she is a great coach. Her mother, Dale, is the First Lady of women's college golf, a real pioneer among women coaches. She has passed that championship legacy onto her daughter, Melissa. Dale McNamara was my mentor when I first started coaching, and it will be fun to be Melissa's mentor."
McNamara played collegiate golf at the University of Tulsa (1984-88) where she was a four-time All-American, earning first-team honors as a senior, second-team honors as a sophomore and junior and honorable-mention accolades as a freshman. She won medalist honors in four tournaments, including just the second event of her collegiate career, and finished in the top 10 in 22 of 41 career events. She capped off a stellar collegiate career by capturing a two-stroke individual victory at the 1988 NCAA Championship and leading the Golden Hurricanes to the national team title.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in marketing from Tulsa in 1988, McNamara competed on the Futures and the Ladies European Tours in 1988 and 1989 before qualifying for the LPGA Tour in October of 1989. She spent 11 years on the LPGA Tour, winning the 1991 Stratton Mountain LPGA Classic and teaming with Mike Springer to win the 1993 JCPenney Classic. She was also elected to the LPGA Executive Committee in her final two years on the tour and is currently a non-exempt member of the LPGA.
Prior to entering college, McNamara was a three-time Oklahoma state high school champion and American Junior Golf Association All-American (1982-84). In 1983, she was named the AJGA Player of the Year.
McNamara was inducted into the National Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1998 and the University of Tulsa Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.
McNamara, 36, is engaged to Mark Luellen of Tulsa with a small wedding planned for December in Arizona.
"It's difficult to leave Tulsa for a number of reasons with my family ties, being a player here and having my mom coach there for so many years," McNamara said. "The helm at Tulsa has always been held by a McNamara, so it will be a big change for the golf program at Tulsa, but it will continue and I am very proud of that. At the same time I think that I can do great things at Arizona State. The opportunities for a coach and a player are unmatched at ASU. It's all very exciting."
"We are ecstatic that Melissa McNamara has decided to join the Sun Devil family. She is already an established coach and will add a great deal to the quality of the Arizona State women's golf program," said Don Bocchi, Arizona State's associate athletic director who led the search committee. "Melissa has the backing of two of the finest women's golf coaches in America in Linda Vollstedt and Dale McNamara and is of the same mettle as the outstanding group of coaches that we already have in place at Arizona State.
"When you make a hire, you want to know that the person has the type of leadership and skills that will allow your student-athletes to live out their dreams, and we have done that. I am happy for our current and future players because I think they will walk away from ASU at the end of their careers very pleased that they played for someone like Melissa McNamara."
"I remember when Linda came on as a brand new coach, I took her under my wing. She has watched Melissa grow up and play and become a coach, so I guess what goes around comes around," Dale McNamara said. "My husband and I am so terribly proud of our daughter and the fact that our program here at Tulsa brought her along and she would be wanted by ASU, which I have always considered a top program. We're very excited and thrilled that she has this opportunity."