Nov. 3, 2006
By Sean Carroll
Susan Holt is adjusting quite nicely to her new surroundings as the Notre Dame women's golf coach. That may seem a little strange to some since Holt recently made the move from Tampa, Fla., to South Bend, Ind., and it does not take a meteorologist to understand the climates of those two cities are not what one would consider to be similar. However, Holt's passion for the game, and her experience and belief in Notre Dame is bringing a new type of environment to the Fighting Irish program.
Holt comes to the Notre Dame from the University of South Florida, where she spent the past 13 seasons at the helm of the Bulls program. Leaving Florida for Indiana may not seem like a logical move for a person with her occupation. Holt however, does not view it that way. She feels the Notre Dame women's golf program has the pieces in place to excel and she wants to be leading the charge.
The commitment from the administration, combined with Holt's 16 years of coaching experience, has the Fighting Irish women's golf program staring down a bright future. In order to achieve success Holt believes that all the pieces have to fit together.
"Over the years for me it's always been about trying to find the right fit, not only athletically but academically, personality, coach-ability and trying to bring those right kinds of people into the fold," says Holt. "I just try to create an atmosphere that is going to be positive and allow for them to excel and provide them with every possible opportunity to be successful and that's what brought me here. I really felt like it was a pretty special place. The commitment level here for the golf program is amazing. It impressed me to the point where it made me leave the sunny south."
One of the pieces that attracted Holt to the position is the new state-of-the-art Robert and Marilyn Rolfs Family All-Season Varsity Golf Facility, which opened in late September. The coaching veteran has seen a lot of facilities in her day and feels this one takes the cake.
"I was talking to the team recently about the new facility and I was saying that they have to realize that they are the exception," comments Holt. "The commitment level that has been made to the (men's and women's) golf programs is amazing. They need to treat this building in that same way and take care of it and leave it the way they found it for the people that follow them can have the same experience."
The building, which is used by both the Notre Dame men's and women's varsity teams, features a 5,000-square foot indoor short game area, that includes a putting green, chip and pitch area along with a practice bunker will allow the student-athletes the ability to practice their short game year-round on campus. One of the nicest features of the facility are the six hitting stations that are located within the building that lead out to the Warren Golf Course driving range, allowing players to work on their swings in all weather conditions. Incorporated within the stations is state-of-the-art video equipment to give players and coaches instant feedback on players' swing techniques.
"We don't have to miss practice anymore because of the weather," states Holt. "It's awesome. It's as good as I thought it would be. We're not missing a beat with all of the schools in the South or anywhere else in the country. We are still afforded the opportunity to practice every day and get better. Plus, it's a great work environment. Both teams are coming and going and it creates a positive atmosphere. The camaraderie between the teams has been fun to see."
The new indoor golf facility was just one aspect that led Holt to Notre Dame. The Warren Golf Course, which opened in 2000, was another attractive feature for her. The course is located on the northeast corner of the University's campus and was rated as one of the top 15 college courses in the nation according to the September 2005 issue of Golf Digest.
The Irish are already reaping the rewards of having top-notch facilities when it comes to recruiting. Bringing in top-level talent is a major focus for Holt, yet she feels that the student-athletes are already in place for the Fighting Irish to be successful.
Holt is no stranger to success as she directed the South Florida program to 16 team titles and 17 runner-up titles, including five of 10 Conference USA Championships. She guided the team and/or individuals to 11 NCAA Regional appearances and two consecutive trips to the NCAA Championship Finals in 2001 and 2002.
The Dayton, Ohio native was recognized as Conference USA Coach of the Year in 1996, 1999 and 2001. In the spring of 2005, Holt was named Conference USA Coach of the Decade for women's golf (1995-2005). Under Holt's watch, South Florida players have been named to the Conference USA All-Conference Team 23 times. Current LPGA player and South Florida graduate Kelly Lagedrost was named Conference USA Player of the Year in 2001.
Meshing academics and athletics is something very important to Holt. Her South Florida teams graduated 50 of 52 student-athletes during her tenure there. Eighteen times players have been named to the National Golf Coaches Association All-Scholar Golf Team (3.5 grade-point average and play in 66 percent of events) and 18 times have earned the Conference USA Commissioners Academic Medal (minimum 3.75 GPA).
Being a head coach at the collegiate level takes on added responsibilities as you oversee the growth of your student-athletes. Holt knows the relationship between college mentor and pupil is not just a four-year contract, it's a lifetime commitment.
"You don't always get a 'thank you' from them along the way, but a couple years down the road they'll call you back," says Holt. "They might send you a Christmas card or stop in as they're passing through town and you get that 'thank you for everything you did' and it means a lot. They say it finally clicked with them; that part of the job is neat and rewarding. They are all here first and foremost to get their degree. I've been fortunate to have players who had positive experiences and were very appreciative for the opportunities that they had."
Those opportunities for Holt began when she was just 23 years-old and one year removed from her playing days at Ohio State. While working as a club professional in Ipswich, Mass., she was tabbed to become the next head coach at Purdue, where she stayed from 1990-93. It was an eye-opening experience for someone of that age, yet her time and success with the Boilermakers led her to South Florida.
"I applied (at South Florida), got an interview and once again was very fortunate to have that opportunity," states Holt. "I had a great experience at South Florida. It was a growing experience for me both personally and professionally. All the positives that happened within the golf program during the 13 years that I was there afforded me the opportunity to come here to Notre Dame."
Throughout all of her years in coaching one of Holt's most significant mentors was her late father. Ron Stump introduced his daughter to the game of golf, yet he has not been around to share in her success on the coaching level. He passed away when Susan was just three days from her interview with Purdue.
"To this day, I'll be having decisions to make and I'll just think about what my Dad would have done," says Holt. "We had a really neat relationship and I'd say at age 23 I lost my best friend. We really had that connection with the game of golf."
Family is something that is very important to Holt. She admits that one of the few downsides to coaching is the travel and time away from her husband and two young sons. The time spent away from her actual family is now time spent with her new Notre Dame family and it looks to be a happy marriage.
"It's just a really great group of young ladies and I feel very fortunate," comments Holt. "People always say that you're going to think the grass is always going to be greener on the other side and then you get some place and realize that isn't the case. I don't have that feeling here."