PHOENIX – Out of the 171 NAIA men’s golf programs geared up to drive, chip and putt toward victory this upcoming spring season, five call Arizona home. However, only Ottawa University – Arizona in Surprise has Tina Barrett.
Outside of Surprise, observers may be surprised by the coach’s name if they weren’t fixated on the LPGA tour. Over Barrett’s 19-year career, she recorded three holes-in-one, a 1989 Mitsubishi Motors Ocean State Open victory and earned more than $3 million. Midway through her fifth season, she is adding a whole new layer to her golfing legacy.
Located approximately 30 miles northwest of Phoenix, Ottawa University – Arizona is a private Baptist school that opened its residential campus in 2017. The original campus, founded in 1865, is based in Ottawa, Kansas.
After serving as an assistant coach for the program’s first two years of existence, Barrett took over the head coaching reins for both the OUAZ men’s and women’s teams in 2019. She has led both teams to two Golden State Athletic Conference Championships and multiple NAIA National Championship appearances.
Despite Barrett’s success with both OUAZ teams, her work with the men’s program is something special when viewed through a wider lens.
Barrett is just one of seven women leading NAIA men’s golf teams, said NAIA manager of athletics communication Jeff Melton. She’s also the only female head coach of a men’s sports program at OUAZ and faces the task of dealing with an abnormally large 23-man roster. Nonetheless, Barrett feels no extreme pressure as the head coach.
“I just let my players get to know me,” Barrett said. “I feel like having an LPGA background gives me some credibility, but you still have to prove that you know your stuff. I also think good coaches figure out what their players’ goals are and help them reach their goals. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, that’s my job.”
That simple yet poignant line – “It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female” – is a perfect way to describe junior Burke Rawlinson’s decision to transfer to OUAZ after a stint at Andrew College, in Cuthbert, Georgia.
“I was a Canadian international student who spent two years in Georgia, so it was a big move,” Rawlinson said. “When I was looking into joining Ottawa, I saw a big team. With such a big team, I thought you must have good players and a great coach. I felt like most coaches would be drawn away from such a big team, but coach Tina wasn’t. I knew she must put in the work and know her stuff.”
It’s safe to say she does just that, as the men are ranked fourth in the nation and are the highest-ranked team out of OUAZ’s 13 men’s athletic programs. Assistant coach Jett Isoda – who also played under Barrett during her assistant days – has witnessed this success story from its infancy.
“She kind of just got thrown in as the head coach after two years, but it didn’t affect her,” Isoda said. “She’s one of those people who leaves no stone unturned. She is prepared for every situation, and you see that in her work. I didn’t really notice it as a player, but now as a coach, you see how much she has grown into the head coach role. I think that’s why she’s helped make this program as successful as it is.”
With this success, Barrett has been able to continue extending the program’s reach to recruits from around the world.
“I think it’s comforting to parents to send their kid away to someone who is a bit older and more established,” she said. “I think it probably puts them at ease thinking that I can sort of portray a mom role. Ironically, I don’t really think I take on that role at all, as I can be a smidge tough on them.”
Barrett’s assistant and players may think otherwise. Her guidance off the course may be just as great, if not greater than it is on the course.
“As a player, Tina taught me to love who you are and what you do in life,” Isoda said. “Now that I am a coach, I get to pass along the guidance she taught me. We want to make sure that they are doing well in the classroom first and foremost, and we’re so proud to see that our team has a 3.7 GPA between 23 men.”
Rawlinson added, “A lot of coaches care about the results you put out on the course. With coach Tina, she cares about the results you put out off the course. She’s taught me so many life lessons, even if it is something simple like showing up to workouts on time and being there for your teammates.
“Our team slogan is ‘make good choices,’ and that is something I will hold onto for the rest of my life.”
The spring season is set to open Monday at the Vanguard Spring Invitational in Fullerton, California, and Barrett is confident her group can make history.
“If we put it all together, we definitely have a chance to compete,” Barrett said. “We have the talent for that national championship.”
Barrett has a chance to boost her resume with a strong season as well. Even though she is already a two-time GSAC Women’s Golf Coach of the Year – one being Co-Coach of the Year – Barrett is still searching for her first on the men’s side. However, as nice as the honor would be, she could care less about her own recognition.
“I don’t really worry about anything like that,” she said. “It’s nice if it happens, but it’s not that big if it doesn’t. My job is to help my players. There’s nothing better than watching them achieve their goals. That’s what brings me a lot of satisfaction.”
Barrett’s success looks like it won’t be slowing down anytime soon, and she is helping pave the way for more women to garner head coaching roles in men’s sports throughout any level of competition. Not all coaching situations will be the same as Barrett’s, and some might come with a few more bumps in the road. Nevertheless, Barrett believes women should have nothing to truly fret about.
“The main thing is your players need to trust in your abilities to know the X’s and O’s and that you care about them as people first,” Barrett said. “Once they have that – regardless of gender – coaches will be fine.”