Senior Mark Goetz made history by becoming the first individual from a WVU golf team to be selected to compete at an NCAA regional tournament.
Goetz, a senior from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, is one of 10 individuals selected to the regional which runs Monday through Wednesday next week at The Sagamore Club in Noblesville, Indiana. The top individual off a non-qualifying team after 54 holes in each of the six regionals earns a spot in the NCAA championship. Five teams from each regional will also advance.
It’s not an especially long history for the WVU program, which was reintroduced in the 2015-2016 season after folding in 1982. Under coach Sean Covich, the Mountaineers have built from there, making it as a team to the NCAA regional round in 2019.
WVU narrowly missed out on that again this season, but Goetz did enough to warrant a spot. Covich and company would obviously have preferred that the whole team qualified for the regional, but qualifying an individual is yet another feather in the cap of the young program.
“We wish we were going over there with four or five other guys and I know Mark feels the same way, but it’s still quite an accomplishment considering where we started a few years ago,” Covich said. “It certainly helps in recruiting because we can say, ‘Hey, we’re going to have some sort of postseason appearance, whether that’s the team, which we feel really good about next year and were really close this year, or an individual. We’ve got some of the best players in the country, look at Mark Goetz.’
“So it definitely, definitely helps validate our program and what we’ve been doing the last half-decade now.”
It’s certainly been a step forward for Goetz this season as he won the team’s Mountaineer Invitational held at Pete Dye Golf Club last month in Bridgeport, shooting 12 under par for the tournament and setting the program record for the lowest score in relation to par.
The Mountaineers won the event, besting 12 other teams along the way. But this time Goetz is on his own, and it’s something that he admitted requires a different mindset.
“It’s going to be strange,” Goetz said. “I’ve never done anything like this before. I probably won’t look at a leaderboard probably until the final day. It’s going to be strange as far as where everybody’s at and who’s in and who’s out, there’s going to be a lot of moving pieces this week. Playing it like a qualifier, I think that would be pretty accurate but really go out and hopefully play pretty solid, that’s all I can do.”
Goetz and Covich will hit the course on Sunday to play an official practice round, but both believe the course plays to some of Goetz’s strengths. First, the course features bent grass, a common feature on golf courses in western Pennsylvania, from where Goetz hails. Also, the course is a bit open and long, both of which could also play into Goetz’s game.
“I think playing on bent is big for sure,” Goetz said. “That will be comforting, I guess, it won’t be out of the ordinary for me. As far as distance goes, somebody that’s got a lot of [club head] speed is probably going to play well next week.”
While Monday is sure to bring its share of pressure, it also presents a major opportunity for Goetz and, in some ways, the program itself. That’s how the two are choosing to look at it and they hope Goetz can make the best of it.
“The way I view it, this is just a great opportunity for him because you have some of the best amateur golfers in the world playing here,” Covich said. “A couple of Walker Cuppers — I know at least three are going to be there — so whatever Mark does this week is only going to help his World Amateur Golf Ranking, which is kind of our goal here at West Virginia is to improve that. Let him compete against the best, so whether that’s a top 30, a top 20, a top five, a win — he’s only going to help himself. So, looking forward to seeing him take advantage of this opportunity.”
“It’s really just a good opportunity, that’s probably the only way I can put it,” Goetz echoed. “As a player, just another opportunity to play well and to play on a big stage.”