Former Division II standout Joanna Coe, director of instruction at storied Merion, still thrives while competing on a national stage

It snowed on the first day of the Women’s PGA Cup. The wind gusted over 30 mph at Twin Warriors Golf Club in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, and the feels-like temperature was in the high 20s. Even the Swedes asked PGA officials, “Is this playable?”

The Americans trailed early but battled back over the weekend to win the second Women’s PGA Cup. Joanna Coe fielded quite a few questions from students when she returned to Merion Golf Club about battling the elements and coming through in the clutch.

As director of instruction at the storied club, Coe’s competitive drive and infectious personality fit in well at a place that’s synonymous with excellence.

“Everyone eats, sleeps and breathes golf here,” she said.

Coe has a poster of Nelly Korda in her teaching bay because she thinks there needs to be more of a focus on the best women in the world.

Suzy Whaley, the first female president of the PGA of America, describes Coe as a hard worker whose approachable and authentic demeanor makes people want to be around her.

“She loves the game and exudes joy when she’s around it,” Whaley said. “This hire was a very smart hire.”

Whaley applauds Merion for hiring a woman because of the message it sends to an industry in which it’s still a challenging climb for women and minorities, but she wants to make it clear, too, that Coe was the best fit for the job.

“In golf, we’ve made progress,” said Whaley, “but we have a long way to go to elevate women and minorities. Boards, employers and owners continue to be heavily skewed male, and human nature showcases that we hire people like ourselves.”

Even now when Whaley answers the phone at her facility, the person on the other end sometimes asks to speak to the golf professional.

Team USA poses for a photo with the Women’s PGA Cup during the final round of the 2nd Women’s PGA Cup at Twin Warriors Golf Club on Saturday, October 29, 2022, in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico. From left to right: Ashley Grier, Sherry Andonian, Jennifer Borocz, Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth and Joanna Coe (Photo by Sam Greenwood/PGA of America)

The first time Rollins coach Julie Garner watched Coe compete was at a junior event at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club. By the time Garner got to the course, Rollins alumna Peggy Kirk Bell, a World Golf Hall of Famer who happened to own the place, had already spotted Coe on the range and was blown away by her power.

“There’s just something special about Pine Needles, and of course Mrs. Bell,” said Garner. “It was just magical how it all came together.”

Coe, a four-time All-American, would go on to lead Rollins to the 2008 NCAA Division II title while winning individually. She also won the Ross Resorts Invitational at Mid Pines, an extra special victory as the Bell family owned Mid Pines, too.

After competing for several years on what’s now the Epson Tour and missing out on her LPGA card one last time at Q-School, Coe came across a posting on LinkedIn for the assistant director of instruction at Baltimore Country Club.

She’d grown up “nerding out” over golf swings at the New Jersey Academy of Golf with her instructor Bruce Chelucci. As a teenager, she’d set up for his clinics, take his lessons on the course and absorb his teaching methods. Following in Chelucci’s footsteps felt like a natural next step.

“He didn’t charge me for lessons,” said Coe. “It was just this understanding that hey, we’re going to build something special together, so let’s just always help somebody out.”

After five years, Coe was promoted to director of instruction at Baltimore and then moved to Merion in March of 2022.

While she no longer plays professionally full time, Coe stays competitive in PGA events, noting that she’s played in more than 15 this year, though most are only one day. She was the Middle Atlantic Women’s PGA Player of the Year six times and was named the inaugural OMEGA Women’s PGA Professional Player of the Year in 2020.

Joanna Coe of Team USA hits her shot during a practice round for the 2nd PGA Women’s Cup at Twin Warriors Golf Club on Tuesday, October 25, 2022 in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/PGA of America)

In June, Coe won the 2022 Conestoga Classic on the second sudden-death playoff hole against Braden Shattuck of Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield. She made nine birdies in that round. Most of the events she competes in are mixed, and Coe plays a reduced yardage.

“She’s meant to compete,” said Garner, noting the epic ping pong battles Coe used to engage in with former Rollins president Lewis Duncan.

Next year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Baltustrol will be her fifth KPMG. There’s already talk of a party bus of supporters coming out to watch in 2023.

There’s a lot of passion around elite-level golf at Merion, host of 19 USGA championships and a slate of big events on the calendar, including the 2026 U.S. Amateur, 2030 U.S. Open and 2034 U.S. Women’s Open.

During the Curtis Cup last June at Merion, Coe hosted dozens of kids at a junior clinic that featured Swoop, the Philadelphia Eagles mascot. Coe never imagined while working those junior clinics with Chelucci that this is how she’d one day grow the game.

“Merion was always an unattainable dream place,” she said. “The first time I played here, I couldn’t stop shaking the entire day.”

Now it’s home.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek