From the hardwood to the green and everywhere in between, multiple student-athletes throughout the history of APSU athletics have been the driving force in building the university into one of the Ohio Valley Conference’s most prestigious programs.
While many of these former student-athletes have gone on to have a successful career away from APSU, some have returned to take on the role of a coach for their former team.
The All State now highlights the career of Jessica Combs, one of the best to ever tee off for the Governors and also the program’s current head women’s golf coach.
A Hixson, Tenn. native, Combs attended Soddy Daisy High School, where she had an impressive career with the Trojans.
In 2010, Combs helped lead Soddy Daisy to their second-straight Class AAA TSSAA State Championship. In the same year, she won the district tournament as an individual and was named the Chattanooga-area Girls’ Golf Player of the Year. 2011 saw Combs win the regional tournament as an individual as well.
After a successful high school career, Combs elected to come to APSU and play for former head coach Sara Robson.
“[Sara Robson] called me and I decided that three hours is not too, too far away from home,” Combs said. “I knew I wanted to stay close, but go a little farther away at the same time. I came to Austin Peay, visited, met a few of my future teammates and just fell in love with the campus. I knew immediately that once I stepped on campus that this is where I wanted to be.”
Combs burst onto the scene right away for the Governors in a freshman campaign that saw the emerging star post seven Top-20 finishes in addition to three in the Top-10.
In what would become a staple throughout her career, Combs finished her first year in Clarksville with a team-best 78.8 stroke average and was the Govs’ lowest scorer in seven of the team’s ten tournaments.
On the 11th hole of the OVC championship, Combs notched her first collegiate hole-in-one. She finished 9th in her first taste of OVC championship golf.
Combs led APSU in scoring each year under coach Robson and was named All-OVC three times in her collegiate career, making her just one of three Governors to achieve such a feat. Her astonishing 76.57 average as a senior currently ranks fourth all-time in the APSU record books.
After graduating from APSU in 2016, Combs became a member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) as a teaching pro and club professional.
Three years later, Director of Athletics Gerald Harrison announced the women’s golf legend would be returning home to serve as the program’s sixth head coach.
“There has definitely been moments where it has been more difficult, but there are definitely moments when the transition has been so smooth,” Combs said of her transition from player to coach. “I think being so close in age to the current players, I think they really relate to that. They know that I was in their shoes not too long ago. I know what worked for past teammates, I know what worked for me.
“I am just trying to implement those same things that Sara [Robson] taught me and that other former coaches, [Chelsea Harris] and [Amy McCollum], brought to the program and try to do the best things that they did and incorporate a few of my own type of things.”
While Combs left an impact on women’s golf at APSU during her four years as a student-athlete, she looks to make an even bigger impact going forward as the team’s head coach.