New golf coach patient, to a point
MORGANTOWN — Oliver Luck and Sean Covich both used the same word Tuesday to describe perhaps the most important ingredient in building a men’s golf program at West Virginia.
“Obviously, starting a men’s golf program here is going to take a lot of patience,’’ said Luck, the WVU athletic director.
That doesn’t mean, however, that they are willing to wait years for the program to take off.
In fact, during his introductory press conference Tuesday, Covich made it clear that while he understands there is a process to follow — “I have about 500 things to do and I need to start doing them today,’’ he said. He isn’t going into his new job expecting to struggle.
“I’ve coached eight years and I’ve been in the postseason eight years either with an individual or a team,’’ Covich said. “I want to keep that going. I want to win right away.
“Now is that going to be realistic? I don’t know, but I want to try.’’
Covich, 34, takes over a West Virginia program that has been dormant for more than three decades. A Mississippi native who has been a head coach at the junior college level and most recently for three seasons as an assistant at Mississippi State, in many ways he’s not sure of what to expect as he tackles the task of starting from scratch.
But he knows there is potential, particularly stepping into the sport in the Big 12 Conference.
“The Big 12 Conference has set the standard for men’s golf,’’ Covich said. “So for us to be in the Big 12, that’s going to pique interest from recruits.’’
Covich takes over a program that won’t compete this season. He will spend the next 12 months recruiting and putting together a roster. The NCAA limit for men’s golf scholarships is 4.5, but that’s probably a number he will build to gradually. Luck said there was already $1.8 million pledged to an endowment fund for golf scholarships.
And he will look everywhere for possibilities, from the junior college ranks to high schools and even in his own backyard.
“There are possibly some kids already here on campus,’’ Covich said. “In fact, I know there are.’’
Covich also has to figure out where his team is going to play. Through much of the period when WVU sponsored a golf team, it had a true home course. That was wiped out, though, when new Mountaineer Field was built in 1980.
There is no shortage of venues, however, both locally and regionally. The team could practice and perhaps even play in Morgantown at The Pines or at Lakeview, and some of the best courses in the East are near the school, from the Pete Dye course in Bridgeport to Oglebay in Wheeling and even Nemacolin Woodlands in Pennsylvania.
While there are no immediate plans for any venue to be considered WVU’s home course, Covich is likely to spend time within the coming year talking to representatives of many of those courses. Golf is played as a split season in both the fall and spring (with the NCAA championship in the latter) and most competitions come in the form of tournament play. There’s a chance some of those local clubs could host a tournament.
“That’s something I definitely want to do, host a tournament,’’ Covich said. “It’s good for the team to play on a familiar course, it’s good for fans to be able to come and see tournaments, it’s good for everyone.’’
Covich was given a three-year contract to coach the golf team. His salary begins at $85,000 the first year with annual $5,000 raises after that.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1