Breaking Barriers: Barrett to lead men, women golf at Ottawa Arizona

Tina Barrett coaches a member of the Ottawa University Arizona golf team. (Submitted photo)

Barriers are breaking at Ottawa University Arizona, and standing at the epicenter is Scottsdale resident Tina Barrett.

Surprise-based OUAZ recently named Ms. Barrett, a former LPGA golfer, the men’s and women’s head golf coach. She has served as an assistant coach to Clayton Sikorski, who left for a position at Grand Canyon University, for the past two years.

While Ms. Barrett will head both the men’s and women’s teams, it is her new role as the head coach of the men’s team that is unique.

Across all three divisions in the NCAA, 15% of head coaches in men’s sports are women, though many sports see less than 10%. In men’s golf, women comprise 2% of head coaches.

OUAZ is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or NAIA, and competes in the Golden State Athletic Conference. In the GSAC, there is one other woman who is the head coach of a men’s team.

Though the numbers say this move was unique, Ms. Barrett said she thought it was the logical one.

“It’s an easier transition because I’ve been with them for two years, established relationships and that kind of thing,” Ms. Barrett said.

“Credit to our athletic department for not really seeing gender and just seeing the best interest of our student-athletes.”

Ms. Barrett’s resume features a 19-year career on the LPGA tour, which included one career victory and 53 top-10 finishes. She also was the director of programs and events at The First Tee Phoenix, teaching golf to children for eight years.

She came to Ottawa University Arizona when it began its golf program two years ago, helping the men to a second-place finish in the National Christian College Athletic Association national championship and a conference championship in 2019.

Kevin Steele, Ottawa University Arizona athletic director, was unavailable for comment. Via a press release, Mr. Steele said he is happy a national search yielded what he already knew: the best candidate was already at the school.

“I am ecstatic that Tina has agreed to lead our golf student-athletes and to put her own stamp on the OUAZ golf programs,” he said.

“I expect the same thing from her as she expects from herself and that is to use God to build into the lives of her student-athletes while building them into champions.”

As a coach, Ms. Barrett said she focuses on striking a balance between developing her student-athletes into good athletes and good people who “lead lives of significance” upon leaving the school.

Carter Lewis, a rising senior, said Ms. Barrett’s caring nature is apparent to all those around her.

“Anything we need, we can come to her (for) on-course advice, off-course advice in our lives,” he said. “She’s just that friend but also that mentor that I think all of us really look up to and nobody has a bad thing to say about her, which is just unbelievable.”

Breaking the mold

One message Ms. Barrett said she hopes other young women take away from seeing her hired is, overall, gender shouldn’t be a qualifier for a coaching position, rather how that person will do the job.

Tina Barrett (Submitted photo)

“I need to establish relationships with my student-athletes and make sure I know what their hopes and dreams and fears and all of that are and address those and try to put the best team I can on the golf course, in my case,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter, gender, as far as that goes.”

In coaching, Ms. Barrett said there isn’t much difference between men and women. Slight difference include men tending to hit the ball farther or their approach to getting out of the rough.

She said the main difference pops up in the inherent differences between the two genders. The best way, she says, to approach these differences is to know the golfers individually.

“I think the main thing in coaching is establishing relationships,” Ms. Barrett said. “I feel like I have those relationships and I’m working on building those relationships stronger and I think that’s the main thing with coaching.”

That focus is not lost on the administration.

“Tina’s passion and determination are evidenced every day as she embodies a phenomenal positive work ethic,” Mr. Steele said.

“Tina loves her student-athletes, she challenges them to be great, she fits perfectly with the mission of OUAZ and she indeed loves being an integral part of the building of our young university here in Surprise.”

Road to Ottawa

Ms. Barrett began playing golf at 12 years old as a summer activity with her friends in Baltimore. That activity grew into a passion as she started playing competitively.

There was no one moment, Ms. Barrett says, that goaded her decision to pursue a career in golf. She said her success in college and a lack of fear in taking the next steps in her career fueled her to move forward.

“I feel like that’s my personality,” she said. “I’m not afraid to make a move because I don’t want regrets later on. Even if they’re not the right move at the time, I don’t want to feel regret afterward.”

During her playing career, she spent a winter in Florida since the Baltimore weather made year-round practicing hard.

After not liking Florida, she decided to visit Scottsdale where she had a friend whose family had a home. From then on, she fell in love with the desert.

When her playing career ended, she decided to try coaching. She began at The First Tee Phoenix, an organization that provides affordable access to golf for Maricopa County youth.

She took this step after drawing inspiration from a friend who had started a chapter in El Paso, Texas. Almost immediately, Ms. Barrett said she loved the organization’s culture and atmosphere.

“I like The First Tee because they not only teach golf, they teach life skills that are inherent to the game of golf,” she said. “And so it was a great way for me to carry on what I love about the game of golf to young people and impact their lives.”

That mentality of teaching not only golf to young people is what helped Ms. Barrett fall in love with coaching.

Coaching at Ottawa

Tina Barrett coaches a member of the Ottawa University Arizona golf team. (Submitted photo)

After The First Tee, Ms, Barrett said she wanted a change, one that kept her in golf and working with young people.

When the opportunity presented itself, Ms. Barrett applied to be an assistant coach at OUAZ. It didn’t take long for her to realize she loved working with college golfers.

“I just feel so extremely blessed that I was a part of this,” she said. “And then to be at a school like this, growing and right at the ground level, from day one, watching from where we’ve come so quickly and then hoping to carry on what we started and making it better. I’m super excited I found this as my third, and hopefully final, career.”

In her short time at OUAZ, she’s made an impact. Lewis, who’s been with the school for one season, said what stands out to him is her calm temperament and professional demeanor.

“It’s been great for us players to lean on because things can get really competitive out there and to see her very calm,” he said.

A solid relationship makes it all the more satisfying for Ms. Barrett to see her student-athletes have success. She says the reward of her coaching efforts comes through simple gestures of smiles and expressions of gratitude.

Likewise, Lewis finds joys with the successes of his new head coach.

“I was so happy that she was able to get the job because I think she’s a true professional and, at any level, deserves the head coaching position,” Lewis said.

“The players are ecstatic to have her and I’m no different.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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