By Jay A. Coffin
So much for retirement.
When the final putt dropped Oct. 9 at the Longs Drugs Challenge, Emilee Klein called it quits on a lucrative 11-year LPGA career. Three weeks later, she already has a new job – women’s coach at the University of Central Florida.
Klein, 31, was hired Oct. 31 and reported for duty the following day, replacing Jill Fjelstul, who resigned Aug. 11. The Golden Knights have been guided this fall by assistant coach Mike Akers. Klein will accompany the team for its final fall event, the Hatter Fall Classic, Nov. 7-8 in DeLand, Fla.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Klein said. “I have a lot of goals and it’s exciting to be part of a great institution. They really want to have a top-notch program and that is what I want to help them build.
“The team has a great group of girls who show a lot of promise and show desire to play great golf. I think they need to be put on the right track. Hopefully I can do that for them.”
In 311 LPGA events, Klein recorded victories at the 1996 Ping Welch’s Championship, the 1996 Weetabix Women’s British Open and the 2001 Michelob Light Open. Klein never ended a season lower than 75th in earnings and was in the top 40 on the money list seven times (including four in the top 30). This season, Klein ranks 53rd in earnings with $199,077. Her best finish was a tie for fourth at the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship.
She is 40th in career earnings with $3,154,547.
“Emilee has demonstrated a commitment to excellence, and we are pleased she will be applying that level of dedication to the UCF women’s golf program,” said Steve Orsini, UCF’s athletic director. “She has had success at every level of golf as a player, and she has the drive and determination to be just as successful as a coach. She will provide great leadership for our student-athletes.”
Aside from her coaching duties, Klein is planning to take a few classes this spring to help complete her college education. She was a two-time All-American at Arizona State, where she won the 1994 NCAA Championship and was Golfweek’s College Player of the Year. However, Klein left Arizona State early to join the LPGA and completed only two years of college.
“The older you get, the more you want to study and become more educated,” Klein said. “I won’t be able to take a full load, but I’m excited about going back. I can hardly wait.”