Originally created 07/15/06

Lady Jags suffer another blow



On the first day of May, Augusta State's women's golfers huddled in athletic director's Clint Bryant's office to confirm the pinnacle moment of the program.

By conference call, the team learned it had qualified for postseason play for the first time in the team's five-year existence. The players raised their arms.

Now two months later, the euphoric moment seems so long ago.

Augusta State's long summer continued Friday when head coach Trelle McCombs resigned to take the same position at Tulsa University. She became the third person to leave the golf program within the past two months.

The 30-year-old McCombs stepped down after a three-year run when she led the Lady Jaguars from obscurity to national prominence. Two seasons ago, she guided the program to its first-ever tournament win.

Last season, she helped lead Augusta State to a school record five tournament victories. The Lady Jaguars won four events in a row, grabbed their first NCAA regional berth and ended the season 32nd in the final Golfweek poll - eight spots ahead of Tulsa.

"It was a tough decision, because we have so much momentum going here, but I have to look at the big picture. This is best not only for my career, but for my family," said McCombs, whose husband, John, is an Oklahoma native.

McCombs' departure comes on the heels of three-time winner Garrett Phillips' transfer to Georgia. Also, Lauren Smith, the first Lady Jaguar to advance to the NCAA Championships in May, graduated.

"We've had a tough of couple of months with certain people leaving," senior Amanda Smith said. "We have a good group of girls coming back. We'll be OK."

Augusta State men's golf coach and director of golf Josh Gregory is heading up the search for a new coach. He said he'd like to fill the position by Aug. 1 since school begins three weeks later. Gregory said he'll begin contacting three or four people on his short list next week.

"We've got a great thing going," he said. "The program's heading in the right direction. I think someone's going to walk into a great opportunity.

"She's put the program on the map. To get the team to the first NCAA regional, to win five tournaments, it's been a fantastic year. She's laid a great foundation for the next coach."

McCombs officially begins her new job Monday, when she begins recruiting at the U.S. Girls Junior Championship in Charlotte, N.C. She said she'll arrive on campus by Aug. 1.

McCombs takes over for Holley Hair, who led the Lady Hurricanes to Western Athletic Conference titles from 2002-04.

Tulsa won NCAA Championships in 1982 and '88, along with Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women titles in '80 and '82.

The program has produced LPGA stars such as Nancy Lopez, Kelly Robbins and Stacy Prammanasudh.

The Lady Hurricanes had two top-five finishes in 10 events last season.

They finished 13th in the NCAA Central Regional and failed to advance to the NCAA Championships.

"If you put it all together, they want to win a national championship there," McCombs said.

"Not that Augusta State does not. But they have the history and tradition. They just need (the program) steered in the right direction."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.



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