Sherri Coale didn’t grow up playing golf.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a big part of her life.
"My dad was an avid golfer," said Coale. "I loved it. I used to go to the golf course with him all the time but he was serious about winning money from the guys on Saturday afternoon so I didn’t play. I just rode around and occasionally I would putt a little bit. I was too busy practicing basketball all the time to worry about it."
The successful University of Oklahoma women’s basketball coach shared the story as the featured speaker at Saturday night’s Players’ Dinner for the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, which is being played this week at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club.
The dinner was held at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History on the OU campus.
Coale has coached the Sooners for 17 seasons, leading them to three Final Fours.
She grew up in the small southern Oklahoma town of Healdton, falling in love with basketball early.
As a freshman, she wrote down three things she wanted to accomplish before she graduated.
Coale wanted to play in the state tournament, something Healdton hadn’t done since 1921.
She also wanted to be an All-State selection. No Lady Bulldogs player had ever earned the honor.
Finally, Coale wanted to earn a college scholarship.
She posted the goals in the back of her locker and read them every day, between each class.
As she progressed through high school, the piece of notebook paper with those goals traveled from locker to locker.
In the span of about a month, every one of those goals was met. The final check mark came when she signed with Oklahoma Christian College.
"I tell you that story for one reason and only one reason," Coale told the players. "Not to tell you that I am fabulous by any stretch of the imagination but mainly to tell you that if I can do that, you can do anything. I simply decided that there were three things that were really, really important to me and I thought about every single day.
"I tell my players all the time that discipline is very simply remembering what you want. I was disciplined to that path. That path is a choice that I made, not just every day, but over and over every day."
While Coale might not have played golf growing up, she got plenty from it in addition to that time with her dad, Joe Buben.
One day, Coale found Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book on her father’s desk and read it.
She talked to the players about the lessons she learned from the book and how they applied to her development.
"One of the things he said was one of the most important parts of a great shot. No. 1 is the angle of the clubface," Coale said. "I know what that means and at the same time it doesn’t do me a whole lot of good when I try to swing that club. But as I extrapolate that to what it will mean for all of us when we’re done playing the sport of golf, really the angle of the clubface to me, speaks to how we approach things; our view of things; how we look at things."
Coale spoke about Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile and how that changed the outlook for runners.
"They thought it was impossible. Can’t happen," Coale said. "He ran it in 3:59 something and well, the next year, 30 people ran it in [under] four minutes. The next year, you know how many people ran it in [under] four minutes? Over 300.
"How quickly did that ceiling disappear?"
Coale read about the importance of the speed of the club at impact.
"At that point where the club hits the ball, you’ve got to give it all you have," she said. "The same is true in your school work, the same is true in anything you’re after athletically. The same will be true in your job and in your relationships that you have to fuel it with passion.
"It has to be really, really important to you."
Coale summed up why she was drawn to coaching.
"I feel like there’s precious little time wasted in a sea of mediocrity. The highs are really high. It feels good when we win. It’s so good. It feels so bad when we lose," Coale said. "There’s just very little time in the middle. You’re either really happy or really sad or really angry. I love that because that means you’re really alive. Sports give us an opportunity to live and to live in vibrant color and what an amazing thing that is."
Ryan Aber is a reporter with the Daily Oklahoman.