The Augusta State University women's golf team just took off from ground zero.
The NCAA Division I team, which will field its first squad for the 2001-2002 season, will be coached by Auburn women's assistant golf coach Shannon Hanson, the university announced Wednesday.
"This is a historic moment for the university, for the golf community in Augusta and for women's golf," said Augusta State president Dr. William A. Bloodworth. "Our women's golf team is now a reality because dozens of people have worked to make it happen."
Hanson, 28, is a former All-SEC golfer from LSU (1993-96). She served as an LSU assistant from 1997-98 before going to Auburn, which finished sixth in the NCAA Championships in 2000.
"By far, she was the most qualified coach we interviewed," said Jay Seawell, the Augusta State director of golf. Seawell said he received resumes from as far away as Washington State.
"Shannon is very organized," Seawell said. "She came in (to the interview) with a plan of attack of how she wanted to run the team from day one to the ultimate goal of becoming a national power."
"We're excited about Shannon Hanson, who brings ability, knowledge, experience and great energy with her to Augusta and to this university," Bloodworth said.
"Without question, Shannon will do a tremendous job for the Augusta State golf program," said Auburn head women's coach Kim Evans.
Hanson's first order of business is recruiting. She hopes to sign the team's first player in November during the NCAA's early signing period for golf.
"I'm going to exhaust myself to find that 'A' player that we'll need to start the first year with," said Hanson, a native of Sulphur, La. "If we can find that one player, that will interest the other girls to come here and it will snowball."
"I knew this (selecting a women's golf coach) would be the most important decision I'd make as director of golf," said Seawell, who doubles as the Augusta State men's coach. "The coach is the backbone and lifeline of any team."
At Auburn, Hanson was involved in recruiting and has contacts throughout the country. She can take that knowledge to signing Augusta State golfers.
"She knows all the (top high school) golfers," Seawell said. "That was the main thing that set her apart. I think she's got a step up on recruiting."
"Since we don't have any players yet, my No. 1 recruiting tool is telling the girls `you will play; there will be spot for you in the lineup,"' Hanson said.
It was Bloodworth who brought up the idea of forming a women's golf program to athletic director Clint Bryant nearly five years ago.
"We took the idea to the (ASU) Athletic Committee and they said they would fully support it if the community would support for the first four or five years. Then the institution would take on the expense of doing that," Bryant said.
After a steering committee concluded that the community would support a women's team, the university started asking for funds in March of 2000. The amount received would determine if the team would become a reality.
"We needed $120,000 in support by this summer, in addition to the $40,000 to $50,000 of support we've been offered by the Augusta chapter of the Executive Women's Golf Association and the CSRA Women's Golf Association," Bloodworth said.
The response was overwhelming. Sixteen individuals or couples each donated $20,000 for the first four years of the program, a total of $320,000.
"The support surprised me, but I was really gratified by it," Bloodworth said. "It means we're doing something that's right here. I think our men's golf program has demonstrated what can be done. And people are supportive of the university."