Sept. 9, 2010
Catching Up with Judi Pavon
Lady Vol head golf coach Judi Pavon recently sat down with UTLadyVols.com to discuss the upcoming season. Now in her 11th year at the helm of the Big Orange, Pavon holds Tennessee women's golf coaching records for tournament titles (13) and head-to-head wins (1,177). With four of their five players returning from the NCAA Championships squad, including All-American Nathalie Mansson, the Lady Vols are striving for better finishes at the conference and national tournaments in 2010-11. The 12th-ranked Big Orange squad kicks off the season at the Fall Preview in College Station, Texas, from Sept. 13-15. Below is a transcript of the interview with Pavon accompanied by a short video with the head coach.
Heading into your 11th season, you've been at the helm of the Lady Vol golf program for a decade now. You've been to seven NCAA Championships, won 13 tournaments and had Lady Vols earn 14 All-America awards. Sounds like a very successful decade - would you agree? "Yes, but we haven't quite achieved everything I've hoped to achieve. I really feel like we have had some good opportunities to win some SEC Championships in the last ten years and we have not managed to finish that off. It's been successful, but I'd like to take us to a new level and reach some of those ultimate goals - like winning the conference title and placing in the top-five at NCAA's - in the next few years."
You've always had lots of success at NCAA Regional tournaments - winning two and placing high most years, including runner-up last season. Was last year's finish especially exciting after a disappointing placement at the SEC Championship (ninth)? "Yes, that was terrific that the girls really bounced back and got refocused. I think that going into the SEC's they knew they wanted to play so well. I don't think it was a lack of pride or preparation. I think it was just not knowing what to do with all the enthusiasm they had. But I was very pleased with Regionals. We really should have won. We lost by a shot. We had a double recorded on the last hole that hurt us. Obviously, a top finish at Regionals is terrific, but the main thing is to advance through and I think that we are starting to learn how to handle that pressure and meet that goal."
Junior Nathalie Mansson is expected to be at the top of the lineup this year. She had one of the best seasons statistically in Lady Vol history last year and earned Second Team All-America honors. What are your goals for her this season? "Natalie is ultra competitive. College golf is a step in her career that she intends to continue past college. I know that she will be working hard, performing well. Again, I don't expect any blip in the road from her. Hopefully, she will win a more major tournament, as well. She got the two wins last year and the Mercedes-Benz victory was against a very good field."
You have two seniors on the squad this year, Lauren Spurlock and Rebecca Watson. Can you talk about what they mean to the program? "They have both been just fantastic Lady Vols. They have been great leaders for us, both on and off the golf course. They are just really good people. For Lauren, she got a new swing coach over the summer and really did dedicate herself to improving her game so I am excited to see how she comes in. She is very competitive. I hope that her physical skills will match up to her competitiveness so that she can have a super great senior season. As for Rebecca, she had the opportunity to make the Asia trip over the summer with a college all-star team which I think gave her some renewed vigor and energy for golf. She really enjoyed it. It was a solid golf trip so she got a lot of good work done on her game. I know that she wants to contribute and participate her senior year. I am looking for her to be really competitive this season."
With eight talented players on the team this year, how will you go about setting the five-person lineup for each tournament? "Qualifying is going to be really competitive this year. I could not predict our lineup for the first tournament right now at all. I am excited about it. I expect us to have a lot of qualifying throughout the season to determine the lineup. I won't be picking players. They will be either earning exemptions or playing in qualifying. So I think it will be on their shoulders and they will know what's expected and what to do to be on the lineup."
The Lady Vols have another competitive schedule lined up this year which includes some new tournaments. What are your thoughts on the 2010-11 slate? "We have a really tough schedule this year. We're really thankful and excited to be playing at the Fall Preview to start the season in College Station, Texas. I think missing the Fall Preview in the last two years, but making it to the NCAA Championships has been great but it hurts us when we get there. We are really going to use this as an opportunity to see what that championship course is like and to compete against the best teams. We will also be comfortable with the town. It is a tough tournament right out of the gate. We will need to be ready to play. The next tournament, the Golfweek Conference Challenge, is in Vail, Co. I have never been to Vail, so I am excited about that and our team will be excited about the venue. It's a conference challenge, so there will be one team from many different conferences. I think it is an event that we can step up and play some good golf, and try and get a top finish there. We have the SEC/PAC-10 Challenge at the end of the fall. Every team from the Pac-10 and the SEC is going to be there, so that is going to be a ridiculously tough field. That is going to be the hardest field probably of the year besides the National Championships. So we definitely need to bring our best golf by the end of the fall. We hope the SEC will prevail overall against the Pac-10. Both conferences have some really good teams - that is going to be a super great event for us. The AllState tournament starts the spring. Tulane put together a really strong field and it will be a nice way to test us right out of the gate in the spring."
Tennessee hosts the Mercedes-Benz Women's Collegiate Championship each year. This year it will be at Holston Hills Country Club for the first time. What will that be like?
"We are excited about the Mercedes-Benz Championships being at Holston Hills. We play at Holston probably more than any other club in town. I feel like the subtleties of the course give us a slight home course advantage there. We are really excited; I think it's a perfect golf course to host high-level women's tournaments. I think the length is perfect and the greens are always in great shape - really fast and really subtle and tricky. We are really excited seeing how we do out there and really excited to host another terrific tournament."