Aug 23, 2013
From left on the front row, Lakin Eddy, Margaret Shirley, Coach Kim Evans, Victoria Trapani, Abigale Schepperle, Nicole Hage. From left on the back row, Marci Clemons Spivey, Katie Gallina Rump, Marty Goldthorp Dunn, Robin Cook Dezarn, Diana Ramage & Danielle Downey.
By Phillip Marshall
It was a short walk, about a quarter of a mile. But for Auburn women’s golf coach Kim Evans, it was the walk of a lifetime. Surrounded last Saturday morning by players from throughout her 20-year career as Auburn’s coach, Evans made the walk proudly. It was a meaningful and emotional time for all those who were there.
Not feeling exactly right, Evans visited the doctor in May for tests. The diagnosis was frightening. She had ovarian cancer, and the battle of her life began. Support came from players, from opponents, from friends and even from people she barely knew.
Evans was asked to shoot the starting gun for Saturday’s “Save the O’s” 5K race and 1-mile fun run at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Hoover. The event benefitted the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation, and the proceeds were earmarked to support ovarian cancer research at UAB.
Some of Evans’ former players participated in the 5K race. They and others were there to support one who they say has been an integral part of their lives.
“What I think of is it’s all about love,” Evans said. “There’s something to love about everybody. What gets people through cancer is the reaching out. Whatever we did when they were here, one of things we’ve always done is have fun. We have a good time when we go play. I think all the girls there had good experiences.
“Not everybody can come on a Saturday morning. I just feel so well-supported and so grateful for that. That’s the winning edge on this stuff – people that support you and love you. Just a text or a card or a phone call just means everything.”
They came not just because Evans taught them to win on the golf course, but because she taught them about living and loving, being accountable and doing what is right.
All-American Katie Gallina Rump finished her Auburn career in the NCAA Championship in 1998. Evans, she says, is much more than a Hall of Fame coach with eight Southeastern Conference championships and five national top six finishes.
“She was pretty awesome,” Rump said. “It’s hard to put into words. She was our mom. She took care of us. She got on to us. She loved us. It didn’t matter what you did, whether it was good or bad or what she wanted or not what she wanted, she would surround you with love. She encouraged you.”
Rump was recruited by previous Auburn coach Virginia Derby, but Derby left and Evans was named to replace her. Evans and Rump began their Auburn careers together.
“I didn’t know anything about her,” Rump said. “We all kind of won the lottery with her. She’s pretty awesome. She taught me a lot - much more than golf. She taught us all about being a respectable, dependable, hard-working individual.
“A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of her in one of my actions or something I teach my kids or something. She had a real impact on my life.”
All-American Marci Clemons Spivey finished her career in 1997. So close was she to her coach that Evans was in her wedding.
“Kim is one of the most influential people in my life,” Spivey said. “It’s been almost 20 years since she coached me, but we’re still close. When I found out she was sick, it was just heartbreaking for me. She’s one of those people I’d do anything for.
“Kim and I really clicked. She had an ability to see my potential and encourage it and draw it out. She was able to cut through all the noise that would keep me from excelling. That’s a unique ability in a coach.”
The 2013 Auburn team had struggled through much of the season when Evans got the news that she had cancer. Treatment couldn’t wait. With Danielle Downey, a student assistant, filling in to lead the program, the Tigers made a spectacular comeback to finish eighth in the regionals and qualify for the NCAA Championship. After a slow start there, they rallied to finish No. 6 in the country. And they celebrated with their beloved coach.
Downey came to Auburn from Spencerport, N.Y., and won the 2000 individual SEC championship. She returned to finish her degree last year. She is now the program’s director of golf operations. She says it wouldn’t have happened without Evans’ leadership.
“I’d say she’s the best coach in the country,” Downey said. “She knows the golf end of it and she knows how to handle players. She taught me about school and life.”
Meredith Jenkins was a young assistant in the media relations department when Evans arrived at Auburn. They became friends almost immediately. Today, she is Auburn’s senior women’s administrator. She was there, too, Saturday to walk with Evans.
“It was a really special,” Jenkins said. “Being able to walk with her surrounded by her former players was a special moment. That just shows you how much she’s meant to a lot of people.”
Evans fights hard for the things she believes her program and her players need.
“I think we have a really good connection and have worked well together,” Jenkins said. “I kind of see myself as an advocate for her. She’s tenacious. She’s a fighter.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: