DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

AIA nominee: Long journey worth it for Coach Tui

 The sport of golf has taken Tui Selvaratnam on a long journey around the world, from her native Sri Lanka to her current home in Arizona, where she is the Co-Head Golf Coach and Associate Athletic Director at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix.

Selvaratnam is being nominated by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) for the honor of National Coach of the Year for 2020-21 by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS).

She has played in numerous tournaments in her native country, a large island near the southeast coast of India, and was a champion in many areas, including Asia. She also became an outstanding player at Arizona State University, where she earned a degree in Business Management and International Business in 1999.

Due to the civil war that was going on in Sri Lanka, Selvaratnam decided to go back to the United States after graduating from college and was employed by the Arizona Golf Association. In 2006, her good friend from college, a Xavier graduate, mentioned that Sister Lynn Winsor, the Athletic Director and head golf coach, was looking for a golf coach to help out.

Selvaratnam met Winsor, who offered her a part-time position (three months) as a golf coach. She also filled a part-time position in the school’s admissions office.

Xavier won its 25th state title in 2006!

A full-time school-staff position opened up in the advancement office. She started that in July of 2007, continued to serve as an assistant for Winsor, and in 2011 became Co-Head Coach with Winsor and the Associate Athletic Director.

Golf coach Tui Selvaratnam (Xavier photo).

Selvaratnam’s plate was more than full with her Xavier roles as well as that of a wife (married in 2011 to Kye Hattemar) and mother (their daughter, Keyanna, was born in 2013).

But she has learned to handle all of that, and has not looked back.

She was recently notified of her nomination and will send all of her pertinent information later this month to the AIA, which then will forward to the NFHS.

“I was very surprised and humbled (to be nominated), and it is an honor to be recognized,’’ Selvaratnam said.

A self-admitted longshot to make it when she first started at ASU, she was a walk-on and then earned her golf scholarship. She was coached by long-time former ASU golf coach Linda Vollstedt and was a part of three NCAA National Championship teams and one runner-up.

That turned out to be a similar experience to what she has had at Xavier, which to date has won 37 state championships.

“It may not seem like it to those who follow the sport, but it is hard to win something like that,’’ Selvaratnam said. “You have to put a lot of work into it and believe in yourself. I want our Xavier girls to realize hard work, dedication helps you to get to the top.’’

She has continued to play at various events in Arizona and across the country and her game remains sharp.

She has watched the golf landscape in the state continue to sprout with outstanding young players.

“There is a lot of competition out there. It is getting stronger,’’ she said. “Our girls are still in there competing for scholarships.’’

Winsor has been a “great role model for me and all our players,’’ Selvaratnam said. “Her energy and enthusiasm is awesome.’ She loves all of the girls. I try to take that approach with them.’’

One aspect from which Selvaratnam will not waver is having the golfers give back to the community by volunteering. She learned that from her parents and wants that to be part of the XCP program.

Golf, education and community service – a complete experience.

“I love doing what I do,’’ Selvaratnam said. “I want to do this as long as I can, maybe be here when my daughter comes along.’’

She is doing it the right way. It has been worth the journey.

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