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ASU golf coach sees mental toughness as key to team's championship season

Coach balanced toughness, fun on ASU team's road to national golf championship.
July 11, 2017

Missy Farr-Kaye led Sun Devils to a record 8th NCAA title — and her third

The Sun Devils women’s golf team had a lot of ups and downs this season, according to Head Coach Missy Farr-Kaye. But they ended the year at the very top: Arizona State University won the national championship for the eighth time in the program’s history — the most of any NCAA Division I program.

It was Farr-Kaye’s third NCAA title. She won the first while a senior on the ASU golf team, in 1990. Her second was as an assistant coach of the Sun Devils, in 2009. She took the program to the national championship in Illinois in May in only her second year as head coach, and she has won a plethora of accoladesFarr-Kaye was named the Golfweek Division I Women's National Coach of the Year, National Coach of the Year by the Women's Golf Coaches Association, West Regional Coach of the Year and Pac-12 Coach of the Year..

The golf season runs from September to May, and Farr-Kaye started the season last fall without an assistant coach, which, she said, was a blessing in disguise.

“It worked out well to have a couple of months by myself because I really had a chance to connect with my players. When you’re the only resource, they come to you for everything,” she said. In November, Michelle Estill, a former professional golfer and a teammate of Farr-Kaye’s at ASU in the 1980s, was hired as the assistant coach.

Besides the team victory, Sun Devil Monica VaughnVaughn was named winner of the Honda Award, the Pac-12 Tom Hansen Medal of Honor and the Pac-12 Women's Golfer of the Year. won the NCAA individual title, two weeks after graduating with a degree in communications.

Vaughn said the key to Farr-Kaye’s coaching success is that she’s more than coach.

“She’s a mom away from home, and she’s a mentor. She’s a doctor when she needs to be,” she said.

“That’s helped to create such a great bond. She lets us know that she cares more how we are as people than how we are as golfers.”

Farr-Kaye talked to ASU Now about how she worked throughout the season to lead the team to the pinnacle of success.

1. She found inspiration in different places.

“I realized the most important thing we needed to do was to be a team that was mentally strong and gritty.

“I love to watch what the good coaches are doing, and I spend a lot of time reading. I watched a TED Talk on grit by Angela Duckworth, who also wrote a book about it [‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’] that’s on my nightstand and that I keep highlighting.

“I started following Jon Gordon, who mentors many coaches and wrote ‘The Power of Positive Leadership.’ ”

2. She asked for a commitment to the very end.

“In January, we had a team retreat. We brainstormed how we wanted the entire season to look up until the last day. We had to be all in until May 24, the last day of the finals.

“It’s easy to get a little burnt out at the end of the season. They miss their families. We had Monica as a senior, with the pressure of graduating and ‘what will I do next?’

“I wanted them to commit to each other, and all of us to commit to each other, until we were done.”

3. She personalized her coaching.

“It’s really important to know the individual players. What I say to one player is not going to resonate with the next one.

“You have to have those relationships where you know who needs a tougher love — ‘Come on. What are you doing?’ And that the other needs to hear, ‘You’re fine. It’s all right.’

“It takes a lot of time and intuition to learn what makes each of them tick.”

4. She built up the players' mental toughness.

“We struggled at conference. We had a bad first day in our minds, and the girls were devastated. I told them we had a fantastic year. We won our home tournament for the first time in 10 years. We’re not going to let one bad day ruin it. Let’s take apart what we need to. Let’s be smart about his. [The team won the PING/ASU Invitational by 20 strokes in April but finished in sixth place in the PAC-12 Women’s Golf Championship in Tucson later that month.]

“I think it worked well for us that we played poorly at conference because it helped us reset. They dug a little deeper, practiced a little harder and showed what they were made of.

“I pulled an article out of the Arizona Republic, ‘Mental toughness cannot be underrated.’ We had a meeting about it. I said, ‘Bring your highlighters’ and we talked about it.

“These are qualities that are really important that will hold you through difficult times.”

5. She balanced the work with play.

“That was something I really focused on at the end of the year. I wanted them to have fun on the journey.

“And we did. We had team songs. There are Snapchats of me dancing. That’s not something they always see in me.

“We were about to walk to the tee to play for the national championship and I put my music on and made Robbie Liti dance with me. That was good for her to get her relaxed.

“Our song was by Shawn Mendes, ‘No Holding Back.’ We played it in the cars, and they nicknamed the trophy Shawn.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU


Top photo: Missy Farr-Kaye, head coach of the Sun Devils women's golf team, won her third NCAA title in May. Her first was as an ASU player, in 1990, and the second was as assistant coach, in 2009. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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ASU Foundation sets fundraising record, generates more than $220M for university’s programs, services

Support from private donors funds ASU scholarships, public services and more.
July 13, 2017

Record amount of private support follows public launch of Campaign ASU 2020

In the months following the launch of Campaign ASU 2020, a comprehensive resource-raising effort to sustain and grow Arizona State University’s educational activities, the ASU Foundation has announced the completion of a record year in fundraising for academic programs, research and services at the university.

At the close of the 2017 fiscal year, early estimates show private donors from across Arizona and the world contributed more than $220 million for ASU to enable access and excellence within higher education. The previous record of $215 million was set in fiscal year 2016.

“We’re trying to build something that the university needs going forward, which is a culture of philanthropy,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “All great universities in the United States are built around philanthropy.”

“This strong momentum indicates that our model is working and that our community is growing in its understanding of the value of private support to the university — and of the value of the university in society,” said R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr., chief executive officer of ASU Enterprise Partners, the parent organization to the ASU Foundation.

Campaign ASU 2020 focuses on six priorities — student access and excellence, student success, the academic enterprise, discovery, creativity and innovation, our communities and Sun Devil competitiveness — but donors are able to choose from 5,000 specific areas to make an impact. Those areas range from support for faculty developing space instruments for NASA to travel grants for undergraduates at Barrett, The Honors College to bringing Broadway shows to campus at ASU Gammage.

“I believe ASU is a major life force in our community, and I want to do my part to help it thrive,” said Jeremy Meek, Class of ’09, a donor and President’s Club Young Leader. He is one of more than 100,000 individual, corporate and foundation supporters to give to ASU this year.

Though private support is not a replacement for public funding, it provides the margin of excellence that allows scholars’ experiences to transform from good to great.

Around 8,000 students each year receive scholarships — perhaps the best-known category of support — provided by private donors.

Other beneficiaries include the reinvented Sun Devil Stadium; mid-career professionals hoping to transition to teaching; and the student-run, free health-care clinic for the homeless in downtown Phoenix.

One gift made international headlines when it was announced that Charlie and Lois O’Brien, two of the world’s foremost entomologists, would donate their collection of insect specimens and an endowed professorship to maintain them. The gift is valued at $12 million.

“We are so genuinely grateful for our donors,” said ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig. “Because of them, ASU is able to start closing the gap between jobs in Arizona that require a college degree and the number of Arizonans that have one. What’s more, they are genuinely doing good in the world through the research they enable and the programs that help our students who might not otherwise attend or graduate from college.”

The ASU Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the mission of ASU as the New American University. It has consistently received the highest ranking for efficiency and transparency from Charity Navigator, the largest independent nonprofit evaluator, and was named a “Top Company to Work For in Arizona” by

To learn more about supporting ASU, visit


Top photo: Sun Devil Giving Day, an annual event each spring, raised more than $3 million in donations large and small from more than 1,000 supporters across the country. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Beth Giudicessi