The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 28, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN- Covich will be more caddy than coach

MORGANTOWN — Normally, on the flight bringing a coach to a new job, among the things he does is runs the questions he expects to be asked during his introductory press conference through his mind, making sure he has the answers at his ready.

So there was Sean Covich, the new coach of the new sport, golf, at West Virginia University standing there Tuesday afternoon when this question was tossed at him from the peanut gallery of media by “you know who”:

“Can you compare, in any way, even though you have not been one, being a golf coach to a football coach?”

The expression on Covich’s face was priceless for this, quite obviously, was not question he had prepped for, yet it was a question with a purpose, for really a college golf coach is different than most college coaches.

In many ways, it is more like a rifle coach than anything else, but it was a start to move into the direction that would lead us to what Sean Covich’s job really is, what drew him to it and how he would approach it.

Golf coach … football coach?

“They are very, very, very different,” he said, admitting the obvious. “I’m dealing with nine to 12 guys; they are dealing with a hundred. They are probably a little more intense than golf.”

A little more intense … like a hungry lion is “a little more intense” than a pet kitten.

“Golfers tend to be — I don’t know if anyone has watched (PGA professional) Jason Duffner play. It looks like he doesn’t even have a pulse,” Covich said. “Some of the best golfers have that mentality whereas, in football, you are trying to get emotional and ready to go.”

Covich leans more toward Duffner than Ditka.

“Luckily, I’m not a football coach … but similarities? I’d say being a good college coach, you need to be a good manager of all kinds of different things — recruiting, budget, compliance, academics, fan base, all that stuff. That might be the only similarities,” he said.

Football coaches, of course, have a staff of maybe 100 to do these things.

Golf coaches?

They are on their own, which makes you wonder why someone would want to coach if he had golfing ability, which Covich had, to say nothing of some pretty good instruction and access, being the son of a club pro in Jerry Covich and being “born next to a putting green,” as he put it.

“My dad is a PGA club professional, a teaching pro. He played in tour events,” Covich explained. “When I was young, probably 15 or 16, I thought about going that route but my dad gave me some advice then. He said, ‘Do you love to play golf?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I love to play golf.’ And he said ‘Then don’t become a club pro. I come to work here every day and it’s hard for me to play a lot. You want to do something else.’

“So when I was at college, I focused on doing something different. I focused on sports communication, on community relations, athletic director, but golf just kind of pulled me back in. I wouldn’t say I set out saying I want to be a college golf coach. It just kind of happened, but since the first day I did it I kind of loved it.”

But let’s get back to that football coach-golf coach comparison.

A football coach gets a kid and he teaches him his system. You take a three-step drop or a five-step drop as a quarterback. You run routes this way as a receiver, shed blockers this way as a defender. You teach them the basic fundamentals of the game the way you want them performed.

It isn’t that way in golf.

You do everything but teach them how to play the game.

“It’s more of a manager of the whole program,” he said. “We don’t really break down golf swings and rebuild them because every player that comes to us has his own swing instructor. So usually, if a college golf coach gets in the way of that, it can mess up the player.”

That’s not to say he doesn’t have input into the way the play.

“Certainly, I’ll be there if they want any help, but I leave it up to the player to come to me … to say, ‘Hey Coach, I’m struggling with my bunker game. Can you take a look?’ or ‘Coach, I can’t get off the tee. Take a look.’

 “For me, it’s all about how they practice, how much they practice, planning out their practice … and when we get to a tournament, let’s map it out. I’m more of a caddy. It’s ‘On this hole, we need to hit a 3-wood off the tee because if you hit driver it brings this hazard into play.’ Or ‘The wind will be coming out of the east tomorrow, so we have to change this.’

“It’s those little nuances that we take care of. It’s a program manager and caddy, if you can picture those together, not so much a swing instructor.”

Just don’t ask him who should be the football team’s starting quarterback this year.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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