Missy Farr-Kaye leads ASU’s women’s golf with a distinctive style

By Nathanael Gabler

Arizona State’s Missy Farr-Kaye speaks with poise, confidence, and candor. She’s not an imposing figure by any stretch, but she picks her words deliberately and intelligently. However, this sort of rigidity fades on the golf course.

Farr-Kaye took over the ASU women’s golf job in 2016, after her friend and mentor, Melissa Luellen, left for Auburn. Having coached under Luellen for 13 years an assistant, Farr-Kaye was the logical choice to replace her. 

As an ASU alum and a fifth generation Arizonan, Farr-Kaye would describe the head coaching gig as her “dream job,” but the transition did not go so smoothly. 

At a perennial powerhouse – when Farr-Kaye took over, Arizona State had won seven NCAA titles, making them the most successful program in the history of women’s collegiate golf – simply making the national championship tournament is a given. Winning is the expectation. 

In Farr-Kaye’s first year as the head coach, ASU achieved neither.

Vince Lombardi famously said that, “The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.” Whether she knew it or not, Farr-Kaye was attempting to do just that. 

“I don’t think I slept for about three weeks after we missed the national championship on my watch…I did a lot of soul searching,” Farr-Kaye reflected. “I needed to figure out how to change my energy, how to relax, how to have more fun.”

During her ‘soul searching,’ she studied other coaches she respected, read books on coaching and leadership, and took pointers as to how she should proceed into her second year as a head coach. 

When talking to her girls about necessary changes, they presented a rather peculiar idea: Farr-Kaye needed to stop watching the live scoring during tournaments. According to the team, she would “get a little stressed out” watching the scores. 

“It would be like watching a football game and not knowing what the score is,” Farr-Kaye would later joke, clearly a bit befuddled and unhappy with the suggestion. 

But she took it to heart. Not only did she stop glancing at the live scoring, she made efforts to become more laid back and upbeat on the course. When her players listened to music to get ready for matches, she would too. If there were small things that she could do to lighten the mood, she was on it.

“I realized that as a leader they were going to feed off of my energy,” Farr-Kaye said. “If I could change my energy and if I could be more relaxed, and smile more, and laugh more…we would be really good.”

And they were good. They were really, really good. 

Under Missy Farr-Kaye’s reinvented tutelage, Arizona State won its eighth national championship in 2017, defeating Northwestern by a score of 3-1-1. 

Farr-Kaye is not naïve enough to think that, now in her third year with one national title under her belt, she has coaching nailed down and written in stone.

“I believe very much in a growth mindset…If I feel like I’ve got it all figured out then I should quit,” she says. 

Entering the 2018 season, Farr-Kaye is going to have to grow. After her top golfer, Linnea Strom, decided to leave the team to become a professional this December, the ASU team is left with only five scholarship golfers, giving Farr-Kaye and the coaching staff little room for flexibility. 

The ASU women’s golf spring season opens at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, California on February 12th. Watching them combat these struggles, while maintaining their newfound culture will be quite the treat for Arizona State fans.