Dave Hickman: WVU could take advantage of state’s great golf venues

MORGANTOWN — A West Virginia University golf tournament may be coming to a course near you.

And no, we’re not talking about those hobnobbing, open-your-wallet Mountaineer Athletic Club fundraisers.

One of the great unanswered questions regarding WVU’s revival of its men’s golf program after what will ultimately be a 33-year sabbatical is where said team will play. For that matter, where will it even practice, what with its former home now occupied by the concrete behemoth known as new Mountaineer Field?

Well, if you know anything at all about golf around here it is that this state is literally brimming with spectacular venues. And while scheduling is sometimes problematic, I can’t imagine that most, if not all, of those courses won’t be receptive to allowing the school access in order to hone their skills.

From the sounds of it, new coach Sean Covich wants to take advantage of as many of those facilities as is practical. He talked the other day about his Mississippi State team (he was an assistant coach there the last three years) playing an NCAA regional in Illinois. The Bulldogs had spent all season playing close to home on Bermuda grass and then had to adjust to bent grass and didn’t fare well.

That’s just one example. There are narrow and open courses, hilly and flat layouts and all sorts of variations.

“If we could have played a golf course that might have prepared us better, we might have done better,’’ Covich said. “The more courses you can see, the more conditions you can prepare for.’’

And in West Virginia, there is plenty of variety. Expect Covich to take advantage of that.

But this state provides more than just an opportunity to practice. College golf teams only play perhaps four or five tournaments in the fall and a like number in the spring. West Virginia could easily play a full schedule without ever hosting an event, and perhaps at the start the Mountaineers will do just that.

But think about a college invitational at, say, The Greenbrier. You think that wouldn’t be a drawing card for some of the best teams in the country? Ditto the Pete Dye course in Bridgeport or a handful of others.

“I’m not a golfer, but I would imagine a tournament at some of the courses we have in this state would go over very well,’’ said WVU athletic director Oliver Luck.

And then there are dual matches. OK, so maybe that’s not exactly a mainstream idea. After all, dual matches in golf have pretty much gone the way of actual wooden woods, which is to say they are extremely rare and a relic of days gone by.

Still, just for kicks and giggles ...

“Why not play a dual match with Maryland at Deep Creek? Or against Virginia Tech at the Greenbrier or Glade Springs? Or against Pitt at Nemacolin or Oglebay?’’ Luck asked. “I realize there aren’t many dual matches played anymore, but why not see if it could happen?’’

Well, the fact that Pitt doesn’t have a golf team might be a bit of a roadblock to that one, but you get the idea.

Now let’s not be fooled into thinking that golf at WVU is going to go over like gangbusters. We’re not talking about a sport that is going to capture the imagination of fans, although I can’t shake the image of Jim Justice tailgating with fans in a parking lot at the Greenbrier. Would that be great or what?

But the sport is certainly going to add something, especially in a state that — judging by the sheer number of quality courses — at least takes its recreational golf seriously. Hopefully WVU’s new team will spread out and see those courses.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

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