NASHVILLE --- Trailblazing Tennessee State golf coach Dr. Catana Starks passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 75.
Starks made history becoming the first African-American woman to coach an all men’s team at the collegiate level. Starks coached the TSU men’s golf team from 1986 until 2005 when she led the Tigers to a National Minority Golf Championship. The team shot a record-setting 840 as a unit.
Starks, a Tennessee State University graduate, returned to Nashville in 1980 to become the swimming coach for the Tigers. When TSU entered the Ohio Valley Conference, the athletic department dropped the swimming program to add golf and tabbed Starks as the head coach.
During her time as a coach, Starks earned her doctorate degree, began teaching and eventually becoming the department head of Human Performance and Sports Sciences at TSU.
Under her guidance, the team also produced Sean Foley, who went on to be Tiger Woods’ swing coach; Sam Puryear, who became the first African American men’s head golf coach in any major conference (Michigan State); and Robert Dinwiddie, an All-American who went on to play on the European professional tour.
In 2011, her story inspired the movie “From the Rough” starring the late Michael Clarke Duncan and Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson.