JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – University of North Florida athletic director Lee Moon announced the hiring of Joanne Steele as the first head coach for the UNF Women’s Golf program, which will begin NCAA competition in the 2012-13 season.
Steele comes to UNF after serving the last 15 years at the head women’s golf coach for the University of Montana. She was an assistant coach for the Grizzlies for one season before earning the head position and was part of the UM program for 16 of its 18 years of existence.
“I am thrilled to have a coach with Joanne’s experience in building a successful women’s golf program from the ground up,” said Moon. “Her contagious energy and enthusiasm will definitely allow her to create an exciting buzz in the women’s golf community. She is determined to hit the ground running and that focus will allow us to become competitive very quickly. Joanne was the perfect fit. She built a solid program at Montana and has strong ties to the Jacksonville area. We are fortunate to have attracted a coach of Joanne’s caliber to lead our team.”
During her tenure, the Grizzlies posted 11 top-five finishes at the Big Sky Conference championship, including the last eight. Montana won the league title in 2006, the program’s first, and had runner-up finishes in both 2002 and ’05.
“This is definitely an incredible opportunity,” said Steele. “I appreciate the trust and commitment that Coach Moon has put in me to build a winning program at UNF. I’m excited about getting started with recruiting and getting the word out about Osprey women’s golf. It was a bittersweet decision to leave Montana after 15 years but when a ‘Dream Job’ like this comes open it was something I had to pursue.
“Not only does UNF have a tremendous staff and a wonderful family atmosphere but the University is totally committed to doing everything possible for women’s golf to be successful. I love the Jacksonville area and know from personal experience that there is great support for golf. UNF’s strong academic standing and beautiful campus will be huge assets in recruiting and having a proven, well-established men’s golf program to grow alongside will also assist in the building process.”
Steele coached the Big Sky Player of the Year in 2002 while also guiding a pair of golfers to Big Sky Championship medalist showings. All in all, she produced 17 All-Big Sky Conference golfers.
Academically, Steele’s teams captured the annual UM Director of Athletics’ Award four times as the program with the department’s highest cumulative GPA. She had 52 student-athletes on the Academic All-Big Sky Conference team.
Steele was recognized by her coaching peers in 2006 as the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Grizzlies to their conference title and an NCAA Regional appearance.
A graduate of Jacksonville University, Steele was a four-year letterwinner for the Dolphins from 1990-93. She captained the JU golf team for three years while earning three All-Sun Belt Conference honors. Steele won three in-season tournaments in her collegiate career and placed second at the 1993 Sun Belt Conference championship and fourth at the 1992 conference meet.
A four-year member of the Jacksonville President’s List for academic success, Steele graduated magna cum laude in 1993 with a degree in sociology. Earlier this month, Steele was inducted into JU’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Prior to joining the Montana coaching staff, Steele, who grew up in Helena, Mont., worked as an assistant golf professional at the Green Meadow Country Club in Helena, and the Amelia Island Plantation Resort in Amelia Island, Fla.
Steele has continued to play competitive golf, winning both the 2001 and ’09 Montana Women’s Amateur titles. She was the tournament runner-up in 2002 and ’03. She is a member of the 2009 Montana State Women’s Amateur Hall of Fame class.