For Head Women’s Golf Coach Katie Futcher, the inaugural season of Emory’s newly christened team is less than a year away. In the meantime, she has travelled nationwide, aiming to connect with about 15 potential students every week. She has already visited Connecticut, Maine, California and Oregon to do so. This month alone she plans to travel to Washington, D.C., Chicago, Colorado and Washington to continue building a team for the Fall 2019 season.
In July, Emory announced Futcher as the head coach for the newly established women’s golf program, the first sports team added to Emory’s roster in 20 years.
Futcher joined Emory after a year on James Madison College’s (Mich.) golf coaching staff, where she served as an assistant and later interim head coach. She also spent one year as a volunteer coach at Pennsylvania State University, her alma mater. Futcher started coaching after a nine-year career in the LPGA.
The women’s golf team will begin its inaugural varsity season in Fall 2019. Futcher, who began working at Emory on July 23, has already begun the recruitment process.
Through recruiting across the nation, Futcher has found 30 potential athletes interested in the Women’s Golf team. However, none have committed to Emory at this time, she said.
She projects a team of eight to 10 varsity athletes, with six to eight incoming freshman, a spot for potential transfer students as well as students already enrolled at Emory depending on their skill level.
“Everybody that I’ve spent the day with has been a high school student,” Futcher said of her experience at Emory so far. “Because I’m also new to this school, I like to go to the information sessions as well. I like to walk around campus with them, just so I can become more familiar with the school as well.”
Futcher said personal conversations with recruits are important, but ensuring making sure that Emory is visible and that student athletes know Emory has a golf team — most importantly by competing in tournaments — have been crucial to spreading interest in the new team.
“I’ve had some [conversations], the gamut of … feedback [including], ‘Oh, Emory has a golf team?’ [and] ‘Wow, this is really cool, I’m going to apply,’ ” Futcher said. “Even by being visible, I’ve had several potential students reach out just because I was at an event.”
Futcher’s coaching and playing experience impressed Emory, according to Clyde Partin Senior Director of Athletics Michael Vienna.
“She’s been around golf for her whole life, [and has a] commitment to excellence and a true sense of passion for competition,” Vienna said.
Futcher, who played four years of Division I golf at Pennsylvania State University, said she plans to use her past experience as a student athlete to help her be a better golf coach.
“I understand and have all the same emotions that they did, or rather, do,” Futcher said. “I know this school is very academically rigorous, so I can very much relate to that, and certainly, I was in their shoes.”
Futcher said she still struggles to balance the overwhelming student interest with producing a competitive team.
“We’re trying to look for student athletes that have some experience, but also, results aren’t everything,” Futcher said. “I’m also looking for intangibles that players would bring to the team, the team atmosphere, the team culture. I love students who are inquisitive, who like to work hard.”
Futcher said coaches by nature are competitive, and she certainly wants to win a national championship. She said she is confident Emory can attract talented student athletes and produce national championship teams.
“Results sometimes are not within our control,” Futcher said. “I would really like our focus to be on the things that we can control. If we do a really good job at focusing on our preparation, our attention to detail, our attitude, the energy we bring to practice, our work ethic — those are all things we can control.
Vienna said the Emory Athletics Department has given Futcher its full support.
“What we hope and expect [is] that our women’s golf program will quickly fall in line with the rest of our varsity athletics program in terms of how strong our students compete academically as well as athletically,” Vienna said.
The coach said she relishes the opportunity to shape the women’s golf team from scratch.
“Ultimately it came down to [realizing that] I get to build a program,” Futcher said. “I get to set the culture, I get to pick the team and I get to be part of a great university that has a long standing tradition of academic and athletic excellence. For me, it was perfect.”
UPDATE (9/6/18 9:49 p.m.): An earlier version of this article was not posted in its entirety. The rest of the article has been added.