The 2015-16 season season saw the Clemson women's golf program return to the NCAA Tournament after a one year absence. J.T. Horton's squad had five top five finishes, its best finish at the ACC Tournament, and a winning record at the NCAA regional.
Horton has taken Clemson to the NCAA Tournament two of the three years the Tigers have had a program. Two of the three years the program has ranked in the top 50, a strong start for a program competing in the best league in the nation.
The Tigers have received many honors over the last three years. Horton has coached three first-team All-ACC players, an All-American and five who were named Academic Scholars by the Golf Coaches Association. Three players have combined for five medalist honors and two different players have already been named ACC Player of the Month. Two of his players have already played in the Curtis Cup, including current Tiger Alice Hewson, who was a member of the GB&I championship team of 2016.
The third season of Clemson women's golf saw the program boast the ACC Rookie of the Year for the first time as Hewson won the honor against a strong field of competitors. The native of England won two tournaments, her first two events as a Tiger in fact. Her 65 at the Cougar Classic in Charleston, SC in just her second career round, established a school record by three shots and by the end of the year it was still the low round of the year by any ACC women's golfer. Hewson was named first-team All-ACC as a freshman
The third year of women's golf at Clemson also saw the program host its first tournament. The Reserve at Lake Keowee in Sunset, S.C. was the home course as 14 of the top teams in the nation competed at the Jack Nicklaus designed course just 25 minutes from Clemson.
It didn’t take Horton long to establish Clemson as one of the top 25 programs in the country. Clemson’s No.14 final ranking in the Golfstat ratings in 2014 was just the second top 25 finish for a Clemson sports program in its first year.
The team was ranked as high as 10th in the nation in the coaches poll at midseason and was selected for the NCAA Tournament, the only first-year program to make the big dance. Clemson’s women’s soccer program is the only other first-team program to make the NCAA Tournament in its first year of existence.
Clemson was in the national conversation because Horton formed a challenging national schedule. The Tigers competed against 21 of the 24 teams that played in the National Championship Tournament and had a solid 29-25-3 record against those teams. That included an 11-2-2 record against teams that finished 6-10 at the national tournament.
At the conclusion of the season, Clemson was one of just 11 schools with a winning record against the final top 25 in the Sagarin rankings. Individually, two Tigers were named first-team All-ACC as freshman and finished the year ranked in the top 50 in the nation.
All these accomplishments were remarkable considering Clemson had an all freshman team.
Horton, known as J.T. by most, was named the first women's golf coach at Clemson University in August of 2011 and worked long hours in preparation for that first season.
Horton came to Clemson after four years (three seasons of competition) as the head coach at Tulane. He re-started the program after Hurricane Katrina halted it from the fall of 2005 until the fall of 2008.
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.
The Green Wave finished in the top three in 14 of 33 tournaments over the three-year period. He had 14 all-conference players on the course and 17 on the Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll in those three years. He coached the Conference Player of the Year each of his three years with the program.
Horton was named head coach of the Tulane women's program on July 4, 2007. He established the program through recruiting the first 13 months, then put a quality team on the course for the 2008-09 season.
In that first year, he led the Green Wave to two tournament titles, including the C-USA Championship and the Ole Miss Lady Rebel Intercollegiate, a fifth-place finish at the NCAA East Regional and a 20th-place finish at the 2009 NCAA National Championships. The team finished in the top five in six of 11 tournaments.
Five of his six first-year players were named to All C-USA first, second or third teams, and Linn Gustafsson was tabbed the Conference USA Player and Newcomer of the Year, while freshman Daniela Holmqvist captured the C-USA championship individual medalist honors en route to earning the league's Freshman of the Year honors.
Horton's second year mirrored the success of his rookie season. He led the Green Wave to its second straight C-USA Championship and a return trip into the NCAA Championship, where his team posted an 18th-place national finish.
