Golf tees and big dreams

Athlete spotlight

Brooke J. Freundschuh, Managing Editor

The women’s golf team is still in its infancy compared to other athletic programs at the University of North Alabama. Its inaugural year in 2018 came just in time for Hannah Pope, who is following in the footsteps of her four older brothers, all of whom played golf for UNA.

Florence is Pope’s hometown, and she went to High School at Mars Hill Bible School, where she placed second in the state her sophomore year.She finished at fifth in the state her freshman, junior and senior years.

She is currently 22 years old and a senior at UNA, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies. She is going to play for a fifth year, because of the complications COVID-19 had on the team. Golf is the only sport she currently plays. Pope was taught the game of golf by her father, Keith Pope, when she was 12 years old. She still cites him as one of her biggest inspirations.

“Someone who really inspires me is my dad,” Pope said. “He is the one who taught me how to play and he is always rooting for me in all stages of my life.”

Golf is a sport that takes much practice and self-discipline. Unlike other sports, golf is more of a personal game as opposed to a team sport like basketball or volleyball. Golfers often take on a lot of personal responsibility, however, Pope combats these pressures well. 

“I think I have a great work ethic and am able to take on whatever comes my way,” Pope said. 

She shares that she is her own worst critic and emphasizes the mental aspect of the sport, which can be far more difficult than the physical.

“The worst part is that it’s so easy to get down on yourself when you are not playing your best,” she said.

In the fall season, Pope saw great success at the Braun Intercollegiate Golf Tournament, shooting 78 her first day and 79 her second. Individually, Pope placed tied for sixth overall in the tournament. UNA also placed sixth out of college teams competing.

Pope credits her head coach, Neil Self for her success in playing collegiate level golf.

“My coach has done a great job with starting this program. I’ve been on the team since the first year of the program and I have seen him grow and continue to grow into a great coach and example,” Pope said.

Self is named the Director of Golf at UNA. He is from Florence and went to Kilby Laboratory School growing up. UNA sports are in his bloodline, as his grandfather, Hal Self, was UNA’s head football coach and athletic director. He started at UNA in 2015 as an assistant coach on the men’s golf team. According to, he has self-recruited all of the members of the women’s golf team, starting with the first team he coached in the Fall of 2018. His role on the men’s team was player development, which he continues to apply in his current role. Self’s 2018 team was the first women’s golf team in university athletic history. For some, this raises a question of a gender divide within the sport.

“I feel like the gender divide is not as bad as it used to be,” Pope said in respone. “More and more girls are playing now.”

Pope plays alongside six other golfers on the women’s team, Hannah Dees, Anna Margret Hays, Tori Roush, Blakely Arp, Emily Lankford and Jahnavi Prahkya Siddabathula, an international  student from Gujurat, India. 

Pope’s favorite thing about being on the golf team at UNA is the opportunity to meet others who play or coach her sport.

“I have had a blast playing for UNA,” Pope said, “I have been able to meet so many new people.”

Her other favorite aspect of playing golf is the opportunity it provides to travel to various places. 

“The best part of golf is all the beautiful places you get to visit and see. Golf courses are so pretty,” Pope said. 

In the Fall 2021 season, the team travled to and played in Clarksville, Tenn. at the APSU Innercollegiate Tournament; Gadsten, Ala. at the Chris Bannister Golf Classic; Evansville, Ind. for the Charles Braun Jr. Intercollegiate tournament; and Spartanburg, SC. for the Terrier Intercollegiate Tournament.

The Lady Lions Golf Team will begin their spring season in Panama City Beach, Fla. at the Lady Bison Bay Point Classic. They will also visit Cookeville, Tenn. for the Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate Tournament; Gulf Shores, Ala. for the Bama Beach Bash, hosted by The University of South Alabama. The team will also visit Deland, Fla for the Babs Stefferns Invitational and Richmond, KY. for the Colonel Classic. 

Stay tuned in to the Flor-Ala Sports for coverage of the UNA women’s golf team and other sports this spring.