Courtesy Dixie State Sports Information
ST. GEORGE, UTAH - Rachel Harmon's life has been anything but ordinary.
As a young girl, her father, a devout military man, would drop Harmon and her siblings off at the golf course at 5:45 in the morning and tell them to get to work. He returned around six in the evening expecting results.
For 12 hours or so, the Harmon kids played golf – and they did this all summer long.
Flash forward to August 20, 2012. Harmon is pulsing with excitement. As the designated coach of Dixie State College's newly found woman's golf program, set to commence Monday at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, the golf pro has a lot on her mind.
For starters, she currently treads a path that, up until now, remained curiously dormant at DSC, a fact Harmon is keenly aware of. "We are the pioneers," she said. "That's a big thing for me as a coach. To start a program from scratch is huge and groundbreaking. These girls are going to be part of the first women's golf team at DSC. They will establish the records and goals that future girls will have to beat. I was like, 'Sign me up'."
Harmon recognizes the challenges lying in her wake, but feels confident she can overcome them. "I think it's been about learning what my expectations with the girls are. It's hard with a brand new team but nobody knows what to expect. There are no seniors. They're all brand new.
"We have all these goals with the girls that I've had to adjust to – how many wins they want and such. It's been really eye opening to see what the girls want. A lot of them have exceeded my expectations."
However, the task is not without its frustrations.
As a former golf pro, Harmon still carries an inkling to play the game she so loves. "It can get frustrating," she said. "I read that (my players) really love that I can kick their butt. I'm not a 40-year old veteran who hasn't played for a long time. I'm still active in my own game. I like that, but it leads to frustration. I'm watching from the cart when I want to be out there doing it."
Harmon did do it, for quite some time.
Her family, consisting of six children, grew up in Salt Lake City, where Brent Newren, Rachel's father, was stationed.
As a major in the army, Newren understood the value of hard work. Knowing full well the extent of his children's athleticism, Newren decided to push sports in the hopes that the lessons they learned on the field would carry over into their personal lives.
"There was a lot of structure to their activities," Newren said, "whether it was church activities or competitive programs or school. A routine was established that kept them busy throughout the year and summer."
Added Harmon: "He had this whole chart that chalked out every minute of the day for us. Literally. Every minute the day. Nine to noon, hit this many balls. And so on. He would give us some time to have fun – two half hours throughout the day. That's how he operated."
As she got older, Harmon realized her life was far from normal. At around age 12, she grew tired of the routine. "I remember saying to my dad, 'This isn't fun. I want to go to Lagoon and Raging Waters.' My dad said, 'Well this (golf) is fun.' I said, 'To you!'
"I always wondered what it was like to be a normal kid with video games and parties. We did things like that during the school year, but not much."
Eventually, Harmon understood the importance of her father's program. "I realized that in the long run it was going to pay for itself. School and all of these tournaments were paid for. I remember thinking, this is a good life. My friends envied me. I suddenly didn't want to be normal. I wanted to stick with the schedule because I knew it would lead to greatness."
Which is exactly what happened.
At Cottonwood High School, Harmon not only captained the Boy's Golf Team, but served as Senior Class Vice President and DECA President for the school. She won five Junior State Amateur titles, represented the State of Utah at the Junior America's Cup, appeared at Junior World in Southern California, qualified for the US Girls Junior Am along with two Junior PGA Championships, and made three IIAJC appearances.
In college, at BYU, Harmon was named Mountain West Conference player of the Year in 2007 and named to the All-Decade team for the Mountain West Confernce. She won three individual titles, made two NCAA National Championship appearances with her team and qualified for one more individually.
"One thing Rachel was extremely good about was her commitment to reach that level of confidence and proficiency," Newren said. "When she started to see the results of her hard work she became even more committed to it. I think that goes with anything you do."
Newren's philosophy maintains that hard work and dedication lead to something more profound than mere enjoyment. "Once you reach that level of expertise, whether you're a great athlete, writer or whatever, you enjoy things even more. It creates a certain level of enjoyment that certain people can't understand. You enjoy it so much more when you're very, very capable of it."
Perhaps that's why, after successfully playing as an amateur, and winning two Utah State Women's Amateur titles, Harmon continued to excel in golf as a professional. She had transformed from a young girl who enjoyed drawing golf courses and hanging them on her wall, into a powerful athlete capable of finishing in the LPGA Futures tour's top-20.
Perhaps that's why, with so many notches on her belt, Harmon accepted the coaching stint at Dixie and continues to play the game today.
"I love golf because you're always striving for more," Harmon said. "Individual sports are always about that. I got frustrated with basketball because I would put the blame on others. If they didn't make the shot there was nothing I could do. In golf it's all on me – how I swing, how I putt, how I'm feeling. Nobody has input on my game. It's about me and how much I can prepare and do better and strive for more.
"I think golf is a life lesson in that you're always able to improve your own game. That's crossed over to my personal life. I like to be responsible for my own destiny."
Harmon's destiny at Dixie certainly rests in her hands. And whether or not the team rises or falls, she will continue to promote the game she so loves.
"I have a 21-month old named Lily," Harmon said. "I'll probably do the same routine (as my dad's). I'll give her the option and entertain it, but I think it will be natural for her to take on the game. I hope I'm tough enough like my dad to show her true potential. She was born into greatness and might as well take advantage of it."