Dale McNamara, legendary women’s college golf coach who helped build the program at Tulsa, dies at 86

Dale McNamara, the legendary college golf coach who helped launch the women’s program at Tulsa where she coached Nancy Lopez died Sunday after her second battle with cancer. She was 86.

McNamara was the head coach of the Tulsa women’s golf program for 26 years (1974-2000), bringing the Golden Hurricane to national prominence. She won four national titles and 81 tournament victories. In just her second season, she led Tulsa to a second-place finish at the AIAW National Championship.

“A fierce competitor, a caring coach and a Golden Hurricane through and through, Dale will always be remembered as a formidable force within collegiate women’s golf,” Tulsa president Brad R. Carson said in a release. “It is fitting for Dale to have lived to see the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which gave rise to the program she nurtured, as well as the 40th anniversary of the team’s historic win of two national championships. Our university and our city owe her a great deal of gratitude for putting Tulsa on the map just as women’s golf was gaining ground.

“She brought an immeasurable amount of acclaim to TU and continued to support our athletics programs for decades. We mourn this tremendous loss and send our sympathies to Dale’s family and friends.”

McNamara led Tulsa to 22 national tournament appearances and in addition to her four national titles, finished national runner-up five times. Along with the 81 tournament titles, McNamara’s teams placed second 30 times. Her teams captured a school single-season record eight tournament wins in the 1976-77, 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons.

She coached 28 first or second-team All-Americans and produced 32 professional golfers.

“Coach Dale is going to be missed greatly by those that played for her and our current players,” Tulsa coach Annie Young said. “She put TU on the map in women’s golf with their many championships and dominant play. She has been a great support to the program in my time as coach at Tulsa. My thoughts are with her two girls, Melissa and Cathy, at this difficult time.”

McNamara led TU to both the NCAA and AIAW titles in 1982, as well as the 1980 AIAW title and the 1988 NCAA championship. Three of her golfers also won national individual crowns: Nancy Lopez, Kathy Baker and Melissa McNamara. In 1988 at the national tournament, her daughter, Melissa, was the NCAA medalist.

Melissa (McNamara) Luellen is now the coach of the women’s golf team at Auburn. The release stated Melissa and daughter Cathy were at McNamara’s side at her passing.

McNamara closed out her coaching career in the 1999-2000 season as Tulsa won the WAC Championship and made NCAAS. McNamara also served as assistant athletic director during her tenure at Tulsa.

McNamara won a record seven Oklahoma State Amateur golf titles.

In 1988, McNamara was inducted into the National Collegiate Golf Coaches Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and was a recipient of the Jim Thorpe Association’s “Legends in Sports” award, both in 2003. McNamara was inducted into the TU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Women’s Oklahoma Golf Association (WOGA) Hall of Fame in 2006.

A celebration of Dale McNamara’s Life is planned for Monday, Nov. 28, 3 p.m. local time at Sharp Chapel on the Tulsa campus.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that gifts in Coach Dale McNamara’s honor can be made to the University of Tulsa in support of the women’s golf program.