From playing Division I golf at a Big Ten program to playing professionally in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Symetra Tour and finding her footing in coaching, Loyola women’s golf head coach Carly Werwie’s journey has led her to learn winning is important, but it’s not everything.
Since Werwie was named Loyola’s head coach last season, she’s worked to implement what she’s learned throughout her professional run and coaching career — a career that didn’t start the way she wanted.
‘That’s a Good Miss’: Overcoming Adversity
After being encouraged to apply for an assistant coaching job at her alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Werwie didn’t get the spot, being told she lacked coaching experience.
She faced a similar rejection at a different top golf program. After failing to get either job, she was upset and realized she wanted to coach. Despite her frustration, she continued playing professionally.
“My reaction made me realize maybe I do want to transition into that role,” Werwie said.
Werwie was offered a graduate assistant position in her hometown of Kenosha, Wisc. with the Division III school, Carthage College — a job she held from 2016 until she graduated with her master’s degree in educational leadership in 2018. She provided assistance and support to the coaching staff, managed day-to-day logistics and worked with some players one-one-one.
While it wasn’t a head coaching job or even an assistant position, it was a stepping stone she said she was determined to use.
Following her own positive experience as a college athlete, Werwie was inspired to bring some of those elements to her career, highlighting the relationships that can be built in college athletics. She said some of her closest friends came from being a college athlete and she still keeps in touch with them today.
“It teaches you so many things,” Werwie said. “Working with college athletes is really cool. It keeps you young and just giving back to those student-athletes from what I received … kind of like a ‘pay-it-forward.’”
‘Get In the Hole’: Starting at Loyola
Loyola Athletics Director Steve Watson said Werwie was identified as a potential candidate for the position. He said he had several contacts to the Carthage graduate, and the two connected early in the hiring process.
“She had a tremendous amount of golf experience,” Watson said. “When we talked to her and met with her, we just realized that she had strong potential and we knew that she would be an excellent fit for us.”
In 2018, Werwie was offered the head coaching job at Loyola — shortly after previous coach Carly Schneider left the program — and eagerly took the position, despite some residual nerves.
“I wouldn’t trade my job for any other job,”
— Carly Werwie, Loyola women’s golf head coach
The transition from Division III to Division I and the stress of heading a new program aren’t what caused her anxiety, she said. Instead, she faced typical coaching struggles.
“[I was] nervous about how the players on the team would be,” Werwie said. “I’m not too far removed from having played in college. … [I’m] more nervous to hope that they would transition into some of the things I wanted to implement.”
The things she wanted to implement? More structure in practice — using more drills and skills that could be better translated onto the course. Her main focus was the mental aspect of the game, centering on the present and course management.
“Practicing mentally is no different than practicing a physical golf swing,” Werwie said. “You have to practice and rehearse, ‘How do I react to it and how do I manage the golf course?’ Other teams study film and players. We study the golf course.”
That translated well to the players, according to sophomore golfer Jenny Myslinski. She said Werwie has been able to teach Myslinski how to control her emotions and focusing at the moment at hand.
“She’s probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever had in terms of knowledge of the game,” Myslinski said. “I think she’s helped me with the mental game and staying confident and positive.”
‘That’s the Shot That’ll Bring You Back’: Making an Impact
Werwie played in the second tier of the LPGA, the Symetra Tour, but despite not being at the highest level, she gained valuable experience she brought to Loyola. She said the most important skill she acquired was learning it’s not always about golf.
“Yes, golf is an important part,” Werwie said. “But at the same time, too, it’s all about the experience and the journey that you’re on with it.”
Werwie traveled the country as a professional golfer. She said she built relationships with people all over, including forming a bond with a family who hosted her several times throughout her career.
During a team trip to Florida last season, she was able to introduce her players to the family. The family owned a breakfast diner, which the team visited, allowing them a glimpse into Werwie’s past life.
“I don’t want to say it was a second home for her, but meeting people that have supported her through her golf journey and going to that diner that she knew the owner [was special],” Myslinski said. “They were super nice. It was really homey. They made sure we got the best food and I think they even paid for our meal.”
That’s just one example of the many ways Werwie has tried to better the experience for her athletes, Myslinski said. She said Werwie has them doing “cheesy” bonding games. At the time, the team thinks it’s corny, but ultimately enjoys getting closer together.
‘Tee it High, Let it Fly’: Improvements for the Team’s Game
Last fall was hectic for the new coach. She had to adjust to a new school, new players and a new city all while trying to get her team ready for the upcoming season. Werwie said it came with some bumps and bruises, but the evolution from fall to spring was worth it.
This year, she said it’s been even better — not only for her, but for the team, as well.
“Not that last fall was bad, there’s just no unknowns,” Werwie said. “I know them, they know me. I can see it in our scores. It’s exciting to see the progress that we’ve made.”
There are two golfers still on the roster from before Werwie’s time — senior Morgan Brown and junior Abbey Meyers. Brown’s average score has dropped 0.3 strokes since the 2017-18 season and Meyers has a 5.6 stroke drop.
Five different golfers have improved their average scores from Werwie’s first year to the current 2019-20 season. Redshirt junior Sara Posada had the biggest drop from 85.3 to 78.8, although the season isn’t over yet so the current statistics are only through one event.
Despite the improvements, Werwie is still relatively untested in her job. She helped her golfers perform well, but they were a group of women she inherited from Schneider and didn’t recruit. This will be her first year with her own recruits and a good representation of what the upcoming tenure under Werwie will bring.
‘You Were Aiming That Way’: Werwie’s Journey is Far From Over
While her journey wasn’t what she wished it would be, she said it all happened for a reason. Without the experience she’s gained along the way, she wouldn’t have been able to teach her team nearly as much.
At Loyola, she said she’s happy and excited to see what the future brings.
“I wouldn’t trade my job for any other job,” Werwie said.