Mocs’ On Track For NCAA Championship

When you’re a mid-size college golf program making the NCAA Championship is a big deal. When your team is less than two seasons old and comprised entirely of freshmen and sophomores, that achievement becomes a whole lot more impressive.

Two seasons ago Colette Murray was named head coach of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga women’s golf program, a program that was discontinued in the mid-1980’s due to a lack of funding and support. Starting from scratch with Murray at the helm the program has grown in leaps and bounds in its first two seasons, faster than even those close to the program could imagine. In 2007/8 the Lady Mocs left Chattanooga in a team van to travel to Jacksonville State University in Alabama (Murray’s Alma Mata) to play their first tournament in close to 20 years. The five first-year players promptly went out and won the Chris Bannister Gamecock Classic hosted by Jacksonville State by 27 shots. As if that result wasn’t impressive enough, it was quickly overshadowed by the next two results, both wins at Elon and Iowa St.  Before the season was over Murray’s squad of freshmen had won four times and barely missed out on post-season play, a late-season slump costing them a spot at the 2008 East Regional Championship.

The Lady Mocs were rewarded for their astounding first season with invitations to some of the top tournaments in the country this season. A stronger schedule has led to less wins (only two on the season), however playing the best teams in college golf week after week has allowed Chattanooga to feel comfortable at the top, and an extra year of experience has proven invaluable to the players themselves.

In their first trip to the East Regional two weeks ago the UTC shot a final round 320, edging out Georgia State and Washington to secure the 8th and final spot in the NCAA Championship Tournament. It was an accomplishment even the Lady Moc’s coach could not fathom fully.

“Our schedule this year was designed to prepare us for nationals. It will not be an easy task, but we will compete and see what happens.” Murray said last week following her team’s qualification. “We were not just happy to qualify I assure you. Getting to Regional was a great first step, but we were not satisfied just to get that far. I am so proud of the effort we displayed in Columbus. It is a bit of a whirlwind.”

Australian native Emma de Groot has been the Lady Mocs’ go-to player in their first two seasons. de Groot has posted some impressive numbers both as a freshman and a sophomore in college golf. In 23 career tournaments she has posted 13 top 10 finishes and 16 in the top 20. This season her good play was rewarded when she was named in the All-Southern Conference team for the second time, posting a 75.87 career scoring average to go along with her four career individual titles. Last season she competed at the East Regionals as an individual, earning an impressive T17 .

Murray’s other sophomore, Austrian Christine Wolf shot the low round of the day for her team in the 3rd round at the East Regionals, showing patience and poise in the gusty conditions, she ground out a 78 and tie with teammate de Groot for 40th place. Wolf posted a 77.55 scoring average in her second season and despite her youth is one of the more experienced players on the team.

The rest of the Lady Mocs NCAA Championship squad is comprised of freshmen with extensive international playing resumes. In fact, noted online publication Golfweek recently produced an article on Murray’s team of foreign stars. The article went so far as to call Chattanooga’s meteoric rise, “an incredibly impressive feat at an unheralded school like Chattanooga.” It went onto praise Murray’s recruiting process and her ability to “harvest diamonds” from foreign soil.

Moa Duf is first year player who arrived in Chattanooga in January 2009 and wasted no time making an impact on the Lady Moc roster. Duf comes direct from the Swedish national program that has produced the likes of Annkia Sorenstam. She posted a 78.53 scoring average in her half-season with a best finish of 5th at the JMU/Eagle Landing Invitational. The final two members of Murray’s squad are her South American connection. Maria Juliana Loza comes from Columbia has been a solid performer her first season, posting a 77.71 scoring average with a best finish of T6, one shot behind teammate Duf at the JMU/Eagle Landing Invitational. Southern Conference Freshman of the Year Maria Salinas from Peru rounds out the side. Salinas put up the second-best scoring average on the team, a 76.13 stoke average that included five rounds of par or better, including a team-low 72 at the East Regional. She produced a team-high 5 top 10s and was named to the All-Conference and All-Freshman teams.

Despite the rise and rise of the UTC program, youth and inexperience are a fact of life as Chattanooga trys to continue their fairytale post-season run at the NCAA Championships at Caves Valley Golf in Owings Mills, Maryland this week. So far this season’s East Regional is the only event outside the regular season the team has competed in as a whole. But Chattanooga has done nothing if not surprised a lot of people in their first two years on the scene. Golfweek, in an NCAA Championship preview gave UTC the “Congrats on making it” award. Quietly, Murray believes her team may be doing more than just “showing up” at Caves Valley.


“We played a (strong) schedule like we did so we could be prepared for this level.” she said. “We have 5 good players and you never know what can happen when a group like ours comes together.”

Murray and Chattanooga seem to be building a reputation on understatement. Count on them making some noise in the very near future.

Follow Chattanooga and all the scores from the 2009 NCAA Women’s Golf Championships at

One Response to “Mocs’ On Track For NCAA Championship”

  1. Rob de Groot says:


    You write a great article Nick, keep up the good work and Go Mocs.


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