Caroline Westrup’s journey into coaching was almost ordained from the beginning. After all, her father Charlie made a career out of it, heading up the Norwegian Golf Association from the time she was 11, moving the family from Sweden.
“I just see what he’s done with players and how thankful they are to him and dedicate their careers to him,” Westrup said. “That’s just been very inspiring to see what he’s done.”
Now, Westrup is tasked with leading Missouri’s women’s golf team as its new head coach. She takes over following her predecessor Stephanie Priesmeyer moving to a development role in MU athletics after leading the program since the 2000-01 season.
Westrup spent last season as an assistant at Georgia, where she went after beginning her coaching career at the IMG Academy in Florida. She started coaching after ending her professional career in 2018.
Now, she said she is ready to try and move the Tigers forward in the SEC, and has some traits she inherited from her father to help.
“Just being a leader, a vocal leader,” Westrup said. “And creating relationships, making sure that you know your student-athletes on a personal level, not just a golf level, is very important.”
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Still, Westrup said expectations will be high for the Tigers.
“Being a tough coach, kind of with tough love,” Westrup said of her coaching style. “Still care for the student-athletes, but then not try to sugarcoat them. I’m going to be very straightforward and say how it is.”
Westrup has big goals for the program. The Tigers have never finished better than eighth in the SEC tournament and ran 14th last year.
Within five years, Westrup said she wants to see the program take a step into national prominence.
“I hope that we are up there and really competitive within the SEC, we’re playing in nationals every year and are up there in contention to be able to win a national championship,” Westrup said.
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She has the support of athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois, who issued a statement praising Westrup when the hire was announced.
“Coach Westrup’s determination, tactical expertise and recruiting abilities stood out from an impressive field,” Reed-Francois said. “Her extensive experience and success as an amateur and professional golfer along with her methodical approach, focus on her student-athletes and ability to build community were difference makers as we moved through the search process.”
Westrup said she will emphasize recruiting international players as part of her strategy to boost the program. She has experience in the area, having come to the U.S. herself to attend Florida State from 2005 to 2009.
She found success in Tallahassee, being named an all-American four times and earning induction into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2019. She leveraged the amateur success into a professional career, competing in the LPGA among other pro tours.
“I know what it takes to make it to the highest level,” Westrup said. “I’m very, very competitive. I just want to change the culture a little bit for the women’s program.”
Matt Stahl is the Missouri athletics beat reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @mattstahl97.