The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 28, 2014

Covich ready to lead WVU golf’s rebirth

MORGANTOWN — Sean Covich, West Virginia University’s new golf coach, admits he likes being the underdog, but taking on the challenge of renewing golf as a varsity sport after it lay dormant for 32 years is like … what?

He’d prefer to think it’s like West Virginia going against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl in that they may not be expected to win but they have a lot going for them, not the least of which is a fellow you may have heard of named Jerry West.

Oh, West used up his eligibility about five decades ago on the basketball court and, even though he may still be a better golfer than anyone Covich may be able to recruit at WVU, that isn’t how he is going to help this first-year head coach with his program.

Covich is going to use him heavily in recruiting … even though he’s never met the man.

See, he has his pitch to recruits all laid out in his mind, knowing he’s going against some pretty strong golfing programs in the Big 12 like Texas, which not only has a stylish facility but also offers as former golfers Tom Kite, who won the U.S. Open; Ben Crenshaw, who won the Masters; Justin Leonard, who won the British Open, and now young sensation Jordan Spieth, who finished tied for second in this year’s Masters at age 20.

And what will he tell them about coming to WVU to revive the program?

“You can make history. You can be a legend, right off the bat. Other schools have produced multiple All-Americans. You would go there and you can be just another one of those All-Americans? Or you can come here and be a legend.”

A legend! Strong word, and it gets better.

“You can be the Jerry West of our golf team and really make a difference for West Virginia. That’s going to be my selling point. I’m going to be building it from scratch. I’m going to be learning. They are going to be learning. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

See, Sean Covich isn’t fooling himself. This new coach, who was introduced to the media on Tuesday morning in — yes, the Jerry West Lounge at the Coliseum — understands that it’s all about the players he recruits.

In fact, when he was about to take his first coaching job — he broke in at Meridian (Mississippi) Community College, moving it from NJCAA Division II to NJCAA Division I and winning a national title his second year, and then as an assistant coach at Mississippi State for the past three years — his father, a teaching pro, offered him some advice.

“It doesn’t matter what you shoot. It matters what they shoot,” his father, Jerry Covich, told him.

Covich sees this as a wonderful opportunity for him and for whatever players join him because it is a rebirth, not a resurrection of a dead program.

“This is such a unique situation,” he said. “I’m not walking into a program that has not had success and we are not walking into a program that has been successful. There has been nothing here for 32 years. I don’t think you need to do it right away, but I do think you need to do it the right way.”

It isn’t that he doesn’t want to win as quickly as possible.

“You want to win right away, of course, but you want to build it the right way with the intent on being competitive. That might be a lofty goal but it’s what I want to do,” he said.

With no program this year, Covich will be getting everything put in place.

“The first thing I’m going to do is take my wife to dinner tonight,” he said, proving he knows something about priorities. “Then I’ve got to find a place to live; golf courses we can play; get to recruiting. There’s about 300 things I have to do.”

About 280 of those 300 things are involved in recruiting, though.

“I think I’ll start looking at 2015 instead of bringing in players right away who can’t play until next year,” he said.

He will go nationwide in his search for players, but he understands there might be some players right here for him.

“There might be a transfer situation and possibly there are some players already on campus,” he said. “We might want to do some walk-ons. I know there are players on campus who want to be part of the team.”

And that would be fine with him.

“I talk about Clay Homan,” he said, referring to the head coach at Mississippi State under whom he coached. “He was a walk-on who ended up All-SEC.”

More than likely the start will be slow. While $1.8 million has been raised for golf endowed scholarships, the program will not be fully funded for its 4.5 scholarships at first.

“Building a program here will take a lot of work and a lot of patience,” Covich said.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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