(‘Tee to Green’ interview with Etienne Papineau)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The cancellation of NCAA spring sports championships has led to opportunities for graduating senior athletes.
In an unprecedented move by the NCAA, spring sport student-athletes can retain eligibility from this season. Even though the golf season stretches from the fall to the spring, the championships are in the spring. Therefore, golfers are included in this group.
With his undergraduate studies in sports psychology now complete, Etienne Papineau will get started on his MBA this fall, returning to the WVU golf team for an extra season of eligibility.
“I am really grateful that we get to have another year of eligibility,” Papineau said. “I am really excited to go back to West Virginia. I called Sean (Covich) last week and I told him I was coming back and he was really happy.”
When the season was canceled in mid-March, the Mountaineers had three regular season tournaments and the Big 12 Championships still on their schedule. West Virginia appeared to be on track for a second consecutive bid to the NCAA Regionals, where they finished two strokes away from a spot in nationals in 2019.
“It was sad and frustrating at the same time to finish the season like that. I feel like it was our best season since I have been at West Virginia. We had a great team and all of our players were good players. We felt like it was our best chance this year.
“But the way it ended was another reason I decided to go back because we still have something to prove. I am pretty sure we are going to do something special next year as well.”
The bulk of West Virginia’s roster will return next season. Senior Philipp Matlari could also return for an additional season of eligibility.
“I am excited to see them in August,” Papineau said. “I didn’t know when I would see them again when we left in March. Now I am glad I get to spend another year with them. We have a great team spirit and I am pretty sure we are going to do great this year as well.”
In March, Papineau returned to his home in Quebec, Canada. Getting a chance to hit some golf balls since then has required some improvisation.
“Courses are closed where I live right now. I bought a net and I have been hitting balls into the net for about two months. I have been trying to stay busy and trying to work out every day outside in my backyard hitting balls. I just finished up school this weekend so I have been trying to get into a routine.”
Papineau etched his name into the WVU record books in September with his performance at the Old Town Club Collegiate Invitational in Winston-Salem, N.C. He shot a program-best total of 203 (seven-under) in the 54-hole tournament.
‘That was a great moment I had with Coach (Covich) there. He walked with me pretty much the whole tournament. It was just a great event.
“It was one of the best moments I have had in my college career so far.”