Originally created 08/25/06

Coble finds what she's looking for

You never know when the inspiration to make a life-altering decision will come.

It might hit you sitting in rush-hour traffic. It might sink in during a walk along the beach. It might become clear in a church pew.

For Laura Coble, the moment came in a local store as she was buying a dress to attend her cousin's funeral.

"I had a light go on in my head," Coble said of the sudden realization that she wanted to be Augusta State's new women's golf coach.

What turned on the switch was a conversation with the woman at the register whom she'd known for years. The woman's son, Ben Taylor, had been an art student at St. Mary on the Hill of Amy Lovering Roberts, Coble's cousin who had just died from breast cancer at age 35.

Taylor had been inspired by an art project Roberts had encouraged him to do despite his misgivings. The project ended up winning a class award. Then an overall school award. Then a regional school award.

"I will never forget the impression it made on Ben the way she encouraged him to stick to it," Ben's mother told Coble.

That's when that light went on for Coble. Suddenly she realized that the job she had previously expressed no interest in was now exactly what she desired.

"I want to do that," she thought. "I want to make that kind of difference on some young person's life."

She took the idea home to her husband, Rusty, and 12-year-old daughter, Katherine.

"I told her, 'Don't make a decision based on emotion.' " Rusty Coble said. "She thought about (it) and decided that's what she wanted to do. She jumped right in."

Two weeks after her cousin's funeral and just a day before her father-in-law died from cancer as well, Coble was introduced as Augusta State's third women's golf coach in the six-year history of the program. It was the perfect choice, considering Coble has been a big part of the Jaguars team since helping get it started on the formulating committee. She'd been an advisor and part-time volunteer assistant for each of her predecessors - Shannon Hanson and Trelle McCombs.

"She was the first person I called," said Josh Gregory, Augusta State's men's coach and director of golf.

That first call hadn't been greeted by the same response. Coble's life was already pretty full with her insurance business and various golf organization posts. She initially told Gregory that she didn't have time in her cluttered life to add head coach of a Division I golf program to the daily to-do list.

"It was an honest answer," she said.

So is her new answer when she talks about the new position she's held for all of two weeks.

"I think I've gained more from being around those kids than they gained (by hiring me)," she said. "It's been a pleasant, positive change for me to be part of a university and a support group as opposed to being on my own."

It's certainly nothing like being an independent insurance agent. Nearly 20 years since getting her degree from Augusta State, after spending three seasons playing golf at Georgia, Coble is learning a whole new trade. There are rules and regulations to get used to in a short window.

"Its busy ... but all good, though," she said. "The learning curve that will be the greatest for me is recruiting and the rules and regulations."

She's now responsible for seven young women from as close as Augusta and Evans to as far away as Canada, Belgium, Spain and Sweden. She has to make sure they've enrolled in the proper classes and turned on the utilities in their apartments. It's an on-call job 24/7.

And so far she loves it.

"To coach them, be a friend and mentor to them at such an important, impressionable time of their lives," Coble said. "I just think it's a real privilege."

If anyone had called but Augusta State, Coble wouldn't have considered it. She's always lived here and she doesn't want to live anywhere else. Whether this is the last job she'll ever have or the last place she'll live is less certain.

"Five years ago I never thought I'd be here," she said. "I've learned never to say never."

For now, Augusta's finest female amateur golfer envisions the kind of success for her team that she's used to realizing herself.

"I think it's probably come farther, faster than everybody thought it could," Coble said of a program that produced its first NCAA championship participant in its fifth season. "There's no limit to what they can achieve in my mind."

Now it's Coble's job to inspire and encourage and make a difference.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.


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