After 23 consecutive years as Mississippi State's women's golf coach, Christi Sanders is announcing her retirement at the end of the 2009-10 season. Sanders retires as the longest-tenured current head coach on the MSU campus and the third-longest in school history. Sanders has poured countless hours and dedication into the program, not only as a coach, but also as a player on the MSU team. She has led teams and individuals to championships on the course and to great accomplishments in the classroom. Sanders began her tenure as MSU's head coach in the fall of 1987 upon completing her college career as a Bulldog.
Sanders leaves behind a legacy that won't be easy to match. From the practice fields to the golf courses, Sanders ensured that her players were prepared for what lay before them. She has taught her players that preparation is necessary not only in golf, but in the classroom and in all aspects of life.
Sanders has gradually built the MSU women's golf program into one with a national reputation. In the fall of 2008, Sanders led the Lady Bulldogs to the team's best tournament finish since 2005-06 with a fourth-place performance at the 2008 Johnie Imes Invitational.
In 2007-08, Sanders coached current senior Suzanne Stanley to the team's first tournament medalist since 2006, as Stanley finished just one over par to take the John Kirk/Lady Panther Intercollegiate individual crown.
In 2006-07, Sanders mentored senior Amanda Mathis as she advanced to the NCAA Regionals to play as an individual. Under the leadership of Sanders, Mathis set numerous records while at MSU including the best single season stroke average, tied for the lowest single round with a 67 and led the team in stroke average three out of the four years she was a part of the team.
In 2005-06 Sanders led the Lady Bulldogs to another outstanding year. In ten tournaments, State finished in the top 10 in eight events and finished in the top five in five tournaments. Amanda Mathis led the Lady Bulldogs in nine events, helping lead State to the NCAA East Regional in Browns Summit, N.C. Mathis set a school record that season, finishing the year with a 74.20 stroke average. She was ranked as high as 44th while the team reached a national ranking of 48th in the GolfWeek poll.
The Lady Bulldogs ended the 2004-05 season setting the best stroke average in school history (305.48), had seven top-10 finishes, including four in the spring and placed an individual in the top 10 in four of six events. Former MSU standout Beth Irwin and then-sophomore Amanda Mathis both set a school record for the lowest round with a 67. The Lady Bulldogs also captured the team title at the Wildcat Fall Invitational in Lexington, Ky. Amanda Mathis won her first career individual medalist honors at the event. Prior to the Kentucky-hosted event, the last time State won a tournament championship was in 2003 at the Lady Pirate Fall Intercollegiate. The squad also had an impressive showing at the 2004 Chrysler ACC/SEC Challenge, finishing fifth overall and defeating four top-ranked teams. Irwin finished tied for second in the Challenge, breaking three MSU school records, including lowest round recorded (67), and setting six personal-best marks and tying another.
Not only has Sanders' players excelled on the course during her tenure, they have also performed very well in the classroom. The Lady Bulldog golf program has put an individual on the National Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholar team 29 times, which is considered to have one of the most stringent criteria in all of college athletics.
Before the 1992-93 season, teams and individuals were chosen straight off their season rankings to receive bids to the NCAA Championship. The 1993 season was the first year for women's collegiate golf to add NCAA Regional events to the postseason schedule. In 2005, the Lady Bulldogs competed in the NCAA East Regionals in Gainesville, Fla. The squad finished in 16th out of 21 teams. Amanda Mathis led the team in the event finishing in a tie for 19th. Sanders also led her team to back-to-back NCAA East Regional appearances in 2002 and 2003. The 2002 squad finished 17th out of 21 teams, firing a tournament total of 917. Shooting a 72 in the final round, Anna Gertsson paced the team with a score of 222, finishing tied for 27th. In 2003, the team finished in 12th place out of 21 teams, the highest finish of any MSU women's golf team in postseason action.
During the 1999-00 season, Sanders' squad opened the fall season with three tournament victories, which is a school record, and advanced to the NCAA East Regional for the first time in school history. Then-senior Pia Josefsson, junior Lina Thoren and sophomore Anna Gertsson all won individual medalist honors, respectively, in the school's opening three tournament wins. Thoren and Josefsson had a playoff against each other for the individual honor at the Lady Seminole Invitational, with Thoren winning on the first playoff hole. During the fall, the team was ranked as high as fifth nationally, the highest ranking by any women's program in Mississippi State history.
Under the guidance of Sanders, State's women golfers have competed in the NCAA postseason as an individual five times. Most recently, Josefsson participated in the championships for three straight years - in 1999, finishing tied for 33rd, in 1998, finishing tied for 53rd, and in 1997, finishing tied for 75th. Amandine Vincent added another MSU athlete to the list with her tie for 41st in 1995. Carri Wood, Sanders' first athlete to earn a bid to NCAA's, went to the NCAA Championship in 1991 and 1992 before the structure change. She finished tied for eighth and 36th, respectively, and finished 16th in the inaugural NCAA East Regional in 1993.
Sanders' efforts during the 2000 campaign were recognized by the SEC women's golf coaches in voting her the SEC Golf Coach of the Year and by the members of the National Golf Coaches Association voting her the South District Coach of the Year. Sanders also earned the SEC Golf Coach of the Year award in 1990.
She has seen many athletic and academic honors bestowed upon her athletes in her 21 seasons. Three-time all-American Carri Wood won the SEC Championship in 1992, the lone MSU golfer with that honor. Amandine Vincent was named a First Team all-American by the National Golf Coaches Association in 1995. Sanders' athletes have been named to the all-SEC list 15 times, and Anna Gertsson was named SEC Athlete of the Week for the week of March 23, 2000.
Her teams have fared well off the links, as well. In 2000, Josefsson was named MSU's finalist for the H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar Athlete of the Year Award, honoring the SEC's top student-athlete. Twenty Lady Bulldog golfers were honored as all-American Scholars by the National Golf Coaches Association. Seventy-seven have been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, at least one athlete for 19 of her 20 seasons.
As a player, Sanders claimed runner-up honors at the 1984 Jackson (Miss.) Women's Golf Association Tournament, while reigning as a three-time (1982-84) women's champion at Jackson's Colonial Country Club. Sanders captured the 1992 Mississippi Women's Golf Association State Amateur Tournament title in Tupelo, Miss.
In 1986, Sanders earned the President's Scholar Award after making the top 20 Academic List for MSU student-athletes for three consecutive years (1984-86) and being named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll in 1986.
Sanders graduated from Mississippi State with a bachelor's degree in physical education in May 1987. In the fall of 1994, she began her work towards a master's degree in sports administration at State. She juggled the demands of being a coach and a student for two years, finishing her degree in August 1996. She served as a member of the NCAA Regional Advisory Committee during 2002-04.
Born Aug. 9, 1964, in Hattiesburg, Miss., Sanders attended St. Joseph's High School in Jackson, Miss. She currently resides in the Starkville area.