Ohio State women’s golf coach Therese Hession thought she could never be persuaded to coach anywhere other than her alma mater, Southern Methodist University. But after 11 years on the LPGA tour, she got a call from OSU and decided to give it a shot. Twenty-five seasons later, she’s still coaching the Buckeyes.
“The call came, I was at the U.S. Open,” Hession said of when she was offered the job at OSU. “I talked to my pro that was my teacher on the tour and he said, ‘You have everything to gain, nothing to lose.’ So here I am 25 years later.”
Hession fell in love with the game at an early age while following her dad around the golf course. She went to the driving range or the course any chance she could get.
“I was just my happiest when I was out playing golf,” Hession said.
Hession attended SMU where she led the women’s golf team to a national championship in 1979 — her senior season. After graduation, she joined the Women’s Professional Golf Tour and was granted an LPGA tour card just three months later.
After 11 years competing in the LPGA, Hession was growing weary of the lifestyle.
“I still loved to play but I didn’t like the idea of being away from home probably 32 weeks of the year,” Hession said. “My game was good. I was improving, but I was never at the very highest level of some of the players I was competing against. So I think I was looking for change, but I still really loved the sport.”
That’s where the Buckeyes stepped in. At first, Hession admits she was hesitant to accept the position. However, there were a lot of positive things about OSU that Hession couldn’t deny, such as being close to her hometown of Indianapolis. Even though OSU isn’t a typical golf school, Hession saw potential in the program.
“That was important to me: to be able to go somewhere where I thought I could do well because I knew I was going to put 100 percent effort into it. And I wanted to make sure I would have the chance to succeed,” Hession said.
And succeed she has. In her time in Columbus, Hession has led the Buckeyes to 10 Big Ten championships, including three consecutive titles from 2014 to 2016, made 23 NCAA regional appearances and 15 NCAA championship appearances. She has been named the National Coach of the Year twice and Big Ten Coach of the Year seven times.
The most memorable moment of Hession’s coaching career was in 2003 when her team took home fourth place at the NCAA championship, the highest in school history. Hession’s goal is still to win a national championship, but the 2003 season proved that OSU could compete with the best.
“I like to prove people wrong and for those people who think the northern schools can’t play, to be able to finish that well was good,” she said. “I was really happy for my players because they worked hard. That was a real special group.”
The past three seasons, Hession has led the Buckeyes to back-to-back-to-back Big Ten championships. Last year, the team shot so high in the first round that they started on the back nine the next day. But that’s when OSU decided to turn it on.
“I remember on Saturday we were really on fire,” Hession said. “I remember coming up the ninth hole and it was like everywhere I looked everyone was making birdies.”
The 2017 Big Ten Championship is coming up on April 21 and the competition is even tougher this year. The Buckeyes are one of the more experienced teams but will have to play at the very top of their game to be in the race.
“I would say we could play decent and we could even finish sixth is how good the Big Ten is this year,” Hession said. “So it’s going to be really critical to get off to a good start.”
Throughout her 25 seasons, Hession has made an impact on her players on and off the course. Senior Jessica Porvasnik has spent four years under Hession and credits her for making her the player that she is today.
“Coach Hession has always had the best interest of every player on her team,” Porvasnik said. “She has spent countless hours helping prepare me for what lies ahead in my career… I believe after college she will continue to play a role in my life.”
Hession’s work and dedication don’t end on the golf course but extend into everything she does.
In 1989, she was awarded the LPGA Tour Samaritan Award for her work with Habitat for Humanity and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She has continued her philanthropic work through her coaching to this day.
“We’re trying to raise $15,000 as a team,” Hession said of her team’s most recent project. “We’re building a well for a village in Africa that doesn’t have water. Their girls get up in the morning and they walk over an hour to the nearest water source.”
The Buckeyes golf team has completed fundraising projects already, but have a few more to go in order to reach the goal.
“I think it’s really important that we’ve been given a lot, so we should give back,” Hession said.