Dr. Catana Starks, who made history in 1986 at Tennessee State when she became the first Black woman to coach a men’s NCAA Division I golf team, died Sunday in Nashville. She was 75.
“The PGA of America mourns the passing of Catana Starks, a college golf coaching pioneer who broke down barriers and lived a life of inclusion," PGA of America President Suzy Whaley said. "As the first Black woman to lead a Division I men’s collegiate golf team, Catana steered Tennessee State to capture the 2011 Minority Collegiate Golf Championship (now the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship) in record-breaking fashion.
"She was one who said, ‘Why not?' She coached people of all socio-economic backgrounds and recruited worldwide. Catana opened new doors to the game, and made it welcoming to all. Her passion and love for collegiate golf, forever enshrined in the movie, ‘From the Rough’, captured her spirit and love for the next generation. From coaching Tiger Woods’ former coach, Sean Foley, to inspiring individuals of all races in their pursuit of a golf career, Catana Starks’ contribution to the game is immeasurable.”
Starks’ trailblazing story was documented in the film “From The Rough” in 2011.
In 2005 Starks led TSU to the National Minority Golf Championship. The team shot a record-setting 840 as a unit. It was Starks’ final year as the coach.
Starks, a Mobile, Alabama native, was a TSU alumnus and classmate of Olympic track great Wilma Rudolph.
In 1986, when TSU joined the Ohio Valley Conference former athletics director Bill Thomas dropped the school's swimming program and added men’s golf.
Starks was the school’s swim team coach at the time. The swim team was not sanctioned by the NCAA.
Starks, who earned her doctorate degree during her time as coach, also served as head of TSU’s Human Performance and Sports Sciences department.
During her time as TSU’s golf coach, Starks guided several successful players including Canadian Sean Foley, who went on to become Tigers Woods’ swing coach, Sam Puryear, who became the first Black men’s head golf coach in a major conference (Michigan State, 2008) and is now the coach at Howard, and Robert Dinwiddie, who was an All-American at TSU and went on to become a member of the European Tour.