Dartmouth rehires women’s golf coach Alex Kirk

Kirk initially turned down the return offer following the program’s reinstatement, but re-applied for the position through the regular search.

by Will Ennis | 5/28/21 2:05am

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Kristen Chen '22, Moon Cheong '21, Kaitlyn Lees '22, Maddie Nelson '20 and Catherine Roddy '19 pose with Kirk following the Big Green's second place finish at the Ivy League Championship in 2019.

Source: Courtesy of Kristen Chen

On May 5, interim athletics director Peter Roby ’79 announced that Alex Kirk had been rehired as head coach of Dartmouth women’s golf.

In Kirk’s eight initial years leading the program, he guided the team from a seventh-place finish at the Ivy League Championship in his first year at the helm to the team’s best-ever finish — second place in 2019. The team’s total score of 907 was the lowest in Big Green history, and that year’s performance earned Kirk Ivy League Coach of the Year honors.

After the program was eliminated by the administration in July, Kirk moved with his family to his home in Naples, Florida, where he worked as the head pro at The Glades Country Club.

In January, when golf and the other cut sports were reinstated due to Title IX compliance concerns, Kirk was offered the right of first refusal to his former position, but decided to turn down the job.

Kirk’s former salary was supplemented by his income as the head pro of the College-run Hanover Country Club, which remained closed even following the reinstatement of the eliminated athletic programs. When the school offered him his coaching position in January, he said that the additional income was unaccounted for.

“The first package they offered was not acceptable,” Kirk said. “I was told I could reapply for the job and go through the regular search, so I did, and we came to a better package that was more in line with what I could afford to do. The whole process — I never wanted to leave, but you have to make a living.”

Members of the women’s golf team became involved in the hiring process when the athletics department narrowed the decision down to three final candidates, including Kirk. Some players were involved in interviewing the candidates, and they assisted in the decision to re-hire Kirk. 

“That was our number one goal, just to get him back,” Kristen Chen ’22 said. “We needed some stability, and he is the stability for us moving forward.”

Kirk said the interview with the team was odd, given his prior connection to the team members.

“It was the most awkward interview ever because I think I knew the answers to the test, and I probably knew three quarters of the people interviewing me,” Kirk said. “But at the end of the day, I think they made the right decision.”

Penelope Tir ’24, as a freshman, has not yet had a real chance to play under Kirk, but said that  her and her teammates wanted him to return from the beginning of the process.

“The reason that I decided that I wanted to come here was less because of the golf, but because I could see Coach Kirk was building a really good team,” Tir said. “He really has changed the team for the better in the last couple of years. It’s been really incredible.”

While Kirk noted that he faults the administration for how the program’s reinstatement and his rehiring were handled, he said that at this point, he is entirely focused on the future and improving the program.

“The way I've been saying it the whole time is Dartmouth definitely hit the ball out of bounds, but we had to retee it and move forward,” Kirk said. “And I think the new administration, with Peter Roby being there, is turning it in a new direction.”

Since his rehiring, Kirk has been planning for next season. He envisions three tournaments in the fall: one in February, a spring trip to Alabama, some form of play in April and, eventually, a return to the Ivy League Championship at The Ridge at Back Brook in New Jersey.

However, Kirk expects the team’s next season will be challenging since they will be playing with a heavily depleted roster. With some players having transferred after the program was cut, two seniors graduating and recruiting this past year made far more difficult by the pandemic, Kirk said that he anticipates entering the season with a team of only five or six players.

“We're going to hit a couple of bumps in the road right now,” Kirk said. “Unfortunately, a couple of players have transferred, but you can't blame them … I’ve got to figure out how to prepare the players that we have, and I'm already on the road recruiting.”

Even with the looming size reduction to the team’s roster, Kirk’s players, excited to see him return, are focused on picking up where the team left off: continuing to improve and hoping to make a run at an Ivy League title.

“We have [had], honestly, a little bit of a break,” Tir said. “I don't think anyone expects too much from us with as few people as we have, but we're still going to play the best golf that we can. I think we're still going to post some really good scores and I'm really excited to just move forward from everything.”

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