|New West Virginia University golf coach Sean Covich talks to reporters in the Jerry West Room at the WVU Coliseum on Tuesday, May 27. West Virginia will be resumimg men's golf after a 33-year hiatus in 2015.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
Sean Covich grew up next to a putting green so it’s only natural that golf would become his life’s vocation. West Virginia University’s new golf coach says he has been around the sport almost his entire life.
“My dad is a teaching professional; a club pro. He’s played in pro events and when I was young I thought about going that route,” said Covich.
But he said his father gave him some sound advice about becoming a club pro.
“He said, ‘Do you love to play golf?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I love to play golf.’ ‘Well then you don’t want to be a club pro because I come to work every day and it’s hard for me to play a lot,’” Covich said.
It turns out he was hearing but not necessarily listening to what his father had to say. As a college golf coach, Covich rarely gets a chance to pull his clubs out of the bag.
“The last eight years I’ve been coaching, recruiting and changing diapers,” he laughed. “My dad said when I got this job it doesn’t matter what I shoot – it only matters what the guys you bring in here can shoot.”
Since being introduced as West Virginia’s golf coach on Tuesday morning, Covich has already hit the ground running. His No. 1 objective is to get a full roster of players by 2015 when the Mountaineers resume golf again for the first time in 33 years.
“We don’t even have golf balls and golf bags yet,” he said. “I don’t even have an office, which is fine, but it’s going to be a lot of improvising and that’s the cool thing. You can create it and build it from scratch. For me, it’s all about finding good kids who want to work hard and who want to represent West Virginia with class. That’s kind of my focus.”
What Covich has to sell aspiring young golfers is an opportunity – an opportunity to play in some of the best collegiate golf tournaments in the country against some of the best young golfers in the world.
“I’m going to ask them if they want to go on this adventure with me,” he said. “Help me build this from scratch. I’m going to be learning, they’re going to be learning and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Having the ability to take nothing and turn it into something was very appealing to Covich, who spent the last three years as an assistant coach at Mississippi State. He also coached five seasons at Meridian Community College.
“First of all it’s West Virginia,” he said. “It’s a national program. It’s in the Big 12 and all of those things are positive. It’s not like I’m walking into a situation where we haven’t been good for 30 yeas. There is nothing here so we get to create this from scratch, plus, I always like the role of being the underdog.”
It’s also helpful that Covich doesn’t have to come up with a roster of 30 guys. A typical college golf roster has about 10 players on it, sharing 4.5 scholarships. Covich said he won’t have that to give out right now, but the goal is to eventually have the full allotment of scholarships.
“They need to be the right five or six or 10 (players),” he noted. “I have a small roster to build, but at the same time I have to do my homework because you only have so many scholarships and it’s fractions of scholarships, so it’s going to be a key to get the right kind of kid in here.”
For instance, he could user a bigger chunk of his scholarship money to sign a couple of really good players and hope that they are good enough to one day qualify for the national tournament, or, he could spread his money around and try and develop some roster depth.
“With limited scholarships you can do it a lot of different ways,” he noted. “You can give a big chunk of it to one player, but he has to make a difference. I don’t know if that’s the best way of going about it. What you need are some experienced players. I think the key is finding kids who have played tournament golf because when you play college golf that’s all we do.
“I know there are some kids out there that may play with their uncle on the weekend or they play in the junior club championship, but they need to go out and get some exposure and play in national events, or at least play in the state (amateur) or junior (amateur). Those are the kinds of kids we are looking for,” he said.
Three Big 12 schools finished this season in the top 25, with Oklahoma State and Texas typically vying for national championships on a yearly basis. The Longhorns captured the 2012 NCAA title while Oklahoma State was runner-up to this year’s NCAA champion Alabama.
The Cowboys last won a title in 2006 and have produced seven NCAA championships since 1980. Oklahoma and Baylor also traditionally field outstanding men’s golf teams.
“I’ve been to Texas and you walk into their locker room facility and they call it the Longhorn Grand Slam – Mark Brooks, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Justin Leonard and all those guys … wow,” said Covich. “It might have been 1930, or 1950 when they got that thing going, but someone had to be the first. Hopefully we can talk that kid into coming here and being that first.”
There were a handful of schools from similar climates as West Virginia in this year’s top 25 such as Illinois, Virginia and Virginia Tech, which is encouraging. Also, Ohio State and Penn State are two programs from this region that have made substantial investments in their golf programs in recent years.
“We can draw from Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois,” Covich explained. “They have all made a commitment to having indoor facilities and I think that is eventually going to be important for us. Now, whether that’s a hitting bay on the end of a driving range or something in the Coliseum with a big, open room for a putting green and an indoor net or something like that, I don’t know. But that’s what we need to do. Is it going to be here in 2015? No. But we’re going to try and figure out what our best option could be.”
As far as golf courses, there are plenty of good ones throughout the state that the Mountaineers could potentially play. And having a PGA event at the Greenbrier every year is something Covich says he will be able to sell to recruits.
“When you communicate with a kid we can say we’re going to play here, there and also the Greenbrier,” he said. “It’s a PGA Tour event and they know instantly, hey, I’ve seen that on TV and it’s a great golf course. It’s instant credibility. There can be a great golf course in, say, Montana, but if there is no exposure to it kids don’t really know about it. Kids know about the Greenbrier, and then you add a PGA Tour event to it every year, that certainly makes it an attractive spot.”
At the outset, Covich said it is going to be important for him to remain patient, even though that’s not his nature.
“Once I’ve got my list I want to get it all done and I won’t be about to do it here right away – at least the right way,” he said. “I’ve just got to plan out my day and really just put my focus on recruiting and getting out there and meeting the people in West Virginia and in the golf community.”