"When we talked a few years ago we knew we had that top-10 recruiting class in 2005. Matt Fast, Noah Goldman and Carlos Sainz were three of the top recruits in that class. Now, they are juniors. We are finally seeing the fruit of our labor.
"I saw it start in the fall because we had an awesome fall, and even in our first two tournaments in the spring we did well. We beat (30th ranked) Ole Miss in a head to head match. We won in San Antonio, finished 3rd in a very strong field at the Gator Invitational, and finished 2nd in our last tournament of the fall. We beat (25th) Wake Forest, (19th) Central Florida, (34th) North Carolina and several other teams that were among the top 30 to 40 in the country. So, I saw it coming, but we had a bad March. Golf is a streaky game. Two of our best players weren't playing well. But I knew we just had to keep working at it and we would come out of the slump, which we did. We finished 4th in Mobile. We finished 8th at the Ole Miss tournament, but we were only 10 shots out of 3rd. But I saw us starting to get our consistency back. Then, this week (at the SEC Championship) we played well on a pretty tough golf course."
What are your hopes for this team the rest of the year?
"Our goal this year is to go to the NCAA Championship. We are already a lock to make it to regionals. There are 81 teams that make it to regional - 27 to the east, 27 to the central and 27 to the west. What we want to do is advance from there to the NCAA Championship. They take the top 30 teams, 10 from each region. We would like to make that and see how far we can go. I know there are some very talented teams that we aren't quite there with, but golf is a funny game. Guys get hot at the right time and anything can happen."
Has any one player stood out above the rest?
"This year we have had a lot of parity in our lineup, so no one has really separated themselves from the others. Well, maybe Noah Goldman has a little because he's the low stroke average, 72.56 going into the SEC tournament. But I have three or four other guys who are under 74, so there's really not a lot of difference between our number 1 guy and our number 4 guy. More than anything we have had consistency. And that's something that we are looking to improve on next year. We have to get our number 1 and 2 guys to shoot lower and provide that extra boost."
What things can they improve on to achieve that kind of finish?
"A lot of it is continuing to get better in the short game - chipping, putting, wedge play. That's where you can shave the most shots. We are pretty good from tee to green, driving the ball in the fairway, hitting greens in regulation. Our biggest improvement needs to be on the greens and around the greens, the precision part."
Did any of the guys surprise you with their play?
"They have all been about what I expected. Josh Oller redshirted and improved his game as far as a technique standpoint. He really worked hard and made some significant swing chances. He learned and improved the most. All the other guys had the talent. Their maturity caught up with their talent. And this year they did well. Next year, I expect even bigger things from them."
Due to the limit in scholarships, is it difficult to be a consistent winner in collegiate golf?
"It's hard to be successful every single year due to the limited number of scholarships that you have - 4.5. And to be able to get top-ranked players you have to offer them a pretty good scholarship. To build a good team with 4.5 scholarships you are going to have your peaks and valleys.
"As an example, in the SEC there are three teams that should be down from where they were this year - Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee. All three are senior teams. Alabama just won the SEC Championship. But of their top six players, I think they are going to graduate all but one. Although they have a good recruiting class coming in, they are still going to take a hit."
You mentioned Alabama's seniors. Who will replace your two seniors?
"Logan Young was my number 3 scorer in the fall, but he had a bad spring and didn't play for me in our last few tournaments. Bryan Mason, who will be a junior, played for me some last year but redshirted this year. He will be a 4th year junior next year.
"I also redshirted a couple of my freshmen. Two of my freshmen have some work to do in the mechanical aspect of their game, but they both have tremendous talent. Probably in two years they should be able to step right in. One freshman I can probably count on next year is the freshman from England (Lee Heaton)."
How much has this season helped your recruiting?
"It's helped a lot. Kids look at the internet to see results. And they want to go to a winning program. If you recruit a kid he wants to know how you did. We haven't played in the postseason since 2000, so it's been an eight-year drought. So, making it to postseason play this year is a step up from where we have been. We want to build from that."
How do you take your recruiting to that next level where you are competing for the top 25 and top 50 type kids?
"A lot of times you are just fortunate on who you know. Noah Goldman and Matt Fast were top 50 type kids coming out of high school. Matt was an instate school so we had a leg up there. I knew Noah Goldman as a little kid from when I was playing in the mini tours in Florida.
"And there are other ways - these top kids know other kids. They recruit other top players for you. Top players attract other top players. And facilities play a huge part in it. And I'm not going to beat around the bush - we are dead last in facilities in the SEC. Old Waverly is our biggest recruiting tool. Having a championship golf course 20 minutes away is our biggest recruiting tool. But it would be nice to have something of your own. And we are lacking that."
You mentioned facilities. What type facilities are you lacking?
"If you go over to Tuscaloosa where Alabama, the number 1 team in the nation is, they have a building where you can hit balls out on the driving range even if it is 30 degrees outside or if it's raining in the summertime. They can videotape their swings. They have putting greens, chipping greens. They can get on their greens anytime they want to.
"When you don't have that, it's difficult to simulate what you are going to be playing on. We can't practice on a daily basis many of the type shots that we are going to have around the green. We can't practice long bunker shots. We can't practice long bump and run shots."
Not even Old Waverly?
"Some, but we can't do it everyday.
"You go down the list of all the SEC programs and they all have locker rooms, a building, a driving range, chipping and putting greens. And they aren't having to share it with the general public. Outside of the SEC there is Louisville, Baylor. And I even understand that Delta State has a facility now."
How much would facilities like that cost?
"From 700,000, 800,000 dollars all the way up to 3 million dollars. It depends on how much land you need to buy, how much the building will cost you, what kind of greens you will put in. It's really how nice you want to make it. You wouldn't even have to build the building at first. But we desperately need a place to practice on a day to day basis. We could build it in phases. I'm anxious to sit down with (new MSU athletic director) Greg (Byrne) and get a plan together."
You've mentioned facilities, but what about coaches? You are a one-man gang at State. Is it that way around the rest of the SEC?
"This year they have just passed legislation where two coaches (at the same school) can coach at the same event and two coaches can go on the road and recruit at the same time. That is a huge advantage."
Do you have anyone helping you?
"I just hired a volunteer assistant coach who is part-time. He helps me get to tournaments and relays information on the golf course. He can't recruit."
Can he coach your team while you are recruiting?
"He could, but he's got a full-time job so that won't happen often. But when we are at tournaments on weekends it helps to have him there to relay information from me to my players."