OU Golf Coaches Follow Parallel Paths
Oklahoma head men’s and women’s golf coaches Ryan Hybl and Veronique Drouin-Luttrell were hired in June 2009, just two days apart. Both were coming from the University of Georgia where they served as assistant coaches. And both were charged with identical tasks: Turn around their respective programs.
Their familiarity with each other gave the two an instant connection at OU, and the duo’s close-working relationship is at the root of the significant success both programs have experienced since the pair’s arrival.
“Our connection made it easier,” Drouin-Luttrell remembers of their transition to Oklahoma. “We moved out here and didn’t know anybody, but we knew each other, and it was a lot of fun.”
Their first four months in Norman, Hybl, Drouin-Luttrell and then-men’s assistant coach Blake Smart shared a duplex because none of them wanted to immediately buy a house. The trio spent most of its time in the office or on the recruiting trail, so it just made sense.
“My family didn’t move out here until after Thanksgiving, and Vero wasn’t married at the time, so it was easy to all live together,” Hybl says.
Knowing each other coming into new jobs in the same building made the transition a smoother one for both coaches, Hybl explains.
It was nice coming to a spot where you knew who the other coach was. That was really beneficial and easy. We both knew we wanted to be good and we needed to change things immediately.
“We’re one of the only sports where you are generally by the other team all the time,” Hybl says. “It was nice coming to a spot where you knew who the other coach was. That was really beneficial and easy. We both knew we wanted to be good and we needed to change things immediately.”
One of the top priorities for Hybl and Drouin-Luttrell when arriving in Norman was to reconfigure the Charlie Coe Center, home to both programs’ coaching offices and practice facilities. The decision to renovate was arrived at easily for the pair, who shared similar goals for their programs. They wanted to do whatever it took to get their programs back on the college golf map.
Whether the topic is travel situations, golf courses or recruiting, Hybl and Drouin-Luttrell know they are welcome to make the 10-second walk to the other’s office with questions or counsel.
“We help each other all the time,” Hybl says. “We’re always going to offer advice if we know that other can help out.”
Because the coaches have such a strong bond, it encourages the same between the two programs as a whole. It’s not uncommon to walk into the Coe Center and spot the men’s and women’s players watching a movie together or fitting in a game of ping pong. The solid connection also fosters a competitive-yet-healthy relationship between the two teams.
“I use it as motivation for my guys. The girls have had a really good run here the past couple of years and I joke with the guys and prod at them to get underneath their skin,” Hybl says. “I try to use it as motivation to not be the worse team in your own building. If they’re playing well I think it’s great for us and the same thing goes for them. We want each other to be good.”
Drouin-Luttrell echoes the importance of the teams’ successes in building a solid golf program.
“I think it helps in recruiting knowing that you have a competitive men’s team and telling the recruits they’re going to be hanging out around some of the best players in the country,” Drouin-Luttrell explains. “That makes a big-time difference.”
In the five-and-a-half years the coaches have been at OU, both have taken their respective programs to new heights. The women’s team was seven years removed from an NCAA Championships appearance, and Hybl’s squad was coming off a 10th-place finish at the 2009 Big 12 tournament.
Since, Drouin-Luttrell has taken her Sooners to three straight NCAA Championships, and posted a program-best fourth-place finish in 2014, all while breaking nearly every record in OU history.
Hybl has had similar success, leading his teams to four straight NCAAs, two of which resulted in 11th-place showings. Three of his squads have posted the best single-season scoring averages in school annals.
We’re in this together trying to make this entire program better, but we’re two different teams.
“The interesting thing about it, too, is that neither of our programs was in great shape and we were both struggling with the same issues when we got here,” Hybl says. “We were trying to get a player in and recruiting all the time. We were on the road all the time. The first year was hard, but I remember a lot. I remember how bad we were and it makes me appreciate where we’re moving to.”
Both coaches say the change in the programs started with a change in culture.
“We had to set our tone early and people followed and believed in what we wanted to do and what I wanted to do here,” Drouin-Luttrell explains. “Our girls just continued and continued with new traditions and we kept on and stuck with those things. The culture is a big one, for sure.”
Even with their close ties, joint facilities and shared successes, both teams still have their own identities.
“We’re not so close to where we do everything together. There’s a nice separation,” Hybl explains. “There’s still the women’s golf team and the men’s golf team. I think that’s good and healthy and competitive. If she does something here I know it’s going to be for the good of the combined program, and I think she feels the same way about me, too. Everything we do has to be for the good of the program.”
“We’re in this together trying to make this entire program better, but we’re two different teams,” Drouin-Luttrell adds.
Two teams who both are in very good hands.