Watching his team’s opening round at the NCAA golf regional, West Virginia coach Sean Covich saw calming indicators and a favorable leaderboard.
“We don’t have the deer-in-the headlights look,” Covich said. “The whole vibe has been pretty normal for us. The important thing is that we’re not treating this like it’s something totally different.”
Of course, playing postseason golf is quite different for the Mountaineers, who last made the NCAA field in 1947. Their return looked promising after a 2-over-par composite score Monday moved them into fifth place out of 13 teams at the University of Louisville Golf Club.
The three-day, 54-hole regional continues through Wednesday, with the top five teams advancing to the NCAA championships.
Day 1 leader Auburn was 8-under, two shots ahead of defending national champion Oklahoma State. Louisville and Baylor were tied for third at 4-under.
West Virginia, seeded eighth, was led by sophomore Logan Perkins shooting 1-under while Philipp Matlari finished even on the par-71 course.
“Logan played awesome,” Covich said.
Perkins was even at the turn before hitting his best shot of the day, an approach that settled within 3 feet on the 10th hole.
“I was having some birdie putts, but none were really close enough that I could make,” Perkins said. “I was just kinda hanging in there until I got to 10, where it was good to see one go in.”
West Virginia’s top-rated player, Matthew Sharpstene, sank three birdies but finished his round 1-over after finding water on two holes. His tee shot on the par-3 No. 3 rolled down the bank, leading to a double-bogey, and he took a bogey on the par-5 13th.
“He made two bad swings that just happened to be on two holes where there’s water,” Covich said. “I told him to keep his head up because for 95 percent of the round he played great. He played a lot of good golf out there, just didn’t get the most out of his round.”
Each team features five golfers and tosses that day’s worst scorer. For West Virginia on Monday, it was Max Sear’s 3-over 74.
“Max still had a quality score even if we had to take it,” Covich said. “It’s going to take everybody here contributing.”
West Virginia closed the opening round one stroke ahead of sixth-place Arizona (3-over), with Iowa State (4-over) and North Florida (8-over) in pursuit.
“We might as well act like we’re playing with house money, because the pressure’s not on us,” Covich said. “It’s on North Florida, Oklahoma State, Louisville and Auburn — they’re expected to move on, and they have every reason to move on.
“We just need to put ourselves in position to compete.”