Brenau University golf coach Ann Sullivan
Brenau University golf coach Ann Sullivan

Ann Sullivan named Golden Tigers golf coach

Jun 17, 2021
Donald Heath

Ann Sullivan grew up on a farm in rural College Grove, Tenn., whacking golf balls against the family barn.

“I can proudly say I never broke a window,” jokes Brenau University’s new head golf coach.

Sullivan, 27, reflects fondly about a journey that started in the backyard, took some turns but never strayed from a seemingly destined path. She played softball and basketball but always had fun swinging golf clubs since the age of 7.

Sullivan’s goal was to play college sports, and when it became evident she couldn’t run fast enough or jump high enough and wasn’t growing taller than 5-foot-7, she was still holding one bag filled with irons, woods, a pitching wedge and a putter.

“I just fell in love with the game,” Sullivan said. “Golf’s incomparable to other sports because it’s the one game when you’re happy to get the lowest score. With golf, there’s honor and integrity. You’re playing your own ball. No one’s playing defense. You’re playing the course. 

“It’s mind over matter and, if you can accomplish that, at the end, you’re holding the trophy.”

Sullivan has held her share of trophies over the years. She was an all-state performer at Battle Ground Academy, an independent college-prep school in Franklin, Tennessee.

Milligan University golf coach Tony Wallingford noticed the budding talent and offered Sullivan a scholarship to the Christian liberal arts school located in northeast Tennessee.

“She was focused and determined, and she’d grind until the ball fell in the 18th hole,” Wallingford said.

As a freshman, Sullivan was the Appalachian Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Twice, she earned all-conference honors during her career. Three times, she helped the Buffaloes stampede the competition en route to AAC titles.

When her playing days ended in 2017, she turned her attention to coaching. Wallingford gave her a chance as an assistant.

“As a coach, she loved to be prepared,” Wallingford said. “Before tournaments, she’d go on websites and do yardage books (detailing the course) for the girls. No one was more committed or more dedicated. She went out there and had a strategy.”   

Sullivan worked on a master’s degree in sports management at East Tennessee State University and, despite a rigorous schedule filled with coaching and schoolwork, she took on an internship with the U.S. Golf Association and worked the U.S. Amateur in 2018 at Pebble Beach.

In 2019, Sullivan accepted an assistant coaching job at Division II University of Montevallo in Alabama. Three years later, she’s back closer to home — this time as a head coach.

“I knew Brenau was a great academic institution and had great athletic programs,” Sullivan said. “Everyone I talked to had positive things to say. I noticed most of the coaches have been here for a while, and that tells you it’s not only a great place to work but also a place where you can have athletic success.”

Brenau Athletic Director Mike Lochstampfor said he is very excited to welcome Sullivan as the Golden Tigers’ next coach.

“I have full confidence that she will provide the leadership we need for an already successful golf program,” he said. “With her background in the NAIA, experience as an accomplished golfer in the Appalachian Athletic Conference and understanding of the mission of our university, she is a perfect fit for our program.”

Although golf is an individual sport, Sullivan said team bonding is instrumental in collegiate golf and that’s one of the first things she’ll pitch to her Brenau team.

“You want five players playing for each other,” she said.

Sullivan wants to be the glue that brings the team together, delivering encouragement and constructive criticism with equal tone. She credits playing experience and former teammates and coaches for giving her perspective from all sides.

“Two things can happen when a golf coach shows up,” Sullivan said. “A player can get nervous and tight or a player can get loose and comfortable. As a coach, you want the player to be loose so you can assist.”