Aug. 24, 2011
CLEMSON, SC - J.T. Horton knows a thing or two about building a program from scratch. He did that after Hurricane Katrina left the City of New Orleans and the Tulane University golf program in shambles in 2005.
The women's golf program, ranked 15th in the nation at the time, was actually suspended for a couple years, and Horton was brought in to rebuild it. And that's exactly what he did.
"One of the reasons I enjoyed the challenge, was because I was guaranteed to have my own players," he said. "I didn't have to worry about a four-year recruiting class or worry about having players that were there before me that maybe were not my style or my type of player.
"I was able to get the student-athlete that I liked to work with. It was a very special and unique opportunity."
In his three seasons, Horton was the Conference USA Coach of the Year twice (2009 and 2010), led the program to the NCAA National Tournament twice and the NCAA regional three times. Tulane won the Conference USA championship twice and won five tournament titles overall.
"Trying to recruit 18- to 22-year old young ladies two years after Hurricane Katrina was a tough task without a doubt," Horton said. "But, it was an opportunity for me coming from the men's side that I knew this was something I wanted to do. "I really like working and developing players."
And that is what he plans to do at Clemson. However, this time the Tigers' first women's golf coach is starting a program from scratch rather than rebuilding one. But he admits recruiting golfers to Tigertown should not be as tall of a task as it was for him in New Orleans.
"It was a little bit tougher to recruit to Tulane and New Orleans after that hurricane than it is to recruit here (today)," Horton said. "This will be a much easier sell and a much more realistic sell for a student-athlete without a doubt."
The areas around Clemson are filled with some of the best courses, not just in the State of South Carolina, but in the country. That has helped build a nice recruiting base in Clemson's own backyard.
"It's very good here on the women's side," Horton said. "Coach (Larry) Penley said it very well when he said we wants to `take over the state of South Carolina in four to five years.'
"It that a high goal? You bet it is, but it is also very achievable. I think it is important that you build that recruiting base and relationship within the state of South Carolina, and Coach Penley has been doing that the last 29 years.
"That is something we will start and work ourselves locally, then in the region and then go nationally after that. But there is no reason, why we cannot start right here and pull from our strong South Carolina base."
Being able to pull off his experience at Tulane, Horton understands what it takes to first start a program, and then go build it up.
"The biggest thing is patience," he said. "Our full focus will be on the 2013 class. I think there will be a couple of 2012s that will be interested, and there will be a possibility of a few transfers that might be interested. We will not know all of that until on down the road, but what helps you is being patient and knowing how to be able to spread your scholarships out over time.
"It sounds easy, but it is tough to bring that many student-athletes in at one time. When you start a program from scratch, there is so much that goes into the initial recruiting process, it is all I will do. For the next year, I will not even touch scheduling, new clothes or equipment. It will not even be in the forefront of my mind. I'm going to be focused on 100 percent recruiting and bringing the best student-athletes to this university."