Q&A: South Carolina coach Kalen Anderson
South Carolina may be given the official “Cinderella” title for the postseason. The Gamecocks won the East Regional by two shots over Tennessee and four shots over Auburn and Duke. Head coach Kalen Anderson stopped by my corner to talk about the team’s accomplishment and what she learned as an assistant coach at Duke.
The East Regional victory was South Carolina’s first team title since 2005. What does a win like this mean to your team and for the program?
It’s a big boost of confidence. The last several weeks and tournaments we have been real close in terms of finishing strong and closing out tournaments. We started well at SECs, but just didn’t finish well again. Throughout the year we saw glimpses of great things when the team comes together. At the East Regional it was one of those times when we all got it together. The lead on the final round was back and forth throughout the day, but we finished strong. The team gained a lot of confidence and excitement with the victory knowing they can accomplish great things.
You played at Duke from 1997 to 2001 and were Dan Brooks’ assistant at Duke for two and a half years. What did you learn from the man who created a dynasty at Duke?
A lot of great things. For one, knowing how to deal with players individually yet keeping the team atmosphere involved. As a coach you have to stay patient with things and learn to adjust accordingly. Another thing is getting that first win under your belt. That’s something else you have to stay patient with and know that your team is going to do their best week in, week out. This team I have is great, but there is still a lot of work left to do to improve. With our win at the regionals though it’s like turning over a new leaf. The win also showed me that the team gained a tremendous amount of confidence which you want to see as a coach. Dan Brooks gets occasional phone calls from me every now and then, and has certainly helped me along the way.
How did it feel to beat your old boss?
It felt good. Any time you beat Duke you know you’re playing darn good. When it’s game time, though, the goal is to beat everyone. There were some hot teams entering the regional like Vanderbilt, Florida, Duke and Auburn. To defeat them to win a regional was a really exciting moment for my team. Besides, to beat coach Brooks is just plain neat!
What is your vision for the future of South Carolina women’s golf?
I came from a very successful program as a player and as an assistant coach. My goal when I was looking for a head coaching position was one that had all the resources necessary to compete. When I was looking in to South Carolina, it had it all. The school has the academics, facilities, finances and support from the athletic department. I want to build a championship-caliber team and program here at South Carolina. I keep telling the girls to remember one shot at a time, and then they will realize that they can do great things. I would like to build a program like Brooks did at Duke. I want to have a team going into nationals as a contender year after year.
What’s the mood like on the team after winning for first time in five years and is going to nationals as a regional winner?
They’re really up with a lot of excitement. They know they have the ability to go in and compete. Going in to regionals the pressure wasn’t on us. I think a lot of people looked at us like underdogs. This season we have had glimpses of great things but needed just a little bit more to get over the hump. The girls have really started to commit to the scoring aspect of the game and they are starting to see the benefits from it. We are going to Wilmington with confidence, and the girls are excited to see what we can now do at nationals.