Tampa Native AJ Newell Named Head Coach Of University Of South Florida Women’s Golf

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TAMPA, JUNE 3, 2024 – University of South Florida Vice President for Athletics Michael Kelly has named Tampa native AJ Newell, a former LPGA Tour Player and NCAA All-American, as head coach of USF women’s golf.

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Newell will take over leadership of the Bulls’ program following a successful three-year stint as assistant coach at the University of Michigan, where she helped lead the Wolverines to three-straight NCAA Regional appearances, a 2022 Big Ten title, and the 2022 NCAA Championship Finals.

MK WGolf Coach Quote

“We are thrilled to welcome AJ Newell to Team USF!” Kelly said. “AJ’s impressive background as an All-American player at the University of Tennessee, her professional experience on the LPGA Tour, and her successful tenure as an assistant coach at the University of Michigan make her a perfect choice to lead the USF Women’s Golf program.

“AJ’s Tampa Bay roots and her time as a club professional at Pelican Golf Club uniquely position her to create real, authentic relationships with our players, donors and the community. Her passion for player development, leadership, and recruiting will continue our program’s momentum and lift us to new heights.”

As a player, Newell earned NCAA All-America honors at the University of Tennessee, where she helped lead the Volunteers to the 2015 NCAA Finals match play round and finished seventh individually. She went on to a five-year professional career (2015-2020), making eight starts on the LPGA Tour in 2018 and playing in 35 events on the Symetra Tour (2016-20) before a back injury and subsequent surgery forced her retirement in 2020.

Before entering collegiate coaching at Michigan, Newell served as a golf professional at Pelican Golf Club (2020-21) in Belleair Beach, Fla. While leading more than 20 dedicated students, she also ran a summer golf camp for ages 6-15 and was instrumental in founding the Pelican Fitness Center.

She also volunteered and taught golf for many years (2011-21) with the First Tee program at Cheval Golf Club and Fox Hollow Golf Club in Tampa.

AJ Newell Quote

“I feel truly honored to return home to lead the South Florida women’s golf team,” Newell said. “I would like to thank Vice President for Athletics Michael Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. His vision and support are evident in USF’s premier golf facilities and the commitment at every level to the success of the program, and will allow us to compete for championships.

“I would like to thank my husband, Dan, for his relentless support through the years. As a Tampa native, I am well versed in all that South Florida has to offer and look forward to returning to the community of Tampa Bay and getting to work! Go Bulls!” 

Newell entered collegiate coaching as an assistant at Michigan (2021-24) in July 2021, joining head coach Jan Dowling, who coached her as an assistant at Tennessee. Serving as interim head coach in the spring of 2022 as Dowling took maternity leave, Newell led Michigan to the program’s first Big Ten title and an NCAA Finals appearance. During her tenure, Michigan made three straight NCAA regional appearances (2022, 2023 & 2024). She mentored 2022 All-American and future professional Ashley Lau, All-American and Big Ten Golfer of the Year Monet Chun, and All-Big Ten selection Hailey Borja.

During Newell’s four-year career at Tennessee (2012-15), she played in 38 career tournaments, posted seven top-10 finishes, and was named to the 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team while helping lead the Volunteers to four straight NCAA regional bids and two NCAA Finals appearances (2012 and 2015). As a senior in 2015, she earned Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) All-America honorable mention honors and tied for seventh at the NCAA Finals. That same season she earned her first collegiate victory at the Westbrook Spring Invitational and was the runner-up at the Golfweek Conference Challenge.

Newell was a member of UT’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and also assisted in teaching a Master of Business Administration program class designed to introduce female students to the fundamentals of golf to help them succeed in the business world. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Tennessee in communication studies, with a minor in journalism and electronic media, in 2015.

Following her collegiate career, Newell began teaching at Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn., and pursued playing professionally. She went on to make 13 cuts on the Symetra Tour, highlighted by a tie for fourth at the 2017 Fuccillo Kia Classic of New York and a seventh-place finish at the 2017 IOA Golf Classic. She also tied for 10th at the 2018 Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout.

Homeschooled and self-taught golf, Newell earned five varsity letters and was a captain for two years at Northside Christian High School in St. Petersburg, Fla. She closed her prep career leading Northside Christian to its second straight Class A runner-up team finish at the Florida Class A Championships, where she tied for third (73-68/141, -3) after finishing as the runner-up the year prior (70-72/142, -2) following a playoff for the state crown.

Newell is married to Dan Lavin. In her spare time, she is an avid student of history and World War II and visits historical sites while traveling.

About USF Athletics
USF Athletics currently sponsors 21 varsity men’s and women’s teams that compete in 13 different sports, 20 at the NCAA Division I level in the American Athletic Conference, including the recent additions of women’s lacrosse and women’s beach volleyball. The Bulls’ athletic program began in 1965 and will be in its 59th season in 2024-25. More than 450 student-athletes train and compete in the athletic district located on the east end of the campus in Tampa, Fla. USF garnered two national championships in 2022-23 as Romaine Beckford won NCAA indoor and outdoor high jump titles. The Bulls have claimed 32 American Athletic Conference team titles since joining the conference in 2013, including four in 2023-24, and own 149 conference titles in 16 sports in department history, led by 20 each for men’s tennis and men’s soccer. USF has claimed 80 men’s conference championships and 69 women’s titles, led by 14 in women’s tennis and 12 in volleyball. The Bulls have posted a combined annual grade-point average over 3.0 for a program record of 19 straight semesters as of spring 2024. USF has had over 700 student-athletes earn their degree since 2016-17.

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