New coach set to lead golf team

by Sports Editor Jacob Cole

North Alabama lost its golf coach after last season, but new head coach Cullen Carstens has taken the mantle for the Lions.  

Last year’s head coach, Jason Vaughn, resigned in June after four years as the Lions’ head golf coach. It took almost two months, but UNA found its next head coach in Carstens.

Carstens said coming to UNA as a head coach was an easy decision for him.

“The main reason I chose to come here was the potential I saw in this program,” Carstens said. “The facilities we have here are as good as anywhere, and the depth of talent in Alabama and the surrounding states made it very attractive from a recruiting standpoint as well. Having the chance to help with the transition to Division I and be a part of the ASUN, a prestigious golf conference, was the icing on the cake for me.”

Redshirt junior Aaron Jackson said he thinks Carstens’ experience will aid the Lions through the season.

“We could use a guy with the experience coach Carstens has with caddying and coaching experience from top Division I teams,” Jackson said. “He can, and I think he will be a key asset for us on the course.”

Carstens said he first experienced Florence when he visited as an opposing team’s coach in 2014. He coached Jacksonville State in the OVC Championships at the Robert Trent Jones golf course.  

Carstens said he did not think about it much, until the job opened up.

“I felt like this would be a great place to have a chance to coach someday,” Carstens said. “I filed UNA away in the back of my mind and then when I heard about the available coaching position, it was a no-brainer for me to apply. I’m just very fortunate that it worked out for me, and I think it will be a great fit.”

Carstens has worked at Division I schools Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Jacksonville State as an assistant. Carstens worked at Kansas State for the past three years where the Wildcats posted the third-best stroke average in school history.  

Carstens said the biggest influence in his coaching career was the opportunity to coach at Oklahoma State under current head coach at Baylor, Mike McGraw.  

“He gave me my first chance to be a coach, and getting to watch him lead the No. 1 ranked team in the nation for two years was an incredible experience,” Carstens said. “He taught me the importance of being kind and generous to everyone you meet, as well as the importance of building relationships. It was a privilege for me to get to learn the ropes under him, and I will always appreciate the opportunity he gave me.”

Jackson said he is happy to have him as his coach.  

“He wants us to be the best we can be, not only on the course, but in the class room and life,” Jackson said. “That pretty much tells you the type of person he is. He cares about the program excelling and wants us to excel, as well.”

Carstens will lead the Lions for the first time Sept. 17 at the Streamsong Resort in Florida.