New golf coach sets big goals for experienced team
August 25, 2006 —
Ryan Duckworth has himself in a unique situation with his new job. Hired Aug. 7, Duckworth is charged with taking over and trying to improve a men's golf team that won the GLIAC last fall and finished 15th in the nation this spring.
An SVSU alum who played four seasons for then golf coach Joe Vogl, Duckworth is taking over for Andy Bethune, who resigned in May after winning GLIAC coach of the year honors.
"I'm pretty excited to be back," he says. "Cardinal golf was an important experience in my life and I'm glad to be on the other end to help other student athletes have some of the same experiences I had."
One of the team's downfall in the nationals a year ago was a lack of experience, as two juniors - Adam Miller, who finished 27th individually, and Scott Urquhart - were the most experienced of the five-man group that competed. Two sophomores, Mike King and Sean Rutherford, and a freshman, Sean Patrick, rounded out the team.
The Cardinals return everybody from that squad, so Duckworth will have an experienced group that he feels is a front runner to defend the conference title.
"We have a strong team coming back, and the guys have high expectations for the season," he says. "We definitely want to defend our conference championship and we want to make a return trip to nationals. I have a good feeling that we have the team to improve on last year's finish."
Duckworth will also have senior Darren Husse, back this year after a medical redshirt last season, and sophomore Kasey Hocquard.
Despite the team's success last year, Duckworth has some areas outlined where he wants the Cardinals to improve. He says he plans to concentrate on game and course management.
"You are your own decision maker on the golf course," he explains. "I can help and coach, but they have to be comfortable with the decision they make and that they are making it for the right reasons and it fits their game. They can't try to be somebody else and try to hit shots that aren't them."
Similar to an offense taking what the defense gives it, Duckworth says that golf is about taking what the course gives the golfer.
"I want them to realize that they are playing a course," he explains. "No matter what their game is, there's always going to be what the course gives them. We're going to be really good at dissecting a course as a team."
The coach's philosophy sums up where he wants his team to be when the conference championship comes up.
"It's not about hitting great shots," he says, "it's about golfing your ball around the course and getting it in the hole. And that is just about knowing yourself and knowing the course. After that, there is not much else to know."
The Cardinals begin their season with the Grand Valley State Invitational on Sept. 15 and 16 and travel to South Haven on Sept. 23 for the first of three NCAA Regional Tournament.
They will defend their conference championship in Midland on Oct. 7 and 8.