Coaching UW golf fits Mary Lou Mulflur to a tee
Once-reluctant coach is in her 31st year on the job, and has her team on the brink of another NCAA tournament.
The Seattle Times
NCAA West Regional
When: Thursday through Saturday; tee times begin at 7:30 a.m. each day.
Where: Tumble Creek Club at Suncadia Resort, outside Cle Elum.
What’s at stake: Eight of the 24 teams advance to the NCAA championships.
It took some coaxing to get Mary Lou Mulflur to even apply for the job.
After all, the starting pay for the part-time position was $3,000 a year. And even after she accepted the job as Washington women’s golf coach, she figured it would just be for a few years to give the team some stability.
Thirty years later, Mulflur is still at Montlake.
In her 31st season, she is the longest-tenured coach in UW history in the same position (Bob Ernst is in his 40th season with UW crew, but coached the men, then switched to the women).
The job has never gotten old to Mulflur, who leads her 11th-ranked team into the NCAA regional at Tumble Creek Club at the Suncadia Resort outside Cle Elum. The three-day event features 24 teams, with single rounds Thursday through Saturday.
Eight teams will advance to the NCAA championships, May 20-23 in Tulsa, Okla.
“I live for the tournaments,” said Mulflur, 56, who has put 10 UW teams in the NCAA championships, finishing sixth twice. “It’s fun because of all the work that they do. People just see that they’re going to Hawaii or Phoenix or something. They’re not out there when these kids are grinding in 45-degree weather when it’s raining in January and February.
“To see them do that and watch them be successful ... that’s what I live for.”
Mulflur had her share of success and was one of the program’s first stars while playing for coach Edean Ihlanfeldt, winning three tournaments from 1976-80.
After Ihlanfeldt left, the team went through two coaches in two years. Mulflur’s father, Bill Mulflur, a longtime Oregon sportswriter, encouraged his daughter to apply for the job.
In the early years, Mulflur juggled two and three jobs to make a living, before the job became full-time in 1990.
“I was about at my limit,” said Mulflur, who earlier this year was inducted into the Women’s Golf Coaches Association Hallf of Fame . “That wears on you after a while.”
The program has come a long way since Mulflur began. The UW golf center inside Edmundson Pavilion is a place where players can hone their games and relax. The players practice at some of the most exclusive courses in the area.
“It’s just gone by like, poof!” she said. “I never dreamed I’d be here this long. I never dreamed it would be a full-time position. You know, I never dreamed there would be a Pac-12 women’s golf championship. It’s just been amazing to see the growth.”
Mulflur said coaching golf at UW is “a little bit on the technical side but it’s mostly the mental game, the emotional game and course management. You know, it’s hard being 18 to 22. You’re trying to figure things out for yourself and who you are and what you want to be.”
Perhaps the accomplishment Mulflur is most proud of is that every player who has exhausted her athletic eligibility has graduated.
Mulflur said her current group is as good academically as they are in golf. UW was ranked No. 1 entering last spring, then failed to advance out of the NCAA regionals. The Huskies look to atone for that at Suncadia.
And if the team wins the the NCAA championship?.
“It would mean I’d have to get a tattoo on my instep,” Mulflur said. “That’s the bet with the team. When we win a national championship, I will get a tattoo. It’s going to be a small purple W. It’s kind of like the Seahawks: ‘Why not us?’ ”
Watching Mulflur’s team this week will be the man who talked her into taking the job.
“I think my dad really takes a lot of pride in all of his kids and their successes, but when it’s attached to a sport, because that was his livelihood for many years, I think he takes a little added pleasure in that,” Mulflur said.
And she has no plans to stop coaching.
“I’ll go as long as they’ll let me,” she said. “I absolutely love my job. To be around players this talented and to feel like you have some small piece of input into their growth, not only as a golfer but as a person, that’s pretty cool.”