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
- 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