College coaches build Habitat home
Former Wave coach Bower lends a hand
Saturday, June 10, 2006
By Brian Allee-Walsh
Penn State women's golf coach Denise St. Pierre typically would be on the recruiting trail this time of year in search of the next Michelle Wie.
This week, St. Pierre, former Tulane women's golf coach Sue Bower and other members of the National Golf Coaches Association are in New Orleans helping a displaced woman and her family put their lives back together.
The organization has raised $60,000 to build a home for Bernadette Coleman, who lost her Uptown house to wind and water from Hurricane Katrina. The 1,200-square foot home in the Musicians Village area of the 9th Ward features two bedrooms and one bath and is part of a rebuilding effort spearheaded by Habitat for Humanity.
The dedication takes place June 17. Coleman, who evacuated to Athens, Ala., hopes to be in the house later this summer with her two children, Gabrielle, 21, and Gregory, 26.
"This proves that it doesn't have to be family to back you up," Coleman said as she and hundreds of volunteer workers went about their business under the mid-day sun. "This tells me how good people can be, and you don't even know them. For me, at my age (50) to start all over again, that is amazing. This is true fellowshipping of people."
The idea came to St. Pierre after the NGCA canceled its 2006 national convention in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. Too many uncertainties forced the organization to convene in January in Tahoe, Nev., where St. Pierre introduced the idea to the membership.
"We felt pretty bad about that because that's probably the one thing that New Orleans needed at that time, for people and tourists to come and support the city," said St. Pierre, the outgoing president of the NGCA. "So I called down to the Habitat in New Orleans, and they said they could use volunteers, and they also could use money.
"They said if we raised $30,000 we could sponsor half a house, if we raised $60,000 we could sponsor a whole house. So I went to our membership and said I think we should sponsor a whole house."
Approximately 30 women's college golf programs have contributed to the cause in a variety of ways, through personal donations, fund-raisers, running marathons, etc. Others have taken a hands-on approach.
"I'd been thinking about some way I could help out besides just sending money," said Duke coach Dan Brooks, who guided the women's golf team to the 2006 NCAA championship. "I saw it on TV, but nothing captures it like being down here.
"It's a good cause, and I just wanted to help out. When Denise and the organization came up with the idea, it was a no-brainer."
Seventeen coaches from the NGCA are in New Orleans this week getting down and dirty, making dreams come true for Coleman. Among them, incoming NGCA president Kelley Hester, women's golf coach at Arkansas, and Arizona women's golf coach Greg Allen, who has landed two members of Tulane's now-defunct women's team, redshirt juniors Alison Walshe and Mary Jacobs.
There is a chance Allen could sign a third golfer off Bower's team. Lili Alvarez said she has narrowed her choices to Northwestern and Arizona.
"It's really been fun to see a different side to these coaches," said Bower, an administrative assistant at Tulane whose program was suspended as part of campus-wide budget cuts from declining enrollment in the wake of Katrina.
Matt Ritter, who is overseeing the construction of Coleman's house, gave his volunteer work force a capital "E" for effort.
"It's become our passion for the week," St. Pierre said. "I've been in this coaching business a long time, and it's so refreshing to hang out with these guys. It's something totally out of our realm. The care that everyone has put into this house for Bernadette and her family, we want it to be right. We're not just here to put in our time and slap it together. We take real pride in what we're doing."
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Brian Allee-Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (504) 826-3805.