NCGA Golf

Summer 2019

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T he most underrated program in college golf can be found a little north of Pasatiempo and a little south of The Olympic Club. Big things are quietly happening at San Jose State University (SJSU), a onetime powerhouse that is stirring again. In 2019, it was one of only two schools outside of the Power 5 conferences to send both its men's and women's teams to the NCAA tournament. The pro- gram that birthed Ken Venturi had two all-conference players, but once again, the women are leading the way, claiming the player, coach and freshman of the year in the Mountain West Conference. With their young, talented roster, the lady Spartans are poised to be a force nationally, just as in the old days. There was a time when the SJSU's women's team was one of the Bay Area's most dominant franchises: from 1977-82, they won three national championships, led by future Hall of Famers Juli Inkster and Patty Sheehan. Now the program has gone back to the future, tapping two other star alumni to lead the way: Dana Dormann (class of '88) just completed her first year as head coach, having enlisted her onetime teammate Pat Hurst ('91) to serve as her assistant. Both are LPGA winners, with Dormann taking two titles and Hurst six, including the 1998 Dinah Shore (she also lost an 18-hole playoff to Annika Sorenstam at the '06 U.S. Women's Open). "Our coaching philosophy is that strong women come from here," says Dormann. "That's our guiding principle when we're making decisions for the program. We want the players to be in touch with our great history and help give them the support to create their own legacy." Dormann, 51, has devoted much of her life to the Spartans: beginning in 2005 she served as an assistant coach (and later associate head coach) to her husband John, who led the program for 13 years. With their sons William (24) and Jason (18) no longer underfoot, John was ready for another challenge, taking over as executive director of The First Tee Tri-Valley, based in Pleasanton. SJSU conducted a national search to find his successor but ultimately came back to a woman with unmatched Spartan pride. "This was something I've wanted to do for a very long time," says Dana. Hurst, 50, was Dormann's first choice to serve as an assistant, given their long friendship. After being a part of the 1987 national championship team, Dormann served as a volunteer assistant in '89, when Hurst was the individual NCAA champ in leading the Spartans to another team title. They traveled the LPGA Tour together and kept in close touch after their playing days ended. Over the last couple of years Hurst, an NCGA Hall of Famer, had been working as a loan officer. "I enjoyed helping people," she says, "but I missed being part of the golf world. To have the chance to work with these really impressive young women and make a difference in their lives and give something back to the game, it's been a lot of fun." On the recruiting trail Dormann and Hurst have a very seductive sales pitch: the best weather in the Bay Area; strong courses throughout the region; and degree programs that are a pipeline to Silicon Valley (recent players have taken on serious majors like industrial design.) Two years ago SJSU opened a 17-acre, state- of-the-art practice facility that is the equal to any in the country. "In our day," Hurst says, "we hit balls on the football field, soccer field, baseball field – wherever we could find grass. Then we had to shag them ourselves. What we have now, including the incredible short- game area, is a dream." It goes without saying that SJSU has a big built-in recruiting advantage with two LPGA winners serving as the coaches. They come at the game from different perspectives: Hurst was a power hitter, Dormann a crafty finesse player. Both have kept their games razor sharp competing in U.S. Senior Women's Opens and other big-time events. Last season, as they were reshap- ing the program in their images, they were too busy to regularly play alongside the team. "That's one of our goals for the upcoming season," Dormann says. "We want to get out and play with the girls more. We feel like that would be beneficial for them, to see how we play the game." In other words, school is back in session at San Jose State. Alan Shipnuck is a senior writer for Golf Magazine and columnist at Golf.com. He lives in Carmel. 20 SUMMER 2019 | NCGA.ORG O N T H E B E A T Spartan Revival BY ALAN SHIPNUCK SJSU women's golf head coach Dana Dormann and assistant Pat Hurst are both alumni and former LPGA Tour winners.

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