Women’s golf coach reflects on Hall of Fame career, relationships


Courtesy of SEU Athletics Communication

Jennifer McNeil’s impact on women’s golf has led to her selection for the 2019 Heartland Conference Hall of Fame.

“I’m not a big believer in philosophies. When you settle on one, you box yourself in. Coaches should be ever-evolving,” said Director of Golf and women’s golf head coach Jennifer McNeil. An ever-evolving outlook solidified both admiration and dedication in her players.

“I met [McNeil] when I was really young, and I remember running up to her saying, ‘Hi, coach!’” said Elena Castanon.

Castanon cites a close relationship with McNeil. She even recalls a memory of being furious with her high school coach and dialing up McNeil’s number for advice. As always, McNeil provided support and encouragement to see a game through, even if Castanon wasn’t pleased with her current coach.

What was important was pursuing her golf career and finishing the last games before she left high school. Castanon mentioned that she felt valued and always supported by McNeil even as she progressed into her first year at St. Edward’s in women’s golf.

She attended University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and received her bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science. She always knew that she wanted to be a coach, so it was easy to step in place once she arrived at university.

In her time in undergrad, she was four-time most valuable player and earned four All-America honors from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics .

She not only had her parents cheering her on, but also her coach Darla Kirby. Kirby, who is now the Associate Athletic Director at Mary Hardin-Baylor,  encouraged McNeil to consider graduate school and pursue her master’s degree in Sports Management at Baylor University.

She started the women’s golf program at St. Edward’s from scratch. According to McNeil, St. Edward’s values fit into hers. It was a progressive workplace that allowed faculty, staff and students to be authentic. She considered it a unique setting and is excited to spend her remaining years at the university.

Since starting at the program, McNeil coached six players to 10 All-America honors, 25 players to 44 all-conference honors, nine conference Player of the Year honors and seven players to the 20 Women’s Golf Coaches Association Academic All-Scholar awards.

She has also won the National Golf Coaches Association Division II National Coach of the Year in 2011, becoming the first coach to ever win National Coach of the Year at St. Edward’s University.

She has also earned the Heartland Conference Coach of the Year eight times and was named NCAA West Region Coach of the Year six times. McNeil was also recently named as an inductee to the 2019 Heartland Conference Hall of Fame class.

McNeil states that her greatest vice is patience. Through the years, her patience has slowly grown. She dedicates her life to golf and finds no difference between golf and life goals. She is dedicated to her players and wants them to share important moments with her that they’ll carry for a lifetime.

“She’s like a mother and a friend,” said senior Sammy Huang. She plans on continuing her career in golf thanks to encouragement from McNeil. McNeil recommended that she take the leap and try to do golf professionally, because her twenties is the one time in her life to take the chance.

If she succeeds, great. If she doesn’t succeed, then she still took the leap. Huang was passionate and endeared about her coach, citing her for all the support through her last two years at St. Edward’s.