Coach Dana Hoeper establishes girls golf dynasty at Notre Dame de Sion

Coach Dana Hoeper has built one of the best high school girls golf programs in the state of Missouri at Notre Dame de Sion. She has guided the high school to six state championships and has had a player finish first at state five times.

It all started with her family’s love of golf.

“I come from a family of golfers, although I never played when growing up. I didn’t start playing until I got married and my husband wanted to play, so we joined Blue Hills and it started then,” Hoeper said. “I’ve always loved the game and still do.”

Dana Hoeper passed down her love of golf to her two daughters, Emily and Ellen, who then started their own golf careers. Emily Hoeper, the older of the two, started competing in tournaments in middle school and showed off her natural ability to play golf. A famous golf coach saw this potential and wanted to coach Emily, which also helped Dana learn how to coach golf.

“Stan Thirsk, who coached Tom Watson, called us up one day and asked if he could work with Emily,” Hoeper said. “That’s how I transitioned into coaching, by watching more and going to watch lessons and working with my kids.”

Once Emily became a freshman at Sion in 1999, her mother followed the team closely by helping and giving tips to both her daughter and the coach, who was Sion’s athletic director at the time. The team played well that season, winning district and making the state tournament for the first time since 1989.

“At the end of the season, he called me up and he said, “Would you consider coaching?’ I said I’ll talk to my daughter, and she was great with it, and so that’s how it all began,” Hoeper said.

Although she was inexperienced as a coach, Dana Hoeper started off her coaching career with a bang in 2000. Sion placed second in the state tournament and Emily won the tournament as a sophomore.

The next two years only got better once both of Dana’s daughters were on the team. Ellen, who became a freshman in 2001, joined Emily and took Notre Dame de Sion to the top, winning back-to-back state titles in 2001-02.

“The years my girls played, watching them win state was an awesome thing as a parent and as a coach. That was exciting, and I’ll always remember that,” Hoeper said.

Out of those two state titles, the win in 2002 was the most exciting for Dana, with Ellen winning the tournament and Emily placing second. Although it was a great moment for the Hoeper family, it was bittersweet for Dana.

“My oldest (Emily) was a senior and I was pulling for her a little bit because I knew my other one (Ellen) had times coming up,” Hoeper said.

“I remember her coming off the golf course and said, ‘Ellen beat me, didn’t she?’ and I had to say yes. Yet they were supportive of each other, so that was an exciting year.”

The success of Hoeper’s team dropped a bit after Emily graduated, but still found a lot of success in the state tournament. Sion finished third in 2003 and second in 2004, with Ellen placing second individually in both state tournaments.

Dana Hoeper was left with a big decision going into 2005 after Ellen graduated. Now that neither of her daughters was on Sion’s team and playing college golf, would she continue coaching?

“I really thought I would stop after Ellen graduated,” Hoeper said, “but I just kept getting attached to the girls and I really enjoyed it and they were a blessing to me.”

Dana Hoeper continued as the girls’ golf coach and turned the program into an annual contender for the state title. Since 2005, Notre Dame de Sion has only had four seasons they did not place in the top four at the state tournament and only one season the team did not make the state tournament.

In some of these seasons, Hoeper’s teams went in the record books with huge accomplishments. Sion tied the record with four consecutive state championships from 2017-10. Plus, in 2010, Sion broke the state tournament record for the lowest one-day score, 299.

Not only did her daughters go on to play college golf, Emily at the University of Denver and Ellen at Mizzou, but 10 others she coached have gone on to play in college, like Nebraska, Creighton and Regis University. Three girls on her team this year are also seriously considering playing college golf.

She also said some of her former players told her what they learned on the course has helped them in school and work, plus they still enjoy playing golf. Some have found jobs in the golf industry, which makes her feel more excited as a coach.

“For coaching, that’s fun to see that you’ve gave them the love for the game that they want to keep playing it, and that’s always been my philosophy,” Hoeper said. “This is a game for life and whatever we can impart on these girls, then that’s good.”

With her 18 successful years of coaching, Dana Hoeper has thought about quitting multiple times. However, her teams each year always want her to keep on going.

“I’ve always said if I ever got to a point where the girls didn’t want to work as hard as we coaches work to help them, then I’d probably stop, but I’ve been really lucky to have great kids,” Hoeper said. “I’ve been blessed to have really great kids and they’ve all wanted to work hard.”

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Article by Drew Parks

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