Not all great athletes make great teachers for the next generation of talent. However, that ability to teach is why Jessica Steward’s work with the Georgia State women’s golf team is unique. Last season, Steward coached her team to a win in a dual match with the Dayton Flyers to tie and a tie for fourth at the Georgia State Invitational.
Steward is carving her own path to becoming a leader for her team. From watching her parents take her older brother to the golf course, Steward learned and continued the tradition of golf in her family.
“My parents played golf earlier in life, but when they began to raise our family, they stopped playing for a while,” Steward said. “Eventually, my brother was old enough for them to start bringing him out to the course, so they got back into it and got him into the game. Then when I was old enough, they started me as well.
Steward found golf at a young age. There were other sports she enjoyed, but golf and soccer were always the top choices. She didn’t begin to take it seriously until she was ten years old. Yet, she still wanted to do as much as she could.
“I played quite a bit of soccer and was on some traveling teams, the same thing with softball,” Steward said. “I didn’t start playing golf until I was about ten or eleven and tried to continue with as many sports as possible for as long as I could…I was able to stick with soccer and golf up until graduation because they were in opposite seasons. That worked out well for me because those were my two favorite sports.”
Steward took over her program three years ago, and from day one, the experience that she has built over the years has allowed her to impact the program and recruiting instantly.
“Every year, no matter where I am or have been, I learn how to become a more honest and open communicator with our student-athletes. That helps me grow as a coach and make a bigger impact each year,” Steward said. “More specifically, my previous roles at IPFW and Lamar University have taught me to be resourceful. Both of those golf programs have been small, and we have had to accomplish as much as we can with as few tools as possible. That has been especially valuable given the challenges that COVID has presented, but du
ring normal times, I’ll feel like we have a [bottomless] pool of resources here.”
Steward’s team has enjoyed nine top-25 finishes in six events in just two years at Georgia State, including the team’s lowest round at the Amelia Island Collegiate.
“I love watching our players work really hard to achieve something. If I can help just the smallest bit in the learning process, that means the world to me,” Steward said. “I also really value the relationships that I build with them, especially as they continue on past graduation. Watching them build their careers, get married, start families, and reach whatever other milestones are important to them in life is just as rewarding.”
Steward’s recognition goes well beyond just Georgia State’s team: her peers voted her the 2017 LPGA’s Central Section Coach of the Year. Steward led her team to win in a dual match with Dayton University and tying for fourth at the school’s invitational. Steward and her team look to continue improving their play as they compete at the FIU Pat Bradley Invitational on October 16th.