Monday press conference: Jim Schuman

Men's golf coach discussed his team's progress and life as a first-year coach

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Opening statement:

"Thanks for having me. I'm by far the youngest guy here (track coaches Peter Tegen and Ed Nuttycombe also appeared at the Monday press conference). I'm going on my ninth month here at the University.

We look forward to the Big Ten Championships. If you've followed at all, we've had a little bit success in the fall but didn't come out in the spring, I don't think, quite as well as we'd have liked. I think that's expected early in the year, obviously, coming out of Wisconsin and a little bit of snow yesterday. I was not here but that makes it kind of tough. But I think there are some things that I think we'll do in the schedule as we move on in the future here that will allow us to get a little bit better prepared for our spring season.

After we came back from a couple trips down the Florida we had an injury one of our key players who was unable to compete at Purdue or Ohio State trips which were two very very big events for us. We did not fair so well and that cost us. We got him back in the lineup last week and we did a little bit better. We were, by no means, satisfied with where we finished but once again we started to see some good things happen. Unfortunately it's a pretty short season. You know we have the Big Ten's next week and we look forward to competing very very hard and doing well there.

We've had some outstanding individual performances. Probably Garrett Jones is the guy that has stepped up for us, being a freshman, and performed very, very well. He works very very hard both in the weight room and in the classroom, and is just beginning to see some of that hard work pay off. So it's exciting to see somebody put in that kind of work and he deserves all he's seeing right now. I look for big things from him next week, and I know he expects big things.

Sometimes that's difficult and sometimes you got to kind of hold them back and make sure that he understands that it all doesn't have to happen in one year or one week or two weeks. I could tell you he's very excited to play next week. We look forward to that and obviously to continue to build.

Some things have changed with the golf program since I've taken over. I think (there is) a new expectation and a new attitude and I think those two things go together. It takes time to cultivate that and we're working very hard at that so we look forward to next week."

What's the first year of the Jim Schuman era been like?

"I don't know if you can call in an era. It's been a few months, but you know it's been great. I enjoy coming to these kinds of (news) conferences. I get to listen to other coaches that have been here a heck of a lot longer than I have. It's a learning process; it's a learning process for the players as well as it is for me.

I get a chance to get a lot more in touch with junior golf not only here in Wisconsin but around the country. There's a lot of things that happen within the University from an NCAA standpoint, an academic standpoint, a scheduling standpoint, days of competition... I mean I could go on for a long time. It's been fun. It's been exciting. It offers me an opportunity to help young kids. It keeps me around tournament golf which I obviously enjoy. It's just that competitiveness and that getting better that's such an exciting part of being here.

What's the biggest difference between being a well respected teacher and then becoming a coach?

"I'm losing my hair faster. Pulling it out watching them play every once and a while wondering 'why'd you hit that shot', or "that's not what we worked on last week'. I think it's difficult from the standpoint that sometimes you have to step back and say you know what nobody likes to shot a high score. They're not trying to shoot a high score. And coming from a playing background, you can kind of relate to exactly what they're going through. I think that's very helpful. It's very helpful for them to know that you're not the only player that's ever gone through that, or made that mistake. And the important thing is that the next tournament, or the next day, or the next hole, that we make sure that we learn from that and get better from that. That's been a neat thing to watch. Sometimes it's been tough coming from that standpoint, but you know we're seeing really good things. We saw great things out of Kevin Tassistro in the fall. He shot a couple good rounds this spring, but not as consistent as we'd like to see. And we saw Garret Jones tie the course record at University Ridge last week, so there are some good things happening and I guess the word 'patience' comes up a lot, but you have to be patient and we'll get there."

You mentioned that in your nine-month era that its been an adjustment for both you and the players. Who's it been a bigger adjustment for; you getting used to coaching at the college level or them getting used to having someone like you coaching them

"It's probably been tougher for me. I used to always hear people say you know it's so tough to watch people play golf, and it is. It's a lot tougher to watch than it is to play, so it's probably been a little bit more difficult for me. But we have, other than Garrett Jones, nobody new on the golf team, so it's been an adjustment for those players as well. (To go from) a coach that was here for a long time, and (had) a different personality, a different outlook, and maybe different expectations. To a certain degree it's been a two way street. They've had to change to me, and I've had to change to them. But we're having a good time doing it."

Who do you think are the favorites for the Big Ten's and what are your expectations for your own team?

"We're going to have to play very very well. We're going to have to play mentally very well and we're going to have to play mechanically very well. It's going to be a tough tournament. There's no question about that. Last week went a long way for us, especially shooting 298 in the last round in conditions at Michigan State that were not very nice. We jumped up on a Michigan who's been playing very well and beat a Northwestern. And were very close to getting in touch with an Ohio State, and a couple of those teams who we haven't been to close to in the spring. I think that's going to go a long way. But when you look at the Big Ten right now you look at Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, and Northwestern. If I'm not mistaken, they're all ranked in the top 50 in the country right now. That's pretty strong for the Big Ten in terms of golf. I'm not sure how many or how long ago it was when that many teams were ranked that high in the country, so there's some pretty good golf being played in the Big Ten. Our goal is to get there as well in the next few years, and I feel confident that we'll do that."

Are kids not going south as much or are there just that many more golfers out there? How can you explain the Northern climate teams doing better?

"I think that across the board with the teams that I mentioned that in the last few years we've had some success. They've done it different ways. There are some teams that have gone out and recruited foreign players. There are some that are doing it just by the tradition of the golf program and they're getting good players to come there. Probably not dissimilar to what we're trying to do here as we build a golf program here. I said earlier that nine months ago one of our goals was to keep our best players in the state. I think that's the first step in sending a message to all the other players who are good players not only in our state, but the surrounding areas. The most important things, when you look at that question of why they are succeeding, is it's paramount that when you go somewhere, you must be able to play or compete. That's how you're going to get better.

You're not going to go to a Florida or a Georgia or a Clemson, being a good player, and sit on the JV team for four years, and then expect that you have reached your potential when your eligibility is up. In some aspects the Northern climates afford some very good players an opportunity to showcase what their skills are. You're going to be found out in the Big Ten as well as you are in the SEC or the ACC, wherever it's going to be. You know you look at teams like Ohio State, and you look at a Steve Stricker who went to Illinois. You know all those guys went on to do some great things. So there's some great opportunity in those Northern schools for sure."

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