For the first time, two exceptional women will be the female recipients of the Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Award at the 25th anniversary event in June – a dynamic mother/daughter duo – Dale McNamara and Melissa McNamara Luellen.
There was no women’s golf team at the University of Tulsa when Dale McNamara attended college, so she entered tournaments on her own as an individual and became the first woman to win an athletic letter at TU. As an amateur player, she won a record seven Oklahoma State Amateur golf titles. She was inducted into the Women’s Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 1974, when TU decided to start a women’s golf team, McNamara volunteered to coach it. They had no money, no support and no players, but they did have an energized and determined coach. McNamara was the head coach of The University of Tulsa women’s golf program for 26 years and developed Golden Hurricane women’s golf into a national powerhouse. In just her second season, McNamara led the Hurricane women to a second-place finish at the AIAW National Championship. Under McNamara’s guidance, the TU women golfers annually ranked among the nation’s elite teams. She led Tulsa to 22 national tournament appearances and won four national titles. McNamara’s teams won 81 tournaments and placed second better than 30 times. She coached 28 first or second-team All-Americans and produced numerous LPGA golfers, including golfing great Nancy Lopez.
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 titles. The ’88 championship was extra special for McNamara, as her daughter, Melissa, was the individual medalist. In addition to her four national titles, McNamara’s teams finished as the national runner-up five times.
In 1985, McNamara was named the National Coach of the Year, as her team won eight of 13 tournaments and finished second at the NCAA tournament that season. In 1988, McNamara won perhaps the highest honor for a coach as she was inducted into the National Collegiate Golf Coaches Hall of Fame. She was also selected as the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year twice and the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1999.
McNamara closed out her coaching career in the 1999-2000 season as the Golden Hurricane women won the Western Athletic Conference Championship and made yet another NCAA Championship appearance. She became one of the most legendary and successful collegiate women’s golf coaches in history.
After retirement, McNamara accepted the chair position of the Tulsa Park and Recreation Board in 2009 and still serves as a member. Its mission is to provide and preserve quality parks and recreation opportunities for all Tulsa citizens.
She has also participated in numerous charity golf events and was honored when The University of Tulsa named its annual golf tournament, the Dale McNamara Invitational.
Melissa McNamara Luellen will also be a female recipient of the Iba Award this year. Prior to college, she was a 3-time Oklahoma high school champion, a 2-time Women’s Oklahoma Golf Association Girls’ Junior Champion, the 1983 WOGA State Amateur and the 1983 AJGA Player of the Year.
As a player at TU, she won medalist honors at four tournaments and recorded 22 top-10 finishes in 41 career events. After graduating Luellen competed on the Futures and Ladies European Tours in 1988 and 1989 before qualifying for the LPGA Tour in October of 1989. She spent 11 years on the LPGA Tour, winning the 1991 Stratton Mountain LPGA Classic and teamed with Mike Springer to win the 1993 JC Penney Classic.
In 2000, Luellen succeeded her mother as head women’s golf coach at TU. In her two seasons, she led her team to 7 tournament titles including back-to-back Western Athletic Conference and NCAA Central Regional championships each year. The 2001-02 season saw her team win five tournaments, including the 2002 PING/ASU Championship at Karsten Golf Course, earn a No. 3 national ranking for most of the season, and finish 12th at the 2002 NCAA Championships. Luellen was named the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in each of her two seasons and was the 2002 Central Regional Coach of the Year.
During her very successful tenure at Arizona State, Luellen led the program to an NCAA team title, 10 NCAA Top 10 finishes, two conference championships and 25 team titles. She also coached one NCAA Individual Champion, three Pac-12 Golfers of the Year, three NGCA Freshmen of the Year, 14 All-Americans and 21 individual tournament medalists.
Luellen’s coaching accomplishments have earned her several personal coaching honors. After the Sun Devils’ NCAA Championship run in 2009, she was named SkyCaddie NGCA National Coach of the Year. Luellen was also named Pac-10 Coach of the Year three times (2006, 2007, 2009) and West Regional Coach of the Year four times (2005, 2006, 2007, 2009). While at Tulsa, Luellen was named Central Regional Coach of the Year in 2002 and WAC Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2002.
Now the head coach at Auburn, the team made a return trip to the NCAA Regionals and saw their players earn 3 individual tournament wins.
Off the course, Luellen is involved in several charitable projects. She created G.I.V.E.H.O.P.E. (Get Involved Volunteer, Educate, Help Other People Excel) cards that she passes out at tournaments and special events where participants write an inspirational message or quote to Give Hope to others. She posts them on Instagram daily. She participates in a sport life coaching clinic for Haddies Home for Girls, reads to underprivileged children, created a skit with the golf team and performed it at an elementary school to teach making good choices, volunteers for Stamp Out Hunger, participates in numerous golf outings to raise funds for charities, and hosted golf clinics for the First Tee/LPGA Girls Golf Club in Phoenix.
The Iba Awards were created in 1994 by the Rotary Club of Tulsa to recognize an influential male and a female premier athlete for their success in their sport, and more importantly, for being positive role models who give back to their communities – not only by donating to worthy causes, but by being personally dedicated and involved in their chosen charities.
The awards are named after Henry P. Iba, former Oklahoma State University basketball coach and coach of three U.S. Olympic basketball teams. He was an unparalleled success as a coach, a leader and a citizen and these awards recognize and honor athletes who best exemplify a high degree of citizenship in his image.
The keynote speaker will be Doug Gottlieb, FOX SPORTS RADIO and former OSU basketball player. The master of ceremonies will be Dave Hunziker, the “Voice of the Cowboys” on the Oklahoma State Cowboy Radio Network. This year’s male recipient will be announced at a later date.
The prestigious black-tie-optional event will be held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa on June 18, 2018. Its presenting sponsor is Tom Rinehart. Proceeds benefit the Rotary Club of Tulsa Foundation, which supports local and area non-profits benefitting young people and the club’s International Projects Committee.
For table sponsorship information, contact the Rotary Club of Tulsa at 918-584-7642 or online at ibaawards.com.