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After 18 seasons with the Harvard women’s golf team and ten seasons with the Harvard men’s golf, former professional golf player and head coach Kevin Rhoads will split his time in half as former assistant head coach Naree Song transitions into taking over the women’s golf team as head coach.
Though Song has been an associate coach for Harvard since 2015, the Bangkok, Thailand native began golfing at the young age of seven years old and started competing at the international level just shortly after that.
“I played my first tournament in the U.S. representing Thailand when I was nine,” Song said.
Song then immigrated to the United States at the age of eleven to play at IMG Academy, a boarding school in Bradenton, Fla. geared towards preparing students to play collegiate athletics. By the age of 17, she went professional, even playing at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2000, but due to injuries she changed course and took a step towards education and coaching.
“I thought that the next most fulfilling thing would be to use my knowledge and skills to enhance somebody else’s life and somebody else’s golf game,” the head coach reflected.
Song received her first taste of coaching at Rollins College in Florida.
“I wasn’t sure how much I would like coaching, but I wanted to give it a try,” Song reflected. “It was my first experience in college coaching and I really enjoyed it.”
According to Song, Julie Garner, the current head coach of women’s golf at Rollins, made a major impact on her career in coaching and remains an incredible mentor to her. Interestingly enough, Harvard women’s golf commenced its 2023 spring season against Song’s former team and mentor on February 18.
“I actually played Kevin and the Harvard ladies when I was at Rollins, so I’m on the opposite side,” head coach Song stated. “I had a wonderful mentor, who is still the head coach – so it is kind of like full circle.”
For Song, coaching has been a thrilling and worthwhile experience because she finds it just as fulfilling as playing, giving her the opportunity to “use her expertise and knowledge to help somebody else out.”
Since she joined the Crimson in 2015 as an associate head coach, Harvard has won two Ivy League Championships, in 2016 and 2019, eleven tournament victories, and have had two NCAA Regional appearances, in 2016 and 2019.
“I don’t want to give myself too much credit because the ladies here have been successful for a long time under coach Kevin and Fred,” Song stated.
In addition to crediting longtime Harvard coaches Rhoads and Fred Schernecker ‘89, she credits her ability to adapt as an important piece that has allowed her to mesh so well with the team. that “probably one of my strengths is being able to adapt to what the culture is and go with the flow a little bit.”
As the Covid-19 pandemic has made a deep impact on collegiate athletics worldwide – the Ivy League was the first Division I league to cancel Spring seasons back in 2020 – head coach Song has had to continually adapt as a coach and make changes to ensure her team was taken care of, but also roll with the punches and be prepared for quick changes in the pace of Division I athletics
“Being in front of the team as much as possible and [make] sure I understand their needs and how everyone is feeling, and not being afraid to adjust if we need to.”
With the pandemic in the past for the most part, the new head coach looks forward to the future and hopes to see her team where no other Ivy League golf team has gone: the NCAA Championship. Currently, Song compares her team’s goal of reaching the NCAA Championship to putting a person on the moon, that “with each team that we have, can we continue to get one step closer not knowing for sure when we are going to get there, so I try to use this as an inspiration for them.”
Song and Harvard women’s golf continue to set their sights on bigger goals, making clear that continuing to push their game forward every day is more important to focus on than just winning.
“I think that if you take care of the daily practices and goals, it will lead to more winnings long term.”
Harvard women’s golf spring season will continue during spring break on March 15 in Arizona, when the Crimson will face Northern Arizona University. The team will then take two more road trips out west and down south for the Intercollegiate at Prospect Bay invitational and Harvard Invitational in early April before rounding out the regular season at the Ivy League Championships in New York on April 21, 22, and 23.
— Staff writer Eddy Fermin Perez can be reached at email@example.com.
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