After a gap of 33 years, West Virginia University will reintroduce men's golf as a varsity sport for the 2015-16 season, Director of Athletics Oliver Luck recently announced. Men's golf was a varsity sport at WVU from 1933 to 1982.
"I am pleased to announce that men's golf will be returning as an intercollegiate sport at West Virginia University," Luck said. "Golf had a strong tradition on this campus, and its statewide popularity makes it a perfect addition to our department. A lot of thought, time, and effort went into this decision as far as cost, travel, and infrastructure goes, and I believe the strong tradition and history of Big 12 golf will only enhance our chances of building a championship program.
"I have to thank Ken Tackett, executive director of the West Virginia Golf Association, for his help and assistance. Ken provided valuable feedback and his organization assisted us in the many questions and concerns as we made this decision."
Luck plans to hire a full-time men's golf coach by March 31, 2014, with the sport beginning competition as an intercollegiate varsity sport on July 1, 2015. Discussions are ongoing with golf courses around West Virginia for competition and practice locations.
The reintroduction of men's golf as a varsity sport will satisfy the Big 12 Conference requirement of a minimum of six men's and six women's sports. At the start of the 2015-16 academic year, WVU will have six men's sports and 10 women's sports that the Big 12 sponsors.
Golf's popularity continues to rise in high schools around West Virginia. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), there were 108 high schools in West Virginia that offered boys golf with 1,016 participants in 2012-13.
"The West Virginia Golf Association is delighted that WVU has decided to reintroduce golf at our flagship university," says Tackett. "Golf has established itself as one of the main sports in West Virginia, with a thriving junior golf program, competitive amateur competitions, and a PGA Tour event. With the success of the game in our state, it is only fitting that our largest university provide an opportunity for our top junior golfers to stay in West Virginia and compete at a Division I level. We commend the leadership of Oliver Luck and those responsible for 'bringing back' the greatest game to West Virginia University."
Men's golf offers a NCAA maximum of 4.5 equivalencey scholarships and WVU will provide 1.5 scholarships in 2015-16. Scholarship funding will be provided at an incremental basis in subsequent years with the sport scheduled to be fully implemented in 2017-18. The annual cost of the men's golf team when fully implemented is approximately $257,162.
With the reintroduction of men's golf at WVU, all 10 schools in the Big 12 will have men's golf as a varsity sport. Current conference schools have won 14 national championships (Oklahoma State 10, Texas three, Oklahoma one) in the sport and have produced some of the nation's finest current PGA Tour golfers, including Martin Flores (Oklahoma), Hunter Haas (Oklahoma), Todd Hamilton (Oklahoma), Anthony Kim (Oklahoma), Grant Waite (Oklahoma), Michael Bradley (Oklahoma State), Rickie Fowler (Oklahoma State), Morgan Hoffman (Oklahoma State), Charles Howell III (Oklahoma State), Edward Loar (Oklahoma State), Hunter Mahan (Oklahoma State), Jeff Maggert (Oklahoma State), Bob Tway (Oklahoma State), Bo Van Pelt (Oklahoma State), Scott Verplank (Oklahoma State), Casey Wittenberg (Oklahoma State), Gary Woodland (Kansas), Aaron Watkins (Kansas State), Robert Streb (Kansas State), Mark Brooks (Texas), Ben Crenshaw (Texas), Bob Estes (Texas), Harrison Frazar (Texas), Tom Kite (Texas), Justin Leonard (Texas), J.J. Henry (TCU), and Jimmy Walker (Baylor).
"We are excited about reintroducing men's golf to West Virginia University," says Terri Howes, associate athletic director for sports administration. "We researched a lot of options, and golf kept coming to the top of the list. Bringing the sport back continues to put us in great shape with our Title IX requirements. By phasing the sport in during the next couple of years, we believe we can have a solid foundation in place when we begin competition in 2015."
With the reintroduction of men's golf in 2015, WVU will have 18 intercollegiate sports.