The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

May 27, 2014

Covich ready to relaunch WVU golf

BECKLEY — It’s been 32 years since anybody could call himself the head men’s golf coach at West Virginia University. But on Tuesday, Sean Covich officially put on that hat, taking over as the leader of the rejuvenated program that will be making a comeback in 2015, after folding following the 1982 season.

“It’s a momentous occasion,” said WVU athletic director Oliver Luck Tuesday in introducing the coach, who spent time as the head coach of Meridian Community College in Mississippi at the junior college level and then as an assistant at Mississippi State before taking the job in Morgantown. “Obviously, building a program is going to take a lot of work and a lot of patience. But his track record fits that. We’re really excited to have Sean and (wife) Kate here in Morgantown.”

“This is an exciting day, not only for me and my family, but for West Virginia University as the men’s golf program is restored,” added Covich. “Everybody is excited. That’s the real story. It’s not Sean Covich. It’s Mountaineer golf is back.”

Now the work begins.

“I’ve got a checklist of things I want to get done, but I’m going to exercise some patience and build this thing the right way,” said Covich, pointing out that having 14 months before competition begins gives him an opportunity to put down some of the groundwork.

Covich, who helped Meridian make the jump from the NJCAA Division II level to the NJCAA Division I level, where he took the team to a second-place national finish, said the first step is recruiting.

“If you’re a good coach, the only reason you’re good is the players,” he explained. “It’s all about recruiting in any sport. I plan on starting that this weekend.”

Covich said he’ll travel far and wide to find prospects, but he also wants to be sure he doesn’t miss one under his nose. The program will be funded with 4.5 scholarships when it’s fully funded in 2017, but it will start with fewer and work up to that point. So the walk-on program could be vital.

Covich pointed to Jason Dufner, who was a walk-on at Auburn before going on to win three PGA Tour events, including the 2013 PGA Championship, as an example of what’s possible.

“Maybe there’s somebody like that at West Virginia,” he said. “We want to give them that opportunity.

“We want to do some sort of walk-on tournament eventually. Obviously, we’ll have to work through compliance and figure out when we want to do that, but that’s something that would be special. I know there are some good players on this campus already that want to be a part of the team. I’d love to reach out to them and see if there’s a kid that can help us.”

The others he’ll have to convince to become part of a new program, but Covich is convinced there’s plenty to sell, starting with the conference.

“The Big 12 has set the standard for men’s golf,” he said. “Being a part of that league will instantly bring interest.”

And although WVU doesn’t have much of a history — at least recently — in golf, Covich believes the overall success of the athletic program is something recruits will notice.

“It’s a special place,” he said. “It’s a national program with probably the most passionate fan base in the country. I’ve already seen that from them.”

Covich did acknowledge that recruits will want to know about the team’s home course. That’s something that has not been settled, but the coach is confident that there are good options available.

“We want to be on a course that wants us there,” he said. “Obviously, the better the golf course the better, but when kids look at the program they’re going to ask, ‘Where do you play and how many courses do you play?’ The more courses we can have in our rotation, the better. This area and this state has great facilities. There’s great facilities right across the border in Pennsylvania. I think we have an advantage there, and we can add a lot of courses to our rotation. The more courses you can see, the more it prepares you.”

Both Luck and Covich commented on the huge support from former WVU golfers and other members of the golf community across the state anxious to see the golf program back at WVU and hopeful of its future success.

How long will that take? Covich said he’s not willing to wait.

“This is such a unique situation,” he said. “I think we need to do it the right way. But I’ve coached eight years and I’ve been in the postseason eight years. I want to keep that going.

“I want to win the first tournament we’re in,” he said. “That may be a lofty goal, but it’s the only way I know.”

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