Julie Wagner graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a Master’s degree in business management in 2006. Six years later, she finds herself back at her old stomping grounds, not chasing a doctorate, but a dream.
The Wildcats’ athletic department hired Wagner to be the women’s golf program’s first head coach in its history, marking the beginning of the 16th intercollegiate sport at IWU. Athletic Director Mark DeMichael said it was Wagner’s love of every aspect of golf that made her the obvious choice for the job.
“It was really her combination of a passion for golf and her passion for teaching golf and having a relationship, you can see the excitement when she talked about it,” DeMichael said. “It was very obvious that her whole energy level excitement level, passion level was at another notch above all our other candidates.”
That enthusiasm in Wagner is evident. Although she is stepping into new territory, she says that she’s eager to learn.
“I think the most exciting part of starting this program is being able to try to pick and come up with some matches that the ladies will be able to play in,” Wagner said. “The recruiting part of it is very exciting and very challenging as well. It’s a whole new process for me to learn and to figure out.”
Golf was a late-blooming hobby for Wagner, who hadn’t even tried the game until she was in her 20s, when her eventual husband Paul introduced her to the fairway. The hobby turned into a successful endeavor, as Wagner has won six tournaments, including two Wildcat Creek Golf Course Invitationals.
Wagner is also a PGA certified golf instructor at Wildcat Creek in Kokomo, Ind., a credential that IWU men’s golf coach Steve Evans said will help the transition to coaching.
“She has gone through the school and has taught many lessons in golf, and I think that’s one of the most important qualities of a college coach,” Evans said. “To be able to recognize swing faults and be able to fix them with some drills and allow the players to play at their best.”
Despite her ability and enthusiasm, even Wagner and DeMichael have modest expectations for the women’s golf team, at least in its first season this fall.
“Goals are really hard to set right now because I don’t have a team yet, and we don’t know what caliber of players I’m going to get,” Wagner said. “But I think for a young team like we’re obviously going to have, I’m going to be really happy when we go and play tournaments if we can finish somewhere in the middle of the tournament.”
“You have to be careful what goals you set for yourself,” DeMichael said. “If you say our goal is, in the first year, to go to the NAIA National Tournament, not to say that’s impossible, but that’s a little unrealistic. The problem is if you set your goals like that, then you run the risk of not taking your time and building a solid foundation in the program.”
DeMichael is sure that Wagner is the right person for the job, and the future looks bright for the program without a past.
“The key at this point, in starting a new team, is you have to build a solid foundation,” DeMichael said. “I have every confidence that she will be able to do that and make this a successful program for years to come.”