His sophomore season as a head coach featured a school record three tournament victories, including the Conference USA Championship, which was won in record fashion. The team posted a 54-hole score of 858, the lowest team tournament score in school history.
Under his leadership, five Green Wave players were named to the 2010 All-Conference USA teams, including three to the first team, and for the second straight season he has coached the C-USA Player of the Year with Janine Fellows' Co-Player of the Year selection.
Off the course, six of his seven players were either members of the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll, earned the C-USA Commissioner's Academic Medal or is a member of Tulane's 3.0 Club. The group included Linn Gustafsson, who was named to the NGCA All-Scholar Team in 2010. She also made the team in 2011.
In his last year the team had six top 10 finishes in 10 tournaments to qualify for the NCAA regional for a third straight year. The team finished 17th in the final Golfstat computer ranking. He led Tulane to a third-place finish in Conference USA and once again he coached the league's top player, Maribel Lopez Porras.
Porras qualified for the NCAA national tournament as an individual and was a Golfweek honorable mention All-American. Four more players made one of the three All-Conference USA teams, and Meghan Chapman was named the top newcomer in the conference.
A two-time All-American as a student-athlete at Berry College in Rome, GA (1995-99), Horton joined the Green Wave family following two years at Georgia Southern where he served as an assistant coach for the Eagles' men's golf program.
Horton helped the Eagles win the 2006 Southern Conference Championship, where all five golfers finished in the Top 25 individually and the team won the title by 12 strokes over College of Charleston. The team also advanced to the NCAA East Regional finishing one spot out of qualifying for NCAA National Championship.
During the 2006-07 season, GSU posted four top five team finishes including a runner-up showing at the SoCon Championship.
During his two seasons in Statesboro, Ga., Horton coached Jonathan Shaw who earned Academic All-America honors in 2006 and played an integral role in J.D. Kennedy, Drew Bowen, and Bryan Jones claiming All-Southern Conference honors.
As the program's recruiting coordinator, Horton helped Georgia Southern ink one of the top recruiting classes in school history in 2007. He also oversaw the team's player development, workouts and physical conditioning, as well as serving as the liaison to the director of student-athlete services for academic progress.
A four-year letterman at Berry College, Horton was a first-team NAIA All-America as both a junior and senior and claimed first-team All-TranSouth Conference honors all four years. He helped the Vikings win the conference title from 1996-1999 and capped off his career as a member of the NAIA National Championship team in 1998.
Individually, Horton won six collegiate tournaments, including TranSouth Conference medalist honors in 1997 and 1998. He was selected to represent the U.S. in the 1998 World University Golf Games in San Lameer, South Africa.
No stranger to balancing academics and athletics, Horton graduated with a business degree in 1999 and earned All-TranSouth Conference Scholar Athlete honors in 1998 and 1999.
Following his successful collegiate career, Horton played professionally on several mini-tours for five years. In 2002, he won his first professional event, The Harbor Club Classic Championship, on the DP Tour with a 19-under par 269 (63-70-71-65). He was an exempt member of the NGA Hooters Tour from 2000-2004 and reached the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School in 2000 and 2001.
As a pro, Horton worked with renowned golf instructors Rob Akins, Todd Anderson and Dave Pelz, as well as sports psychologists Dr. Rick Jensen and Dr. Jack Llewellyn, and fitness guru Randy Myers.
Prior to joining the GSU staff, he served as the head golf professional and assistant general manager at Horseleg Plantation County Club (Rome, Ga.). At Horseleg, Horton managed all golf operations and assisted the general manager in supervising department heads and employees for golf, swimming, tennis and fitness. Horton developed and oversaw a Ladies Golf Association and Junior Golf Academy in addition to managing the Men's and Senior's Golf Associations.
A native of Clayton, Ga., Horton is married to the former Sydnie Brianne Ruland of Rome, GA. They have two sons, Griffin, who was born in January of 2011 and Brooks, who was born in November of 2013.