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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Family Matters

    Arizona junior golfer Alison Walshe has her eye on the ball as she gets ready to swing during practice at Oro Valley Country Club in September. Walshe is sad that Greg Allen wont be her head coach anymore, but is staying upbeat about the transition.
    Arizona junior golfer Alison Walshe has her eye on the ball as she gets ready to swing during practice at Oro Valley Country Club in September. Walshe is sad that Greg Allen won’t be her head coach anymore, but is staying upbeat about the transition.

    It’s hard to leave a place that you’ve called home for the past seven years. It’s even harder to turn down a chance to return to a place you called home for the first time.

    Greg Allen decided to leave his position as the Arizona women’s golf head coach July 3 to take the head coaching position at Vanderbilt. Shelly Haywood, a UA assistant the past three years, was announced as Allen’s successor yesterday.

    Located in Nashville, Tenn., Vanderbilt is just 90 miles from where Allen grew up in Beechmont, Ky. His wife, Julia, head swim coach at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy in Tucson, is from that area, as well.

    “”It was the hardest decision that my wife and I have ever had to make,”” Allen said, “”but we feel like we made it for all the right reasons, and that was because of our family. We just wanted to have peace with whatever decision we made, and obviously we have a lot of that now.””

    Allen, who graduated from Murray (Ky.) State in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, will have his work cut out for him in replacing Martha Richards.

    Richards, who led the Commodores to a sixth-place NCAA finish this past season, left Vanderbilt to become head coach at Texas, where Allen was an assistant from 1998-2000.

    Allen, who has two daughters, one son and another child due in January, said that his children were a major factor in his decision to leave.

    “”Just being able to get back into the part of the country that we both grew up in,”” he said, “”and having our kids being able to grow up around family members, was really, really important to us.

    “”When you can have grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins around, that’s important. Being able to see a grandparent on the weekend whenever we want is going to be pretty special.””

    But with that said, it didn’t make the process of leaving his team any easier. Allen called each of his players on the phone to break the news.

    “”We all cried,”” he said. “”There was a lot of crying that went on. That just shows you how much I really care about them. … If there’s anything that was easy about it, it was them accepting why I did it. They know that I’m a family kind of guy and that my kids and my wife are the most important things in my life.””

    As with many of his golfers, Allen and junior Alison

    His love for us was just as strong as his love for his family. That is what makes him such an amazing coach.

    – Mary Jacobs, junior golfer

    Walshe were close on and off the fairways, often playing basketball together in McKale

    Center. Still, she can’t blame him for the decision he made.

    “”It was hard to take, but I’m not going to hold a grudge,”” she said. “”It was a better situation for him and his family.””

    Walshe said she still talks about Allen on a regular basis and that he has made an everlasting impact on her life.

    “”I’ll miss his goofiness,”” she said with a laugh. “”He always made everyone laugh and feel really comfortable.””

    Walshe is just one of the nine All-Americans Allen has guided. He also coached Lorena Ochoa (2001-03), the current No. 1 LPGA Tour player, as well as current LPGA golfers Natalie Gulbis and Erica Blasberg.

    He coached Arizona to Pacific 10 Conference titles in his first two years and an NCAA second-place finish in 2002. He is also responsible for eight NCAA All-Scholars, 13 Academic All-Pac-10 student-athletes, three NCAA Players of the Year, two National Freshmen of the Year, three Pac-10 Players of the Year, two Curtis Cup selections and 21 All-Pac-10 performers.

    “”His love for us was just as strong as his love for his family,”” said junior Mary Jacobs. “”That is what makes him such an amazing coach.””

    Haywood steps up

    Haywood, 40, has been the assistant coach of the program for the past three seasons.

    Haywood graduated from New Mexico State in 1993, where she golfed in tournaments against the Wildcats. At the time, current heralded LPGA star Annika Sorenstam was a Wildcat.

    Little did Haywood know that she would one day be the head coach of the program she saw as a “”dynasty.””

    Haywood takes over a team that finished 14th in the NCAA Championships last season and will be returning all five starters, including Walshe and Jacobs.

    “”Shelly will do a great job filling in for me,”” said Allen, who strongly recommended Haywood for the head coaching position. “”There is no doubt in my mind.””

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