MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One of the youngest golf coaches in the nation resides right here in Memphis, and she’s heading up not one but two programs.
Just taking a look at the Christian Brothers Golf teams, it may not be clear who’s in charge. Take a listen, however, and it's Kenna Hughes’ voice ringing loud and clear.
"When I was playing, coaching was something I knew I wanted to get into. I love the game of golf, and it’s something I never wanted to give up," Hughes said.
At just 24 years old, Kenna Hughes is the head coach of both the women’s and men's golf programs at CBU. Though she may be green to coaching, it was her players that chipped in to her new title.
When previous coach Michael Brice left CBU to take another coaching job, both men's and women's players spoke to Athletic Director Donna Crone. They lobbied for then-assistant-coach Hughes to take over.
"I think we all we all met with our [athletic director] and actually advocated for Coach Kenna. We really enjoyed her in the previous couple seasons," said Matt Nicell, a CBU sophomore. "She was here when I when I was freshman, and we just liked her from the get go."
Hughes was first a golfer herself at CBU. After four years of Division One golf at University of Alabama-Birmingham, she spent one year as a graduate senior at CBU before taking on a role as a Grad Assistant. She was quickly brought on as a full time assistant coach.
Players say she's brought on a maturity and professionalism far beyond her years to the program.
"Right off the bat, like our first meeting, she gave us a schedule of what we're doing this week, and that's a big change knowing what we're doing and how we're going to do things," Rachel Stephens said.
Stephens has seen the metamorphosis from the beginning. A senior, she was a teammate of Hughes before seeing Hughes take on coaching duties.
"It was really cool to see her step into that, and it wasn't necessarily weird or like, 'Oh, this is my teammate, I have to change how I act,'" Stephens said. "She always was very open with us and respected us and we respected her."
"I feel like their mom," Hughes said with a laugh. "I think for me, just because I am so young, and I was just in their shoes, I can relate to their situation."
So far it’s been a hole in one fit. The women’s team has already won a tournament under Hughes watch. Still, the success could be short lived.
"It's definitely been difficult just kind of knowing that my Visa is expiring here soon, and I need to get a new one," Hughes said.
Hughes is an Alberta, Canada native, who came to the states on a student Visa. She’s applying for a new different kind of Visa and is optimistic it’ll come through, but the possibility of being sent to her native land looms.
"I love these kids. I love being here, and it honestly doesn't really feel like a job to me most of the time because it's something that I'm passionate about, so it would it would definitely be a hard pill to swallow," Hughes said.
She’s not focusing on the legal process or a potential return to Canada — just on being the best coach she can be for both programs.
"I do think that I'm meant to be a golf coach, and I probably didn't realize that until this year when it all got thrown at me, But has it been difficult at times? Yes, but I wouldn't trade it for the world," she said.