Coaches Coffey, Morris Give Back To Golf
By Marc Hardin
When the sport of golf wins over its participants at an early age and becomes a part of life through the teenage and adult years, it's difficult to end the relationship even as life grows more complex. In life, duty calls, career paths are taken, family and parental responsibilities may change, and new joys can be right around the corner potentially threatening time for golf.
But, for some, the child-born love for the sport can endure despite life's unpredictability. That's where Linda Coffey and Marianne Morris find themselves in the relationship. They love golf, so much so that they can't escape it. Given the hopeless task of leaving the sport, they have decided to leave a mark on it instead, in part by coaching at the high school level. Coffey, who started with golf at age 9, coaches the Lakota West girls' golf team. Morris, who began golfing as an 8-year-old, coaches the girls at Little Miami.
"I enjoy working with the girls," Morris said. "They crack me up."
Coffey echoed some of the same sentiments.
"I have so much fun with these girls, and I love competition," said Coffey, who played in her first Greater Cincinnati Junior Metropolitan when she was 10. She competed in her first Women's Metropolitan at age 13 on the way to a successful career at the University of Cincinnati where she was named team MVP.
Coffey has coached at Lakota West since 2011. She guided the girls to a third-place finish this year in the ultra-competitive Greater Miami Conference. She was the Lakota East junior varsity coach the previous eight years. In that time, she has developed an appreciation for the development of the game as seen through the prism of coaching experiences.
"I coach and I work with these girls, and I can't believe they hit it that far. Just the dedication they have and so many opportunities now," said Coffey, who can be pardoned for feeling envious. She was a member of the Colerain High School boys' golf team in the late 1970s, but was denied a chance to travel to the state tournament one year due to lack of female accommodations.
Inspired by her love for the game, she soldiered on well into her adult years as a solid amateur even after entering the work force at a high level. She's won every flight but the championship flight at the Women's Metropolitan. She estimates to have played in 44 Women's Mets. "I think I've missed two," Coffey said. "I had a baby one year and one year I played the National Publinx."
That many years at the Met defies comprehension, especially when you consider that Coffey graduated from Cincinnati with a degree in chemistry and is currently Director of Research and Development at Eagle Chemicals. She's been there almost seven years. Before that, she was a scientist at Proctor & Gamble Co. working in the fabric and home care innovation division, and a research and development manager for 29 years at Johnson Diversey.
"When you work and have kids, you just don't have as much time for golf," Coffey said in a bit of an understatement.
Even so, she's made time for golf. Coffey not only plays and coaches, she's been involved in an administrative capacity both as president of the Ladies Golf League at Hamilton Elks Country Club and as a member of the GCWGA executive board.
Morris, by contrast, has made a living virtually entirely through her association with golf, first as an LPGA tour member and as a PGA pro, most recently as an eight-year assistant at Mason Golf Center, formerly Golf Center at Kings Island.
Like Coffey, Morris was good at golf from the get-go. She won the 1986 Women's Metropolitan on the second try. She was a tournament winner in college at South Carolina. She bagged a Futures Tour win as a young professional. Morris enjoyed a runner-up finish on the LPGA Tour at the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic and third at the McDonald's LPGA Championship. In 1995-96 she posted 11 top-10 finishes on tour en route to career earnings totaling near $1 million.
Morris is a golf survivor who at the same time has helped the sport survive in unexpected corners. She has endured personal tragedy with the loss of her older brother, a one-time Cincinnati golf pro, in 1999. He was murdered at age 39. She has turned a team tragedy into an inspirational story by taking on the Little Miami girls' coaching job following the death of the team's coach. When she was approached by the school, she understood too well what it feels like to lose someone you love.
"All of those girls (at Little Miami) really like golf," said Morris, who prepped and won city championships in Middletown. "How can you tell them no."
Despite very long odds, Morris said yes to becoming the new head coach. "I had no intention of coaching. They actually contacted me," she said. "I decided I'd do it for a year and see how it goes."
One year turned into two with Morris at the helm again this year. She's slated to return in 2017. Little Miami will graduate five seniors, leaving three varsity golfers behind. "I need four to play as a team. But really, I need more than that in case somebody can't play." said Morris. Toward that endeavor, she's talking it up in the hallways at the high school and trying to drum up interest at the middle school. She recently took 30 high school and middle school students to the Mason Golf Center.
"Some never picked up a club in their life, said Morris, an LPGA pro for 16 years. "It's a lot of fun exposing kids to golf."
Try as she might, Morris could never part ways with the sport she loves. Now in her 43rd year in golf, she continues advocating for early introduction and writes golf tips for a local magazine in addition to undertaking duties both in Mason and at Little Miami, where she finds the levity to her liking.
"Coaching the girls is fun," Morris said. "They're in a good mood when we get to the match and they're in a good mood after the match. How can you not like that."
(First in a two-part series on GCWGA members among the high school coaching ranks)