Entering in his fourth season at the helm of Rice University golf in 2014-15, head coach Justin Emil has taken strides with the Owl program since his hiring in June 2011, highlighted by the team's run to the 2014 Conference USA Championship. He was named the league's 2014 Coach of the Year as well.
Emil's squad lurked just behind the leaders at the C-USA tournament in fourth place through each of the first two rounds before making a move in the final round. The Owls' 286 in that third round was the best score of the day by a three-stroke margin. Emil and his team took the lead into the clubhouse to eagerly watch the final groups finish. Rice held on to top second-place UAB by one stroke, giving the program its first conference title in 75 years.
Emil guided rookie Kevin Reilly to C-USA Freshman of the Year, all-freshman team and second team all-conference honors as well. On the whole, Rice cut 5.25 strokes per round off of its average from the previous season. Three of Rice's top five players in stroke average were underclassmen.
The program also received numerous academic honors in 2013-14. As a team, the Owls claimed the C-USA Sport Academic Award for posting the highest GPA among league squads as well as the GCAA Team Academic Award presented by Farmers Insurance, for posting a GPA better than 3.0 on the year. Individually, Trey Johnson and Paul Saad earned the C-USA Commissioner's Academic Medal while Tommy Economou and Landon Michelson were each named Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholars for their excellence on the course and in the classroom.
In his first season, 2011-12, Emil coached Jeff Wibawa to a breakout campaign in which the sophomore captured the medal in October's Lone Star Invitational at Briggs Ranch, thanks in part to a second-round score of 67. Emil also aided numerous other young players on the squad to make strides and develop their game throughout the campaign.
The squad's hard work paid off in Emil's second campaign, as the Owls notched four top-10 finishes in 2012-13, with a high-water mark of third place at the Rice Intercollegiate. In fact, the Owls played in five common tournaments and courses in each of the two seasons and averaged a 17.6-stroke improvement this past season.
In Emil's tenure, the Owls have placed 19 honorees on the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll and he has coached four C-USA Academic Medal honorees. Rice has been honored with the NCAA Public Recognition Award in each of his seasons for posting Academic Progress Rates in the top 10 percent nationally.
Emil joined the Rice University staff after a five-year stint as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt. While at Vanderbilt, the Commodores won three team championships - the 2010 Samford Intercollegiate, the 2009 Seminole Intercollegiate and the 2008 Kauai Collegiate Cup - and advanced to postseason play three times.
In his first season at Vanderbilt, the Commodores shot a 21-under 267 for the final round of the NCAA West Regional played at Arizona State's Karsten Golf Course to finish fifth and earn a spot in the 27-team, 2007 NCAA National Championship. The Commodores were 17-under after 36 holes and the 21-under par the final day of the regional was the low round of the tournament.
During the 2007-08 season, Vanderbilt captured the Kauai Collegiate Cup, the program's first tournament championship since 2003. Two Commodore golfers went on to win individual championships during the year. The 2008-09 campaign was highlighted by a team title at the Seminole Intercollegiate, two more individual tournament championships and a return to postseason play.
In addition to winning the Samford Intercollegiate, Vanderbilt advanced to the NCAA Regional Championships for the third time in four years in 2010.
Vanderbilt posted seven, Top 10 finishes during the 2010-11 season. Led by another individual championship, the Commodores were runners-up at the 18-team Hummingbird Intercollegiate during the season.
While at Vanderbilt, Emil played a role in the development of Vandy Golf Day, which raised over $150,000 for the golf program in four years.
In May of 2009, he regained his amateur status after five years of professional golf and continues to play competitively. He made the cut en route to finishing 31st at the 2009 Tennessee State Amateur and finished sixth at the Tennessee State Mid-Amateur in the fall of 2009.
Prior to Vanderbilt, Emil served as a golf professional for Windance Golf and Country Club in his native Gulfport, Miss. In that capacity, he was in charge of budgeting, purchasing and organizing inventory for the golf shop and taught lessons to adults and held annual golf camps for juniors. He also directed all tournament operations for member events, local outings and state golf association championships.
As a professional, he finished second in the Tennessee PGA Section Assistants Championship (74-67) in 2007, qualifying to play in the Taylor Made/adidas PGA Assistants Championship.
Emil was a four-year letterman at the University of Southern Mississippi. He was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2000 and named second-team all-conference following his senior season in 2003. He qualified for the United States Amateur Championship in 2002 (Oakland Hills) and 2003 (Oakmont).
Emil earned his bachelor's degree in sports administration from Southern Miss in 2002. He continued his education at USM, earning a master's degree in sports management in 2004 while working with the Golden Eagle golf team as a graduate assistant.
Emil and his wife, Amber, have a daughter, Brooklyn, who was born in July 2013, and welcomed a son, Houston, in January 2015.