Former Illinois golfer Stephanie (Mory) Wagemann is now the assistant coach for the women's golf team.
March 17, 2010
Stephanie Wagemann's dog is named Jolly. For people close to the relatively new Illinois women's assistant golf coach, Jolly is an appropriate name.
"She's really cool," says sophomore Nora Lucas, when asked about her assistant coach. "She's awesome. She's such an addition to the team."
A BIG TEN FAMILY
A former Illinois player and native of Haslett, Mich., Wagemann had ties to two other Big Ten schools, but choose to add a third to the Mory family. Both of her parents are from Wisconsin and grew up by the University of Wisconsin. They later moved to Michigan, with Stephanie and their family living about 10 minutes outside the Michigan State campus. Growing up, Wagemann watched a lot of Michigan State sports. However, she was one that never wanted to stay real close to home.
"I kind of knew after my official visit that I wanted to go here," Wagemann says. "My parents were really supportive of it. I think they really liked Illinois when we came on our official visit here as well, and saw as far as the school is concerned, the possibilities and academics. It was just a really god fit for me and they were really excited about that."
The Morys like to say now that that they're Big Ten fans, as Stephanie's sister and brother both play sports at Michigan State University. Sarah is a redshirt-junior diver, while Chris is a sophomore golfer. Stephanie plays the role of proud sister well and thoroughly enjoys going to watch her brother and sister compete.
"That's always been a big passion of mine to support them and watch them grow up and what their goals were," Wagemann said. "I try to get over to watch them compete as much as I can possibly. Obviously with my schedule at least once or twice a year I try to watch them compete in some event."
With a father that is a PGA Professional at Meridian Sun Golf Club in Michigan, Stephanie learned the game of golf from him when she was young, around the ages of six or seven. He taught her how to hold a club and swing, but golf would be put on the back burner. Instead Stephanie would pursue gymnastics. When she started club gymnastics, Wagemann was training around 25 hours a week. However, after some injuries she decided to take a break from gymnastics and took up golf her freshman year of high school.
"I had quite a few injuries and a couple of surgeries," Wagemann said. "I ended up having an injury to my back that was preventing me from accomplishing everything I want in that sport, so that's when I switched a little bit. I ended not going back to it at the level I was at."
Stephanie decided to stick to golf, and with the help of her father, became a very talented golfer. She earned four varsity letters in golf and was a MHSAA (Michigan High School Athletic Association) two-time All-State golfer at Haslett High School.
"I think he had a huge impact on [my improvement] just because I started so late in competitive golf," Wagemann said. "For someone who wanted to play at the Division I level, being able to have him teach me from the beginning and have someone there to watch and teach me, enabled me to progress faster and get to higher level."
GROWING AT ILLINOIS
As a student-athlete at Illinois, Wagemann majored in the kinesiology program and was a four-year letterwinner, receiving a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology, graduating with honors, in 2008. Throughout her time at Illinois, Wagemann was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten and two-time George Huff Award Winner.
Along with her many academic accolades, Stephanie was also a success on the golf course, ranking eighth on Illinois' all-time stroke average list at 79.33. During her senior year, she totaled the second-best stoke average (77.38) on the team and had four top-20 and two top-10 finishes. She tied for third at the Illini Spring Classic and led Illinois to the team title, in what was a "senior-day" type tournament for her and her four other seniors. Wagemann looks back on her senior year fondly, and remembers having a really fun time.
"As far as golf is concerned, we really made steps, just together as a team and being able to work together," Wagemann said. "For the first time I felt like there was a team setting in golf. Winning a few tournaments, including our last home tournament as seniors was a lot of fun. All of our families were there and getting to really spend some time with everybody and win that tournament was a great experience."
During Stephanie's junior year there was a coaching change when Hall of Fame coach Paula Smith retired and turned the program over to her former player, Renee Slone. Slone remembers Stephanie as somebody that she knew she could always count on and a person that would always do the right thing.
"There was never any question, a person of high character, high morals," Slone says when describing her former player, now assistant coach. "She was really, what I call the `rock' of the team. She was the person that always steadied the ship. The one person that wouldn't have emotions get in the way. She was the calming influence of the team. She was always the first person to practice, often times beating me to practices at Demirjian. She was just a reliable person that you'd love to have on your team and it made things so much easier."
A PERFECT FIT
After graduation in 2008, Stephanie stayed in the area. She served as the assistant coach for St. Thomas More high school in Champaign, where she found more success. She helped direct the Sabers to the runner-up finish at the IHSA Class A State Tournament. In March of 2009, Wagemann became the assistant club professional at Champaign Country Club, coaching and supervising over 40 women's golf clinics and schools. Stephanie believed that the experiences she had teaching at Champaign Country Club were great experiences to have. She didn't necessarily want to be in the country club setting as far as careers go, but in the end it made a big difference to work there and experience that. Throughout her time there, Stephanie was able to get a lot of experience with teaching women's clinics and had the freedom to teach, branch out and try new things.
"The great thing was that I worked with the head professional there, Lance Olsen," Wagemann said. "He really helped me to hone in my teaching style and helped me develop a teaching philosophy for myself as far as golf swing goes and short game."
