Tennessee State University Golf Coach Catana Starks

NASHVILLE — Trailblazing golf coach Dr. Catana Starks passed away on

Sunday morning at the age of 75.


Starks made history becoming the first African-American woman to coach

an all-men’s team at the collegiate level. Starks coached the Tennessee State University

men’s golf team from 1986 until 2005 when she led the Tigers to a

National Minority Golf Championship. The team shot a record-setting

840 as a unit.


Starks, a Tennessee State University graduate, returned to Nashville

in 1980 to become the swimming coach for the Tigers. When TSU entered

the Ohio Valley Conference, the athletic department dropped the

swimming program to add golf and tabbed Starks as the head coach.


During her time as a coach, Starks earned her doctorate degree, began

teaching and eventually becoming the department head of Human

Performance and Sports Sciences at TSU.


Under her guidance, the team also produced Sean Foley, who went on to

be Tiger Woods’ swing coach; Sam Puryear, who became the first African

American men’s head golf coach in any major conference (Michigan

State); and Robert Dinwiddie, an All-American who went on to play on

the European professional tour.


In 2011, her story inspired the movie “From the Rough” starring the

late Michael Clarke Duncan and Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson.



Sean Foley, Former Tennessee State Golfer, Professional Swing Coach

“Rest In Peace Dr. Starks. Thank you for the opportunity to play golf

at TSU. TSU was the most formative time in my life, the learning curve

the steepest. The experience has had a positive and lasting effect on

  1. Thank you coach for providing me with the opportunity. Coach

endured so much, fought so hard. Time for her to Rest In Peace, she

was a great woman and leader.”


Sam Puryear, Former Tennessee State Golfer, Former Michigan State Head Coach

“Coach Starks was a true coach. She was a true advocate and believer

in the term student-athlete. She helped make me a better student,

athlete and now coach. I am paying a lot of her messages and lessons



Robert Dinwiddie, Former Tennessee State Golfer, All-American and

Member of European Professional Tour

“She was an absolutely amazing person that was extremely passionate

about golf and very funny too. I’m especially sad because I have been

meaning to get back to Nashville soon and she would have been the

first person I’d have reached out to. She was a great coach. All my