College athletic recruiting can be one of the most challenging and exhausting parts of the college experience. Bradley women’s golf coach Halley Morell can speak to that, as she went through it twice.
Out of high school, the Ohio native wasn’t highly recruited by power five programs, but she drew interest from mid-major programs.
She started her college golf career at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. Although it wasn’t one of her first choices, Morell decided to visit late in the process.
“This was February or March of my senior year [of high school], so I was ready to make a decision,” Morell said. “So, my parents were like ‘Just go visit … it’ll be your last one and then you can make your decision.’ And, I went and visited and I actually loved it … it ended up working out and I loved everything about it.”
Morell excelled during her two years at RMU, setting the record for the lowest singles season scoring average and the lowest career scoring average in school history. She was named the Northeast Conference Co-Player of the Year and also garnered NEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year award honors during her sophomore season in 2013.
It all seemed to be going well, until the women’s golf program was discontinued that December due to budget cuts.
“We got a text message from one of the associate AD’s and that says ‘You have a meeting with the athletic director in an hour at our stadium … and I’m getting a pit in my stomach kind of fear,” Morell said. “That was the only time I had seen my coach cry and he told us afterwards that he found out an hour before we did; he didn’t even have time to think before we had our meeting.”
Finding a new school came at an opportune time for Morell after coming off conference player of the year honors, but there was also a significant hurdle.
“By that time, I had really blossomed,” Morell said. “I was getting the attention of a lot of more schools the second time around, but unfortunately the signing period is typically in November … a lot of schools have their rosters filled by that time.”
She caught the attention of Penn State women’s golf coach Denise St. Pierre, who offered Morell a roster spot on the Nittany Lions team. At Penn State, Morrell won the Big Ten sportsmanship award in 2016 and also earned Big Ten Distinguished Scholar honors.
Morell graduated from Penn State in 2016 but decided against turning professional, citing burnout from competition. She then went to pursue an MBA from the University of Texas at El Paso.
“I was getting a little bit burnt out of the practice hours,” Morell said. “I was one that was first to practice, last one to leave … I definitely needed a mental break from competitive golf at that point.”
While studying at the UTEP from 2016-2018, Morell also served as an assistant women’s golf coach. After originally planning to return to competition after those two years were up, she discovered a passion: coaching.
“I just fell in love with coaching, within a month of doing it,” Morell said. “When you have players turning to you after winning their first event, or shooting their best round … that just kind of made a world of difference to me and saw the impact that I could have on young athletes getting better.”
Morell earned her MBA in 2018 and continued her coaching career as an assistant coach for the men’s and women’s golf program at Jacksonville State University during the 2018-19 season. A year later, Morell got her first head coaching job here on the Hilltop, becoming the youngest Division-I head golf coach in the country.
While her first season was cut short, she led the Braves to three second-place team finishes during the campaign.
Now heading into her second season at Bradley, Morell hopes to create a positive experience for her student-athletes, similar to the one she had in college.
“[My college experience is] why I wanted to coach … I try to create that experience for the student athletes that I coach,” Morell said.