Aug 22, 2013
Lorne Don was named Tulane's head women's golf coach on July 12, 2013. He is the fifth head coach in the program's 24-year history. Since his hire, Don has been hot on the recruiting trail, but gave us some insight to his coaching philosophy and goals.
You've been an assistant coach the past 10 years at Michigan State. What attracted you to the job at Tulane?
LD: Tulane's success as a golf program and academic reputation were at the forefront of what attracted me to the university. After my wife and I had a chance to visit New Orleans we fell in love with the people, the campus and the city. If I was going to take a head coaching position, I wanted it to be somewhere that we could contend for the National Championship on a consistent basis and I believe that is possible here at Tulane.
Prior to accepting the head coaching position at Tulane, what were your thoughts on the Tulane women's golf program?
LD: I was fortunate to know the previous two coaches since the rebirth of the program in 2008, J.T. Horton and Andrew Pratt, and their dedication to women's collegiate golf. It was clear that they were able to recruit top level talent and compete immediately on the national stage. After meeting former women's coach and now Associate Athletic Director Sue Bower, I learned of her success and knew this was a place where as a coach you could build an elite program. The Green Wave finished tied for ninth at this past years NCAA Championship with my former team, Michigan State, so I knew they had the type of players that are ready to embrace the highest level of competition.
Who were some of your role models when you were a player and later on as a coach and who would you attribute to your success in the coaching ranks?
LD: As a player, Mark Hankins, who is now at Iowa, was my coach. He has done an amazing job wherever he has gone and I got to watch him build Michigan State into a Big Ten powerhouse.
How important is it for your program to be able to play on some of the finest golf courses in the nation year-round?
LD: We are so lucky to have such strong local support for our women's team and that starts with the courses we have access to. The Allstate Sugar Bowl is one of the premier college events in the country and we host that at English Turn, one of our home courses. We also play the TPC of Louisiana on a regular basis, home of the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Lakewood Golf Club, previous host to the New Orleans Open, has immaculate greens and is another one of our main playing and practice facilities. We also have a par 62 executive course, Audubon Park Golf Club, that is right at the bottom of campus and in great shape that will make for some fun practice days. There are several other courses in the area as well that the team will have a chance to play and that diversity only helps us in our goals of being one of the nation's elite teams.
What is your coaching philosophy both on and off the course?
LD: On the course, as coaches I believe we should be there for support. I will walk with players at their discretion but our team will be prepared before they step foot on the first tee with a game plan and if they are in the zone and ready to play, I would hate to interfere with that. If someone prefers to have a caddy (minus carrying the bag), then we will obviously do that to the best of our ability but with two coaches and five players, there are some limitations to that.
Off the course we will spend a large part of our time working from 100 yards and in. Also mental strategies, course management and maintenance range work will be included when we are in season.
What are your short and long-term goals for the Tulane women's golf program? You inherit a squad that finished No. 13 in the final rankings, earned a ninth-place finish at last year's national championships and returns four golfers. What is your approach this season with your team and how do you take them to the next level?
LD: In the short term I want to develop a rapport with the players and have them believe in what we are doing as a team. Linn Gustafsson, our Assistant Coach, has been an integral part of the transition and I am looking forward to working with her as well as the six players. This is obviously a very talented team, so there is no need to rock the boat, but rather integrate some new ideas and help the four returners to continue their improvement and start the two freshmen on the right path once they arrive on campus.
In the long term, as I have stated, I would like to build a program that contends for the National Championship on a yearly basis. We will recruit the top national and international players to find the next student-athletes to join the Green Wave family. Tulane and the city of New Orleans are a special place, so I am looking forward to recruiting young players who will fall in love as my wife and I did. The four returning players had a taste of what we are looking for last year and I know that they realized that the possibilities are there to return to that level and even do better.
What do you look for when you're recruiting a prospective student-athlete to your program?
LD: At Michigan State we looked at three criteria, Character, Grades and Talent. I believe that those three characteristics will carry over very well to what we are looking for in a student-athlete at Tulane University. When on the road recruiting, there is the baseline golf fundamentals and skill that we are looking for, but also how a player handles themselves is extremely important. You can learn a lot about someone from watching them play a round of golf. From the academic side of things, having a strong GPA is not only important for getting into school, but it also shows that the student-athlete is willing to work hard in all aspects of their life, and I believe that translates over to how they are going to work on the golf course and in practice.
The student-athletes at Tulane University have to balance a fine line of academic excellence and athletic prowess. Is that different for you compared to where you've been before?
LD: Academics were extremely important to us at Michigan State, so not really. I realize that the players here will take a slightly heavier course load but being a collegiate athlete is about time management, and that's what we are here for as a coaching staff, as well as our academic support services.
What is the most exciting thing about being the head women's golf coach at Tulane?
LD: I enjoyed being out on the road recruiting for a few weeks. I was proud to be wearing the Tulane colors. Everyone that I have had a chance to be involved with has been amazing and made my transition go very smoothly. I can't wait to get started with the team and am looking forward to our first tournament of the year, the Fall Preview.
How do you like New Orleans?
LD: Being from Toronto originally, I love the big city feel, and I am so excited to experience the festivals, food and fun that New Orleans has to offer. There is going to be so much for my family to do both within the University and in the city and I can't wait for that.