Islanders Athletics Welcomes New Head Golf Coach

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A strong recruitment strategy and a plan to push the Islanders Women’s Golf Team to achieve new heights are just a few of the reasons Willis Wilson, interim director of Athletics at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi hired Joni Stephens as the new Islanders head golf coach.

“We are excited about pushing Islanders Athletics toward the goal of becoming a mid-major athletic program and a big part of accomplishing that has to do with coaching,” shared Wilson during a July 11 press conference announcing Stephens. “Joni is one of those coaches that just ‘gets it,’ she understands who we are as an institution, and I know she will be able to lead us to where we want to go with our golf program.”

Stephens brings with her 16 years of experience working as a Division I head golf coach at three higher education institutions. She also boasts a Ladies Professional Golf Association Class B Certification that allows her to provide professional golf lessons to junior girls who want to learn more about future opportunities the sport can offer. Stephens’ expertise in coaching and mentoring will also help in attracting new players to the team.

“My recruiting philosophy has always been to start with our local and state talent then expand my search nationally and internationally,” Stephens explained. “However, I ultimately recruit where needed to bring with the players who have the character, skill, and academics necessary for success at the Division I level.”

But according to Stephens, talent isn’t the only thing that makes a good team.

“I have been coaching for a long time and my strongest teams are always the most diverse,” she said. “When you have a team of diverse women with different backgrounds, experiences, and ways of doing things, they learn from each other and become stronger players.”

Stephens recruitment strategy is just the beginning of the plans she has for the Islanders Women’s Golf program. In the short time she has been with the University, Stephens has already solidified a challenging new tournament schedule for the fall and spring semester. The new schedule will pit four returning members of the golf team, and one new member, against universities within and outside of the Southland Conference. Additionally, Stephens plans to take a closer look at current community resources and partnerships to determine what the program needs to increase the team’s success – and to her, student success is what is most important.   

In Stephen’s former position as head golf coach for the University of Louisiana Monroe, she pushed her team to improve their Golfstat Ranking from 226 to 179 within three semesters. She also led them to two second place team finishes and seven top-five individual finishes. In the classroom, Stephens’ team was recognized by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association as having the second highest team GPA in the country and earned a team GPA recognition at the Sun Belt Championship.

“Winning is great and exciting and something we strive for every time we go onto the golf course but in the grand scheme of life what is important is faith, family, and community. Those are the things that are important to me and they are things that will make me be the kind of coach who will help these girls become the athletes they are meant to be.”