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Jodie Burton (l) and Keilee Bessho (r) coached CMS to a SCIAC title this spring
Jodie Burton (l) and Keilee Bessho (r) coached CMS to a SCIAC title this spring

Jodie Burton Retires as CMS Women's Golf Coach; Keilee Bessho Appointed Interim Head Coach

CLAREMONT, Calif. – After 45 years in the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps athletic department, Jodie Burton has announced her retirement as the head women's golf coach, effective on July 1.

Keilee Bessho, who has spent the last two seasons as an assistant for Burton, helping the Athenas to a third-place finish at the 2023 NCAA Championships and a 2024 SCIAC title, will take over as the program's interim head coach for the 2024-25 season.

Burton has been with the CMS women's athletic department almost since the very beginning, taking over as the women's basketball head coach in 1979, three years after CMS began sponsoring women's sports in 1976.

In addition to her women's basketball duties, Burton became the first coach of CMS women's golf when the program was added in 2007, coaching both sports for a span of five years. After retiring from her basketball coaching role in 2012, she remained as the head golf coach for 18 years, leading the Athenas to a national championship in 2018, when it won in a playoff over Williams in dramatic fashion.

"Jodie opened doors for many of us," said Erica Perkins Jasper, the William B. Arce Director of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation and George R. Roberts Fellow. "Here at CMS, she helped build the strong foundation on which our department today thrives. For me personally, I am so thankful for the warm welcome Jodie provided upon my arrival as well as her sage advice and fantastic sense of humor over the past five years."  

Burton coached Margaret Loncki to an individual national women's golf title in 2018. She has coached nine golfers to All-America honors, and has had five SCIAC Athletes of the Year and 16 first-team All-SCIAC golfers.

Burton leaves the women's golf program at a high point, after five straight top-10 finishes, including the national title in 2018. The Athenas finished fourth in 2019, and after a two-year break for the COVID-19 pandemic, has finished ninth, third and eighth in the last three NCAA Championships since 2022.

After starting in 1979, Burton coached the women's basketball program for a total of 32 seasons, finishing with a 507-298 record and leading the Athenas to six SCIAC titles. Burton became only the 15th coach in Division III women's basketball history to win 500 games when she crossed that plateau in her final season in 2011-12. Her teams won 20 or more games nine times, and finished in the top two in the SCIAC 19 times.

During her career, Burton has also served as the senior women's administrator for the department, helping to increase the number of women's sports from six to 11 during her tenure. She has also served as volleyball and interim women's tennis coach during her 45 years at CMS.

Bessho helped CMS to its first SCIAC Championship in five years in her two seasons at CMS, taking the 2024 title with wins over the No. 2 and No. 7 ranked teams in the nation. She also helped the Athenas break the program's single-round scoring record (280, -8), the three-round scoring record (856, -8), and the individual scoring record (67, -5).

While at CMS, Bessho has also earned the 2023 WGCA Golf Pride Grips Division III Assistant Coach of the Year, received the Women's Sports Foundation Tara VanDerveer Fellowship for the 2023-24 academic year, was selected for the 2024 WeCoach NCAA Women's Coaches Academy Class No. 53, and earned an NCAA Coaching and Enhancement Grant.

Bessho joined the Athenas women's golf program in 2022 after previously serving as an assistant coach at Redlands, her alma mater, for three years. She helped the Bulldogs to a No. 2 national ranking during the 2021-22 season. 

As a player, Bessho was a second-team All-American and All-West Region selection, earning a 13th place finish at the NCAA Division III Championship. She earned a 3.88 GPA as a philosophy major and earned Scholar-Athlete and Academic All-SCIAC distinction, and earned her master's in philosophy from CSU Long Beach in 2022. She is currently working towards her Ph.D. at UC Riverside.

"Keilee has been an integral part of our coaching staff the last two seasons," said Perkins Jasper, "as well as a fantastic department member. We are very fortunate to have the program in such capable hands for the coming year."

CMS returns all five of its golfers who contributed to the SCIAC title and the eighth-place finish at the NCAA Division III Championships this past season, as it will try to continue its tradition of success.