Column: Laura Ianello leads women's golf by example
Arizona women's golf coach Laura Ianello (right) speaks with spectators during Arizona's second place finish at the Wildcat Invitational on Tuesday, March 17, at Sewailo Golf Club. Ianello has continued the trend of strong Arizona coaches by guiding the Wildcats into the National Championship talk.
Arizona women’s golf is a program that has a long line of rich culture, but many athletic programs at Arizona are built on the tradition of winning.
Arizona coach Laura Ianello has built quite the resume and has the Wildcats primed and ready for not only a Pac-12 Conference title, but also a deep NCAA Championship run.
Having already collected two tournament titles, Arizona is among the top programs in the country, thanks to Ianello.
The Wildcats won the SunTrust Gator Women’s Golf Invitational in Gainesville, Fla., in March and then took the PING/ASU Invitational for the first time since 2000.
Arizona looks good. Really good.
What most people don’t know is Ianello happens to be a former champion herself, not only in the pros, but also at the collegiate level.
Ianello played professionally for five seasons on the LPGA Tour, Futures Tour and West Coast Ladies Golf Tour. She finished 147th on the LPGA Tour money list in 2004 and eighth on the 2003 Futures Tour, with a 72.1 stroke average to go alongside three top-10 finishes.
Ianello, then bearing the surname Myerscough, played for the Wildcats from 1998-2003 and was a member of the NCAA Championship squad in 2000, which was the last time Arizona took the crown of women’s golf.
The trend of former players turning into young coaches has become a theme across sports, and not just women’s golf. For instance, former NBA player Jason Kidd has coached the Milwaukee Bucks into the NBA Playoffs while Steve Kerr, former Arizona Wildcat and current Golden State Warriors coach, has the chance to win NBA Coach of the Year.
Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller even emphasizes Arizona basketball as being a players program, considering Miller’s coaching staff is full of former collegiate standouts.
Ianello is much like Miller in this case in having a former player, Derek Radley, as an assistant. Radley graduated less than a decade ago, in 2006, and played in the No. 3 spot for Ferris State.
Ianello stepped in to coach the Wildcats in 2010 in an attempt to earn Arizona’s third National Championship, much like Sean Miller did in 2009 when replacing hall of famer Lute Olson.
Since joining the program, Ianello has already had her best season as a coach when Arizona finished second in the Pac-12 Championships last season.
Many coaches wouldn’t celebrate finishing in second place, but the Pac-12 is arguably the best conference, top to bottom, in women’s golf.
To go along with sharing a runner-up finish, Arizona went on to finish seventh in NCAA Regionals and tied for seventh place in the NCAA Championships.
Ianello has brought Arizona back to the national spotlight as the Wildcats fended off the top-three teams in the country, including the defending national champions, Duke, at the PING/ASU Invitational. So, it’s safe to say that Arizona has the ability to win a National Championship.
Ianello’s collegiate career for the Wildcats is history, but by the looks of the way Arizona is playing, she has a legitimate shot at taking the Wildcats to even greater heights.
Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.