Tulane’s most successful athletic program has yet another new face.
On Friday, the Green Wave named Lorne Don its third coach in six years for the nationally competitive women’s golf team, replacing Andrew Pratt, who left in May to become the associate head coach at Auburn.
Don will inherit a team coming off a program-best ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships and ended the season ranked No. 13 nationally. The Green Wave also placed second in the NCAA East Regional and won the Conference USA championship last season.
Since halting the program between the fall of 2005 and 2008 because of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Green Wave has morphed into the preeminent C-USA program, first under the leadership of J.T. Horton (now head coach at Clemson) and then Pratt, by winning three league titles and earning five consecutive appearances in the NCAA regionals.
“There is such a solid core in place, and that’s such an appealing part of this to me,” Don said. “This is a program at a high level and my aspiration is to take it to the highest level and I think that’s a realistic goal here.”
Now it’s Don’s responsibility to continue the string of success. It’s something he’s accustomed to after his 10-year stint as an assistant at Michigan State. Working under Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, Don aided the Spartans to six NCAA Championship appearances, along with 10 NCAA regionals and three Big Ten titles.
Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson is hoping Don will provide a similar stability to a Green Wave program which has undergone more turnover than its success would typically indicate. While Horton and Pratt helped propelled the program forward, Dickson mentioned his hope for a more prolonged tenure for Don, who is undertaking his first head coaching position.
Sue Bower, Tulane’s associate athletic director for external operations and former women’s golf coach, played a prominent role in Don’s selection and said while she hopes for longevity, the most important factor in choosing him is the potential for winning tournaments and potentially achieving a national championship.
“I want our team to be the best it can be as soon as it can be, and while I loved the fact he said he wanted to settle down in New Orleans, I just want to win,” Bower said. “If he stays for five years and he’s so successful he has an opportunity to go back to his alma mater, that’s fine with me. We will find the next candidate. But I had messages coming from every direction about coaches wanting this job when it opened up, so I think that shows we are in a good place as a program.”
For his part, Don said he plans to stay in New Orleans for the long haul and claims Tulane was only the second head coaching position he ever approached. While Bower said Don has long been a commodity in the golf coaching community, he never wanted to take on a rebuilding project.
Now that he’s in charge of a program with a string of recent success and returning four prominent contributors, he said the pieces are in place to compete with the nation’s best.
“I always told my wife that if we were ever going to move down south and uproot everything it would only be at a place where I felt like we could win it all,” Don said. “I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t believe that to be true at Tulane.”