In another part of town, Illinois women's golf head coach Renee Slone was looking for a new assistant coach for her team. She was looking for someone who wanted to make this his or her career. Slone and Wagemann stayed in touch after Stephanie's graduation in 2008, and Slone knew that her former player was interested in coaching and wanted to become a collegiate coach. It was a logical step that came next. On Aug. 10th, 2008 Stephanie Wagemann was announced as the new women's golf assistant coach. For Wagemann though, it was a career move that didn't come to mind until her junior and senior years in college.
"I decided I wanted to stay in the golf field," Wagemann said. "I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do until that point but I really enjoyed fitness, personal training-type stuff and obviously I had a passion for the game of golf. My senior year I just really thought if I was going to stay in golf, coaching would be my choice, just because I really enjoyed my college experience, wanted to work with college athletes and thought it would be a great experience."
Currently, because Wagemann is so new to the coaching world, Slone and her work together to run the program, with Stephanie following along as Coach Slone shows her the ropes.
"She's come into the program and obviously it's a whole new experience," Slone said about the adjustment Wagemann is making. "There is a lot to learn and over time she's just getting introduced to more and more of the aspects of coaching and the administrative side of things, which you don't always see as a player and you don't always realize actually exists."
In the spring Wagemann hopes to take a bigger role in recruiting and camps. Both coaches also work together on planning practices, travel arrangements, and setting up the tournament schedule for next fall.
"A lot of stuff we do work together on," Wagemann said. "Hopefully I will take on a little more responsibility as I learn the ropes a little bit better."
EYEING THE FUTURE
What Wagemann is also excited about is the team that she works with everyday. Her passion is to see the team make to the NCAA Championship during her time at Illinois. Along with this goal, Stephanie believes that she can really help the team to improve on the mental aspect of the game. Both coaches work together on the mental practices, incorporating different kinds of challenges and games that they can bring to the women on the course. Wagemann believes that just being able to bring new and creative ideas and keeping the women excited about what they want to accomplish at Illinois is what she can bring to the team for the spring season, and future seasons.
"I like being creative. I like coming up with ideas we can implement as far as leadership strategies and course management strategies, different games they can play in practice. Just improving their mental game and improving their competitiveness on the team is something we've been working on."
Along with what Wagemann brings to practice, she can also add in her experience as a student at the University and as a player under Slone. Academically, Wagemann knows the campus very well, and can guide incoming freshman throughout the area. Stephanie has also taken some of the same classes some of the current team members are taking, another resource added to the growing list she provides. Wagemann also believes that just being removed two years from college allowed her to bond faster with the team in the fall.
"Obviously, her experience as far as being on the team here and as well as being a student here has been very helpful," said Slone.
A PLAYERS COACH
Another aspect that is a very big bonus, is that because Stephanie played under Slone, and now is the assistant coach with her, she understands the head coach better than the players might and can provide insight when things aren't as clear to the players.
"She understands me in a different way than the current team players do," Slone said. "She is a liaison, sometime she can shed like on things perhaps a team member isn't quite understanding. She can be like `well, this is what coach said, this is what she means.'"
"It really helps a lot that she had Coach Slone," sophomore Kaitlyn Wampler said when describing her assistant coach. "She brings a fun atmosphere since we're so close in age, but we still respect her as a superior. She's really good at balancing that."
The impact that she has already had on her players can be seen as soon as you talk to any one of members of the Illinois women's golf team.
"She has so much knowledge on so many different levels that make her a huge asset to our program," Junior Raquel Hopton says about Wagemann, her former teammate, and now assistant coach. "She is a very good instructor and extremely patient. She always has a positive outlook and she is an inspiration to me as a player and person."
"She has helped me with the mental side of the game. She knows how to motivate players and her determination drives us to want to be the best we can be. She is very good at helping with swing instruction because she can adapt to different players' learning styles quickly."
Wagemann has also been a positive influence outside the golf course.
Lucas adds, "Outside of golf she helped me a lot too, being the best person I can be, not just playing golf. She's a really good mentor for life in general, a good example of how you want to live you life."
MAKING AN IMPACT
The extent of Wagemann's reach in terms of what she brings to the program not only encompasses the players, but the head coach as well.
"It's just been a thrill to have her with our program and as far as helping me, it's been tremendous because we are able to do so many more things than we were able to do in the past," Slone said of her mentee. "In order to move the program forward, we needed to enhance some things and this has given us the opportunity to do so. For me, it's a privilege to share the experience with her and to help her along in some small way to achieve one of her goals in her career."
"It's been a whirlwind." Wagemann says of her time as an assistant coach so far.
Her favorite moments include some of the breakthrough moments that they've had with the girls, with some of them coming from team meetings following tournaments.
"Just seeing them learn so much from some of the rounds they've had this fall. It's awesome to see them put together the mission statements as far as what they want to accomplish this spring. Seeing these mission statements, I think was a big moment just because of the high goals they set for themselves and how passionate I feel like they are in accomplishing that goal to go to regional's this year. That's exciting to see."
For Stephanie Wagemann, just being able to help her players attain their goals is all that really matters.