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What We’ll Miss: West Virginia Golf’s Shot at the National Stage

Cody Nespor

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May 15, 2019, the West Virginia golf team finishes in sixth place of the NCAA Regional in Louisville, Kentucky.

West Virginia (+10) finished two strokes behind North Florida (+8) for fifth place and a bid to play in the NCAA Golf Championship.

Five years ago nobody could have predicted that the Mountaineers would have been on the cusp of playing for the national championship. Of course, five years ago the team didn’t exist.

WVU announced its intention to reinstate a varsity golf team in 2013. On May 22, 2014, Sean Covich was hired by then-athletic director Oliver Luck as the man to build the program. When Covich took the job, West Virginia had nothing, no golfers, no practice facility, no clubs and not even a ball.

Just a few years later, however, the Mountaineers were two strokes away from playing for the national championship.

The 2018-19 team’s strong showing in the Louisville regional and in the incredibly difficult Big 12 Championship was leading to some recognition this season. The team broke into the top 25 for the first time since its reinstatement in the first coaches’ poll in the Fall.

“I just hoped that we would improve every year once we got started,” Covich said during a video conference Tuesday morning. “I didn’t know if that meant cracking into the top 100 or what. So to make it to the NCAA regionals last year, we were a lock again this year, being in the top 25 at one point, it’s just been a fun ride. It’s really about the quality of guys that we have.”

Covich said he has gotten lucky in recruiting to bring in players that handle their business on the golf course, in practice and in the classroom.

Covich said the team was a lock to make an NCAA regional again this year, with strong tournament showings at Wake Forest, Florida, Hawaii and at home in Bridgeport, West Virginia.

When the NCAA announced last month the cancellation of all Winter and Spring championships the golf season came to an immediate end. Covich said the team woke up on a Thursday expecting to travel to the Carolinas for a Spring break trip and by Friday the entire season was canceled.

There will be no second shot at the nationals for WVU in 2020. For Covich, however, he knows college golf isn’t the most important thing in the world right now.

Covich said his eight golfers have returned home and, depending on where they live, some have been able to get some golfing in on actual courses. Others, he says, are hitting into nets in their backyards.

Construction was also supposed to begin on a $5 million WVU golf complex so the team could have a true home in Morgantown. Again, Covich said returning to a sense of normalcy is more important than worrying about that.

“Let’s just get the world back to normal, healthy, safety, being able to travel, compete,” Covich said. “If we have a practice facility in a year, great, if it takes 10 years, then so be it. We’re still going to do the best we can with what we have, that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

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Cody is currently a second-year graduate student at West Virginia University studying journalism. His graduate research focuses on the effects newspaper closures have on local communities. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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