July 11, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The rebuilding of the Marshall women’s golf program is starting 2,260 miles away from the Thundering Herd’s home.
Tiffany Prats, named Marshall’s new coach earlier this week, is back in a familiar place for her – southern California, where she was an assistant coach for two successful seasons at San Diego State.
“I’m in San Diego now,” Prats said by phone Thursday. “There are three really big junior tournaments here, and plenty of players I want to see. A lot of college coaches are here, too, and it’s good to make those connections and to let them know what we’re going to be doing in women’s golf at Marshall.
“I’m really excited about what we can do with the kind of support I’ve seen. I want to talk (to prospects) about coming to Marshall University, give them a chance to see what the program and the school have to offer. We have the facilities. We have everything you need to have success.”
Prats, 29, comes to the Herd after three seasons as assistant coach at Maryland, where she ran the Terps’ day-to-day operations and was the lead recruiter. That followed two years at San Diego State, where she was an assistant to former NCAA champion and LPGA player Emilee Klein-Gille, who was recently named head coach at Tulsa after a few years away from coaching.
“When I got to San Diego State we were ranked 89th in the country,” said Prats, who played at Miami (Fla.) and then headed to the LPGA Futures Tour and tours in Canada and Florida before moving into coaching. “When I left, we were 26th. The proof is when you have results.”
Prats said she wants to change the culture in a Herd program that last won a team title in October 2011 at the CSU Wendy’s Invitational in Charleston, S.C. – coincidentally Prats’ birthplace. Her family moved to Williston, Fla. – the Gainesville area -- when she was 6 months old.
“I think the big thing is to take the program to its full potential; that’s the goal,” Prats said. “Working with Emilee at San Diego State, we built the program and I learned a lot there -- and what it takes is hard work. I’m big on consistency and structure. That’s what’s needed.
“On the golf course, I focus on 120 yards and in. If I can help these women with their short games and they improve significantly from 120 in, we can be unstoppable. It’s about course management, too, and taking ownership of themselves and their games.
“You can’t treat every girl the same because not everyone is the same. I have the kind of personality where I can adapt to the individual player and work with them.
Prats expects to move to Huntington by Aug. 1 after spending time recruiting. She said she expects all of last year’s regulars to return except Rachel Thompson, who graduated after playing No. 1 in 2013-14. Thompson’s 2013-14 stroke average of 77.05 is a Herd single-season record.
“We have six scholarships total and I’m spending all of my time now trying to find two players for this fall,” Prats said. “Then, after I get there we’ll start working on recruiting for 2015, getting ready for this season and then scheduling for the future.”
Prats said the Herd’s fall schedule includes tournaments hosted by Illinois State, Penn State, East Carolina and Campbell. And she knows the MU athletic leadership wants women’s golf to play competitively in the revamped, 11-team Conference USA lineup.
“The big thing with me is that we all be on the same page,” Prats said. “It seems to me, just from what I’ve kind of figured out, that this is a group of girls craving some structure. Well, I’m the kind of person who is going to be hands on 100 percent of the time.
“I’d never ask them to do something I didn’t do or am not doing. I played the game they’ll be playing at the highest levels, so there’s no better person they can learn from. I’ll give them 1,000 percent if they want.
“If they are done working, then I’m done. If they want extra work, then I’m there, but it’s going to be up to them to take as much ownership in this as I do. If they’re there, I’m there to support them, because I think everyone there at Marshall will be there to support us.
“I’m anxious to get there. After being in the big cities for a while, it will be nice to get back to a college town, one where the university means so much. I’m really looking forward to being there and putting Marshall on the map in women’s golf.”
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Prats’ assistant coach will be new MU graduate assistant Brian Levi, the son of PGA Tour and Champions Tour veteran and 14-time winner Wayne Levi. The younger Levi, 26, is a former Florida Gulf Coast University golfer and 2010 graduate who played pro mini-tours in Florida for a few years.
The New Hartford, N.Y., native wanted to get his master’s in business and when the women’s golf spot opened, Levi was in contact with his former close buddy down the street when they were kids – Andrew Donovan, MU’s associate athletic director for compliance.
Levi has played in open events across the Northeast in recent years, in addition to caddying for his father on the Champions Tour.
“I’m looking forward to getting into coaching there at Marshall,” Levi said. “I play the game, but I think what else I bring is that I’ve gotten a lot of exposure to the game caddying for my dad over the last 10 years, watching how the top players in the world work their way around the course and figuring out how to shoot an OK round.
“I think because of that knowledge, I think I can help Tiffany bring a lot to Marshall golf. I’m really enthused about getting there and getting started.”