After having settled into a career in the electronics field, Julie Wagner found herself ready to attempt to get involved with a new career which involved her true life’s passion — golf.
It’s turned out about as well as she could have asked for.
After serving as a golf teaching professional at Wildcat Creek G.C. over the past year, Wagner was recently hired to be Indiana Wesleyan University’s first women’s golf coach after the Marion-based NAIA Division II school previously announced its plans to expand its athletics offerings for the first time since 1991.
The golf program will begin competing in the fall.
“It’s turned out to be even more than what I ever thought it would be,” Wagner said. “It’s very exciting to be the first women’s golf coach at Indiana Wesleyan. It’s a little humbling and I am really looking forward to getting the team started up and going. Hopefully in a few years we will have a great women’s golf team.”
IWU athletic director Mark DeMichael said the decision to hire Wagner was an easy one.
“What set Julie apart was her passion for, not just golf, but for teaching golf,” DeMichael said. “She’s been incredibly successful. She has a successful professional background and chose to pursue teaching and coaching golf. You can see and sense that love for the game, that love for young people. It really set her apart.”
Wagner worked for Delphi Automotive and GM Components Holdings as a supplier quality engineer over the past 13 years, but in early 2011 opted to shift gears and attempt a career in teaching and coaching golf. The two-time Howard County champion threw herself into the new endeavor, attending the United States Golf Teachers Federation in South Carolina, where she obtained her Level 3 teaching license — the highest level first-year instructors can obtain.
“Sometimes, you just have to follow your heart and your passion,” she said. “I’ve always been someone who goes full force when I move around. I didn’t have the energy to [work at Delphi] anymore. I really had the energy to grow golf locally, which is what I wanted to do. I put it to prayer and talked to my husband, and was able to say goodbye to the plant and say hello to golf. This has all been a blessing to me.”
Wagner also recently experienced the thrill of signing her first recruit, as New Castle’s Brittney Brooks became the program’s first player to commit. Brooks was the Trojans’ No. 1 golfer for four years.
“The thing that was really a blessing was that [IWU] had a list of girls who wanted to come and play golf once they learned we were starting a program,” Wagner said. “I had a list of 12 to 15 ladies who were inquiring about the program, and [Brooks] was in there. I call her my ‘diamond in the rough’ because she has such a beautiful golf swing. She really loves the game and has a passion for competing.”
Wagner sees the lessons learned in her time at Wildcat Creek paying dividends as she begins the process of getting players ready for the collegiate level.
“What I learned is that when you teach people to play, you have to be able to teach at different levels and contend with different personalities,” she said. “What’s going to be good is now I’m going to have the same set of cultured people. They’ll all be freshmen and will have played competitive golf, but everybody is still looking to improve somewhere in their golf game. I think the difference is going to be that these girls are going to be very competitive, whereas others take lessons but don’t always practice what we teach. These girls won’t do that because they want to work on things and improve in order to win matches.”
Well aware of the success enjoyed by the girls prep golf programs in this area, Wagner hopes to develop a pipeline between IWU and Howard County’s golf talent, giving local girls an opportunity to stay close to home while continuing their careers on the links.
“A lot of the athletic programs here at IWU have camps where they invite local high school kids to come and take part, so it’s kind of a recruiting, let’s-take-a-look-at-you type of process,” she said. “That’s something I hope we can do in the future, so that we can get our name out to the local girls golfers.”