ORLANDO, Fla. (EYT/D9) — Emily Marron grew up in a house that was just a long tee shot and a short pitch away from Foxburg Country Club.
(Photos courtesy of the University of Central Florida)
She spent almost as much time as a kid on those historic links than she did at home.
Golf was always the Foxburg native’s passion.
“I’ve played since I can remember, ever since I was 5 or 6 years old,” Marron said. “I grew up at Foxburg Country Club. I must have played that course a million times.”
When she was 8, she got her junior membership to the course. As she got older, she played on the boys team at AC Valley High School there and fared well at the District 9 and PIAA level in the early 1990s.
As her high school days waned, Marron knew she wanted to pursue a career in the sport. She also wanted to golf at the collegiate level.
Penn State University offered her a chance to do both.
In 1994, Marron walked on to the Nittany Lions’ women’s golf team, which was the only Division I program in Pennsylvania at the time. She was also accepted into the school’s professional golf management program.
Marron, though, quickly realized golf at the Division I level was difficult and time consuming. She changed her major so she could devote more time to her craft. By her senior year, she was team captain, a four-year letterwinner, was on full scholarship and won the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship in 1997.
Not bad for someone who admits she never had the natural talent for the sport as other golfers around her.
“I’ve just always been a competitor,” Marron said. “I would say I was never as talented as the other girls. I just always worked harder. I never got formal lessons, per se, growing up — I got a few here and there from my dad’s friends. I was kind of self-taught. I knew I had to outwork everybody. I wasn’t someone who was just gifted with talent.”
That trait helped her in her unexpected career in golf when her playing days were over.
It was never something she planned on doing. During her first year out of college, she worked as an assistant golf pro at The Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., which is the home course of Phil Mickelson.
But she got a call from her Penn State women’s golf coach. There was an opening on her staff and she wanted Marron to come back to Happy Valley.
Marron couldn’t say no.
Marron released her time at Penn State.
“It was amazing,” Marron said. “I’m forever thankful for the opportunity to be at Penn State. I was surrounded by people who were better than me, so I had to get better. What I loved was the challenge of it all and being at that high level in DI. Being a captain on the team my senior year is probably one of my proudest moments. To go from a walk-on from Foxburg, Pennsylvania, to a captain on your team at Penn State, it amazes me.”
That made it easy for her to return as a coach.
More than two decades later, she is still at it.
Marron left Penn State to take the head coaching job at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and spent nine years there.
During her last season at UNC-Greensboro, Marron’s team finished runner-up in the Southern Conference Tournament. She was also selected the conference’s coach of the year.
Her hallmark was doing more with less.
“In our sport in Division I, we can have six scholarships,” Marron said. “We weren’t fully funded when I was at UNC-Greensboro — we had only four and a half scholarships — and we were pretty good. We were in the top seven in the country. I just do with what I have. I don’t think you should complain about what you have. You should make the most of what you have. I think I’ve instilled that in our players.”
The success has continued in her most recent gig at the University of Central Florida.
In nine seasons, Marron has been named American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year twice.
UCF has made two NCAA Regional appearances and has twice advanced to the NCAA National Championships.
The Knights have also won a pair of conference titles.
The program will make the move to the Big 12 Conference next season.
Marron has also taken a different tack when it comes to recruiting.
All seven of the players on the current roster are international students.
There’s two from France, two from Thailand, and one each from England, Argentina and Sweden.
This past season’s roster included players from Mexico and Switzerland and only one player from the United States.
Over the years, Marron has also had players from Japan.
Marron is hoping to add more international players to her roster soon.
“I’m actually leaving of Iceland next week and then I’ll go to Switzerland,” Marron said. “I spend a lot of time in different countries. Women’s golf seems to be trending in the international direction, so I’ve had the chance to visit a lot of places all over the world.”
Marron has a good sales pitch. Florida is the ideal spot for golf and the program at UCF is one of the best in the country.
“Having the best players in the world come and play for me is pretty flattering,” Marron said. “It’s a huge responsibility. I’m bringing these girls from Thailand and France and England and their parents trust in me to send them over here to play for me.
“I just picked up our lone freshman on Friday from Thailand,” Marron added of the newest addition to the program, who may have one of the greatest sports names of all-time — Pimpisa “Sandwich” Sisutham. “She’s never been to the US before and I’m the only person she knows here. I take great pride in kind of becoming their family while they’re here. They’re amazing to me. They do so well in school. They push themselves really hard, and they take advantage of the opportunities we give them.”
Marron can relate. She, too, took full advantage of the opportunities she was given.
That may be what allows her to relate so well to her international players.
Over the years, word of mouth about Marron and her program has circled the globe.
“They’ll almost tend to recruit each other,” Marron said. “We have connections with coordinators in certain countries. We’re always on the phone recruiting and FaceTiming and trying to find these players. You have to have some pretty good relationships. The reputation is out there.”
There’s one thing Marron doesn’t get much time to do.
She rarely hits the course.
When she returns to the area to visit her father, who moved the family to Johnstown for when Marron was a freshman at Penn State, she’ll play a round with him.
But that’s about it.
“I just don’t have the time,” she said. “I’m older now, too. The players on my team are so good it would kind of be like an old basketball coach out there trying to play with his team. I still enjoy playing with my dad and my family when I go home, but those days a long gone.
“I’ve been to St Andrews and never played there,” Marron added. “I’ve been to Pebble Beach — I’ve been to pretty much every golf course you can imagine in the world, but I don’t get to play.”
Instead, Marron takes joy in watching her players succeed.
Not just off the tee, or from the fairway, or on the green — but also in life.
“It’s just so rewarding to see them grow and develop into wives and mothers and businesswomen and in their professional careers, and thinking maybe I had a small part in that — I had an impact in their lives,” Marron said. “I learned a lot from each and every one of them every year as much as they learn from me. I learned to really cherish those times with them.”