MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Like a pin obscured by a dogleg, Sean Covich isn’t sure what he’ll see when West Virginia relaunches its golf team in the fall of 2015.
He promises only to stick with the same approach that brought him success as a junior college coach and a Mississippi State assistant.
Amid his introduction Tuesday morning as WVU men’s golf coach, Covich embraced the opportunity to rebuild a program dormant since 1982 and to make it instantly competitive.
“I’ve coached eight years, and I’ve been in the postseason eight years either with an individual or a team, so I want to keep that going. I want to win right away,” he said. “Now is that going to be realistic? I don’t know, but I want to try.
“We may pop out and be 100th in the country or we may be 50th. I have no idea.”
It was nearly 11 months ago that athletics director Oliver Luck announced plans to add a golf team in order to meet the Big 12 membership minimum of six men’s sports. And it will be another 15 months before the WVU men tee off.
The interim provides Covich with time to tackle a lengthy startup list—of which including securing area courses on which to practice and play. He also must address the need for indoor training facilities as part of allocating a budget that Luck previously estimated at $250,000 annually.
Then there’s the matter of selling recruits on a program that hasn’t competed in 32 years. What is Covich’s pitch?
“You can be a legend right off the bat,” he said. “You can be the Jerry West of our golf team.”
“We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. But we can do some special things here, and maybe sooner than people think.” — West Virginia’s new golf coach Sean Covich
Despite a $1.8 million endowments pledge, West Virginia won’t be fully funded with the NCAA-maximum 4.5 scholarships until 2017. That presumably makes for an uphill climb to compete against Big 12 powers like Texas and Oklahoma State. The Longhorns won their third national championship in 2012 and boast an alumni grand slam of Ben Crenshaw (Master’s), Tom Kite (U.S. Open), Justin Leonard (British Open) and Mark Brooks (PGA Championship). The Cowboys own 10 national titles and have reached the NCAA championships 66 time in 67 years.
Covich said those traditional powers had to start somewhere, much lie West Virginia is doing now.
“Somebody had to be the first player to go there. Now it might have been 1930 or 1950 or 1980, but somebody had to be the first kid,” he said. “Hopefully we can talk that kid into coming here by saying, ‘You can be that first kid’ at West Virginia.”
The son of a PGA club pro in Mississippi, Covich played on a regional title team at Meridian Community College before finishing his degree and masters at Mississippi State in 2006. He returned to Meridian and in five seasons earned four coach-of-the-year awards from various golf associations. He spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Mississippi State, building a reputation as a top-flight recruiter and twice helping the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament.
Scouring WVU’s campus for talented walk-ons could play a role, Covich said. For the former scratch golfer aiming to build a college golf program from scratch, all options are available.
“We’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” he said. “But we can do some special things here, and maybe sooner than people think.”