If building a program capable of competing for conference championships and earning berths in the NCAA Regionals is supposed to take time and patience, someone certainly forgot to mention that to University of Houston Women’s Golf Head Coach Gerrod Chadwell.
In less than three years, Chadwell has led the Cougars to a team tournament title, two regular-season individual crowns and a berth into the NCAA Regional in its first year of team eligibility.
Not that any of this is new to Chadwell, who came to Houston in the summer of 2013 and immediately went to work building the Cougars’ first women’s golf team. He joined the Cougars after a three-year stint with Oklahoma Women’s Golf, where he helped lead the Sooners to three NCAA Regionals, two NCAA Championships berths and a No. 2 national ranking in 2012-13.
It was obvious Chadwell knew the ingredients for a championship program with winning student-athletes — but building one up from the ground to compete so quickly?
“I have had a little time to think about what has transpired, and it’s absolutely crazy. It’s insane to think how fast this thing has moved,” Chadwell said with a chuckle. “I have to give credit to our University and Athletics administrators who have allowed us to move the program to this point. Nobody associated with the University could have prepared for this. It has been a perfect storm.”
As the leader of the young program, Chadwell would be the first person many would praise. However, he is quick to direct any praise to the group he credits most — his student-athletes.
“We have quality young women that play golf. It’s what they do. It’s not who they are.
They made a bold choice in choosing something that was not established, and they wanted to lay the foundation for a program. They wanted to learn and take a step away from easy street. That says everything about these young women,” Chadwell said. “These young ladies are out running in front of us, and (Assistant Coach) Lucy (Nunn) and I are trying to keep up with them.”
In 2013-14, the program’s first year, the Cougars competed with four young women — Raegan Bremer, Courtney Ferguson, Emily Gilbreth and Kelli Rollo — were not eligible for team championships at any events, per NCAA rules.
Team championships weren’t a possibility, but the Cougars could compete for individual titles. With a final-round 70 at the HBU Husky Invitational on April 1, 2014, Bremer earned medalist honors and etched her name in the Houston records book as the first individual women’s golf champion in school history.
All four women returned as team leaders for the 2014-15 season and were boosted by the addition of six newcomers. Eligible to compete for team titles and the NCAA postseason for the first time, Houston wasted little time in establishing itself, finishing among the top 5 team leaders in five of its first six tournaments.
In the second tournament, the Cougars posted their lowest team round in the final round, to win the UNF Collegiate at Jacksonville Golf & Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida, another first in school history.
The Cougars continued their stellar play for the rest of the 2014-15 season and celebrated when their name was called to compete at the NCAA San Antonio Regional, where they finished 13th in their NCAA postseason debut.
With the departure of senior Courtney Ferguson, the program’s first alumnus, the Cougars entered the 2015-16 season with continued plans for championships and postseason play. Facing some of the nation’s top collegiate teams against a grueling schedule, the Cougars enjoyed another historical highlight in late September. With the release of the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, they stood among the nation’s top-25 leaders for the first time, checking in at No. 15.
Despite all the success, Chadwell and his team aren’t resting on their laurels. They have bigger plans for the upcoming spring season with their eyes set on the 2016 NCAA Championships in Oregon.