After longtime head coach Jan Mann announced her retirement in April, UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham set out to find the next head coach of the women’s golf program and ultimately found one in a familiar face: former assistant coach Aimee Neff.
Neff played collegiate golf at Michigan State University, where she later began her coaching career as an assistant coach from 2013-2016. Neff went on to spend one season at Vanderbilt University as an assistant coach before joining UNC’s program as an assistant in the 2017-2018 season.
But Neff’s journey to UNC began long before she stepped on campus as an assistant coach. Originally from Indiana, Neff fell in love with UNC as a young soccer fan.
“UNC women’s soccer had so many powerhouse teams like they do today, and that was something that I was so impressed by," she said. "I was wearing my UNC shirt before I was 10 in Indiana, so my love for the school certainly dates back a while.”
Neff said she learned a lot coaching under big names and competitive programs, but credits her experiences at UNC under Mann as crucial in her growth as a coach and opportunity to return to North Carolina.
“I’m really thankful that coach Mann took me in as an assistant and allowed me to learn from her and I got to learn from the men’s coaches, so I think that was influential in me being able to come back,” she said.
After spending the 2017-2018 season as an assistant coach at UNC, Neff had the opportunity to take on a head coaching position at Florida Atlantic University. She spent three seasons leading their program in Boca Raton, where she had an impressive record.
"Aimee has done an outstanding job in three seasons as head coach at FAU," Cunningham said in a statement. "Her team showed dramatic improvement and demonstrated the value she places on academic achievement as well as competitive success."
Neff said she's thankful for her time at FAU for giving her head coaching experience. Spending time under different Hall of Fame head coaches helped her learn who she was as a coach, she said.
Neff’s development and record at FAU demonstrated her abilities as a coach and her readiness to lead UNC’s program.
“She made a tremendous impression on Carolina Athletics and the golf program when she was our associate head coach, and we are excited about her return to Carolina,” Cunningham said.
Rising junior Kayla Smith began her golfing career at UNC in fall of 2019 — just two seasons after Neff’s time in North Carolina. Despite not having worked with her closely yet, Smith expressed her enthusiasm about Neff.
“A lot of the older girls loved her, and from the time I’ve spent getting to know, her she seems awesome," Smith said. "She’s very relatable, she’s very funny and I’m super excited to work with her given her track record from the past and past coaching experiences.”
Though Neff has made many impressive stops throughout her coaching journey, she has known for a long time that UNC was the place for her.
“The first day on the job when I was at Vanderbilt, the head coach asked me what my dream job was, and I said to be the head coach at UNC," she said. "So it was certainly something that I dreamed about, and sometimes dreams do come true."