Mark Goetz isn’t going to have much of an offseason. With his senior season at West Virginia slowly coming to an end, his summer schedule is already jam-packed. Teeing off in June, Goetz will play throughout the summer at various Pennsylvania Amateur events and qualifiers. If WVU golf coach Sean Covich can swing it, Goetz will even caddy for him a bit this summer at an amateur event in his hometown of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. As long as Goetz doesn’t actually enter the event, Covich said, then he’ll just have to withdraw.
The long summer of golf cannot begin though until Goetz’s college season is over, and he’s still got at least one event left. It is taking him to Noblesville, Indiana first. Goetz earned the first individual invite to an NCAA Regional Golf tournament in WVU history after placing first at the Mountaineer Invitational in April. The 72nd-ranked Division I men’s golfer in the U.S. (387th amateur golfer in the world), Goetz will compete at the Sagamore Golf Club from May 17-19 with some of the best amateur golfers in the world.
“A couple of Walker Cuppers [are there], at least three – two from Texas, one from Minnesota – so whatever Mark does this week is only gonna help his world amateur golf ranking,” Covich said.
Competing at one of the six NCAA Regional tournaments, Goetz enters the tournament as the no. 4-seed in his region. With 13 full teams and nine other individual golfers playing in the event, he will have a tough hill to climb in order to qualify for the NCAA Championship. Although, that won’t be too much of a concern, as he said he’s not even going to look at the leaderboard until the final day.
With the tournament starting on Monday, Covich said he and Goetz are planning to arrive in Noblesville on Friday – late in the day likely. Saturday is just going to be a day of light practice and preparation, learning the course a bit as Goetz has only been able to see the course from flyover videos. Sunday will serve as the official practice round at Sagamore, and that’ll likely be the most important day in the buildup to the event.
“Throughout the practice round, that’s kind of when I develop sort of a game plan,” Goetz said. “With the way I’m going to go about certain stretches or different holes. Pretty much after we get done with that practice round is when the plan is going to be in place.”
The practice round, aside from getting to play a full round of golf, will serve as a way to familiarize himself with the course — getting to see the lay of the course from the tee box, how quickly the greens roll and how wide the fairways are on the back nine. If everything goes according to plan, Goetz will be comfortable with the course come Monday morning. Covich feels like Goetz will have an advantage coming into the tournament, too. Growing up in western Pennsylvania, he said Goetz should feel right at home.
“What I’ve seen of the course, I believe it suits Mark’s game very well,” Covich said. “Same grass types, kind of wide-open off the tee, I think it’s gonna be a really big advantage at this course as opposed to going somewhere down south that’s a little bit tighter, a little more tree-lined.”
While Goetz said this tournament will be unlike anything he’s experienced, playing without his WVU teammates, he recognizes the opportunity he’s earned for himself. Covich is ready to help him in any way he can, whether that’s getting him some Gatorade or helping him with a difficult putting lie. Covich is ready to spend most of the weekend ensuring that Goetz is ready to go Monday.
However, Covich acknowledged that once Goetz is out on the course, he will be in his office. He will be in the zone, doing his job from the first tee to the eighteenth green. But Covich will be there for whatever Goetz needs him still. Whether Goetz finishes top-30, 20, 10, 5 or even wins, Covich said this tournament will only help Goetz’s amateur status.
Goetz will play 18 holes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and if he’s able to emerge with the lowest 54-hole score amongst the individual invites in his region, he’ll be invited to the NCAA Championship in Scottsdale, Arizona from May 28-June 2. He will likely not know for sure until every golfer is in the clubhouse Wednesday evening whether he is moving on or not. Goetz is just focused on playing this course as well as he can.
“Yeah, I think playing it like a qualifier, I think that would be pretty accurate,” Goetz said. “Really just gonna go out and hopefully play solid. That’s really all I can do.”
Even if Goetz bows out of the regionals without a championship berth, his path forward is quite clear: one more run at WVU.
Covich wishes, and he said he knows Mark feels the same way, he could have his whole team in Noblesville, but he recognizes the accomplishment of Goetz qualifying individually. But with the rest of the team seeing Goetz win a tournament and play well across others, it’s been a rallying point for the team.
“They’re thinking, ‘man, if I could’ve went out and did what Mark did, we could still be playing,'” Covich said. “So, I think it’s motivating, what Mark has accomplished, but at the same time, there’s still that feeling of, ‘man, I wish the team could be here.'”
With Goetz and fellow senior Logan Perkins choosing to return for their fifth seasons, Covich – and the team – is excited for what’s to come next season. It’s just building upon the foundation laid this season.
“I think we started gaining momentum this spring – we started this spring 106th in the country and now we’re right around 75, and we’re just outside the bubble,” Covich said. “So we’re definitely getting better, and I feel like if the season wouldn’t have ended we would have definitely played our way in.”
Obviously, Goetz and Gibson didn’t have to return for their fifth seasons, but Covich said the duo have unfinished business at WVU. And with Goetz’s individual success, the potential for highly-touted new recruits could be higher, too.
Of course, WVU could boast a national champion coming into the 2021-22 season, too.