San Antonio – At a time when most people her age are looking to slow down, Janet Moore – along with her husband, Kent – decided to head back to school.
But the Colorado couple didn’t enroll in classes, or even select an institution near their suburban Denver residence.
Janet and Kent Moore became golf coaches … at Wheaton (Ill.) College, nearly 900 miles to the east.
Last July, the NCAA Division III Christian liberal arts school needed men’s and women’s head golf coaches. Since the Moores’ two children, Steven and Sarah, attended the school – Steven graduated in May and Sarah is a junior – they figured it was a chance to give something back to a game they both cherish.
Kent, now 57, is the only person to have won the Colorado Junior Match Play, Men’s Match Play, Men’s Stroke Play, Mid-Amateur and Senior Amateur titles. Janet, who was competing in her 15th USGA championship at this week’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Briggs Ranch Golf Club, had won a Colorado-record four consecutive Women’s Stroke Play titles (five overall).
In fact, the family won three state titles in a span of 10 months between the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009. Kent and Janet claimed a mixed title, Janet and Sarah won the Women’s State Four-Ball Championship (Mashie), and Kent combined with Steven to claim the Father-Son Championship.
“We had been looking for a way to give back,” said Moore, 48, who fell in the round of 32 to close friend Ellen Port, 4 and 3, on Tuesday morning. “We kept asking the Lord, how do you want to use us the second part of our lives? The opportunity came up, so we decided to do it.”
Logistically, it’s a challenge. The couple purchased a property not far from campus, and in the fall and spring, they live in Illinois. They go back to Greenwood Village, Colo., during the winter and summer.
“She’s amazing,” said Port, who was invited to Steven Moore’s wedding earlier this year. Port and Moore became close after their match at the 2002 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Eugene (Ore.) C.C., won by the former, 5 and 4. “If anybody can do it, she can. They are special people. They love the game. They serve the game and play the game well. I think she’s handling it well and the girls are happy to have her as a coach.”
Janet took over a fledgling program that had only been around a few years. The men’s team, coached by Kent, was more established and had a successful history in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW).
But neither one had any previous coaching experience. Kent played at Purdue University and Janet at the University of Arizona. They had been around local golf with their two children at the high school level, but neither had recruited players or dealt with any of the responsibilities of coaching at the college level.
Because Wheaton is a Division III school, no athletic scholarships are given, and its stringent academic curriculum combined with its Christian philosophy, makes the recruiting pool smaller than most institutions.
Janet used her wealth of contacts in the game for guidance from other coaches, including her former coach at Arizona, Kim Haddow. She also leaned on Bob Austin, the husband of USGA Executive Committee member Christie Austin, who coaches one of the strongest high school boys’ teams in Colorado. They are also both members at Cherry Hills C.C., site of this year’s U.S. Amateur.
“Bob is one of the best coaches in the country for high school,” said Janet Moore. “We’re very much trying to bring in some good players and attract some great kids there. I’ve gotten great advice from other coaches at Wheaton and I have a lot of friends who coach D-1 (Division I).”
So far, Moore has adjusted to living in two places, although she has faced family tragedy the past 18 months. Her mother died after a 4½-year battle with ovarian cancer, and one day after Moore qualified for the 2012 Women’s Mid-Amateur, her father succumbed to a form of leukemia.
“They are both in a better place,” said Janet.
Just so she could play in the championship, Kent Moore had to fulfill Janet’s coaching duties on Friday. Wheaton’s women’s team was completing the final round of the CCIW Championships in Racine, Wis., where they finished fifth out of seven teams and Sarah Moore placed third as an individual. Moore arrived in time for the first round of qualifying on Saturday, but without the benefit of a practice round. She relied on notes from Port on how to play Briggs Ranch.
It worked out just fine as she qualified for match play with a 36-hole total of 8-over 152, one shot behind Port, a four-time champion.
After being eliminated on Tuesday, Moore planned to be back on campus Wednesday to prepare for the team’s upcoming three-club tournament.
Being around the young women has been invigorating for Moore. She can compete with the team, which keeps her competitively sharp for events like the Women’s Mid-Am. It also gives her a chance to coach her daughter.
Because of the rigorous academic standards, Janet tries to make the golf fun. Most of the players likely aren’t looking to be LPGA Tour stars like they would at her alma mater or other major Division I schools.
“They have so much pressure academically,” said Moore, whose team plays out of Cantigny, a public course that hosted the 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. “I try to tell them that the golf course is their sanctuary. Just go out there and relax … [and] try to get better. This is the place not to have the pressure.”
Moore certainly feels little pressure from the administration. Producing quality students is the school’s mission, and if the golf team can achieve success, that’s a nice bonus.
“It keeps us young, that’s for sure,” said Janet, who worked briefly in sales after graduating from Arizona in 1987 before becoming a full-time mother when Steven and Sarah were born. “We feel very fortunate. I love the coaching part. I love being with the kids. We love the Christian aspect [of the school]. It’s just a good fit.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.