University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's golf coach Colette Murray may be the toughest coach on campus.
She puts her players through swimming drills in the fall to control breathing, she practices in the cold alongside her players during the winter, and she runs side-by-side and goes kick-for-kick during the spring.
"I don't ask them to do anything I can't do," said Murray, who graduated from Jacksonville State in 2004. "It makes them tough.
"We push them mentally and physically, on the course and off the course to erase any doubts anybody might have. Some teams would fold, but they've stayed with it."
The Mocs will need to show their toughness starting today in the 54-hole NCAA East Regional if they are to advance to the NCAA championship. UTC is seeded No. 21 out of 24 teams playing the three-day tournament at the Auburn University Club.
Only the top eight teams will fight for the national prize.
"The next goal is to get to the national championship," Murray said. "You're not in a regional if you can't contend. I think we're ready."
UTC earned its spot in the regional by winning the Southern Conference tournament for a fourth straight year. It beat Furman by six and sophomore Agathe Sauzon earned medalist honors in a playoff. A runner-up finish by UTC there would have sent the players into the summer cycle of individual tournaments.
But they've got at least three more rounds -- and not rounds of Kenpo training that they've done recently -- together as team.
"Coach has been pushing us to make sure we're fit and mentally tough enough to make sure we can give it all we can at regionals," freshman Emily McClennan said. "It's been good in a way, but horrible in a way while we're doing it. We always keep on going."
Murray will take her international team of Sauzon from France, McClennan from Australia, Isabella Loza of Columbia, Porsche Campbell and former Signal Mountain star Jordan Britt into the tournament. Only Britt, now a junior, has played in an NCAA tournament.
"I feel like I'm still 15, but I'm not trying to think about the pressure and the responsibilities of being 'the veteran,'" Britt said. "I've been trying to help the girls in any way I can and letting them know what's to be expected and how big of a tournament it is and prepare them and be a grandma."
Britt may be the oldest player. But Murray is the oldest of the bunch heading to regionals which has been in the pool, running hills, lifting weights and punching the air.
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.