Golf teams see progression under full-time coaches

Sophomore Kelsey Burrell, senior JoAnna Smith, back left, and WKU head women’s golf coach Ron Burchett, back right, watch as sophomore Kristen Wilkinson putts Wednesday at the Bowling Green Country Club during practice.

Cole Claybourn

Senior Jordan Magruder said she knew the women’s golf team was on the brink of success for the past several years.

When the Lady Toppers finished second in three different tournaments last semester, that notion was even more solidified.

But this semester, it became a reality when they won their first tournament since 2006, coming in first place out of five teams at the Troy Invitational.

The difference, she said, was that they now have a full-time coach.

Ron Burchett was hired as the full-time women’s golf coach in August after spending six seasons with the team — the last two as part-time head coach.

Now that he’s full-time, Burchett said he’s seen an immediate difference with the team, simply because he can be around more often.

The Lady Toppers will try to make that extra attention pay off this week as they compete in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Muscle Shoals, Ala. The event began Monday and runs through Wednesday.

“I think it’s proven that with the more time we’re able to put into it, it’s showing on the golf course,” he said. “Now, being here full-time, we have more organized practices, and we’re able to play more times.”

Magruder said the players have noticed a difference as well. Under a part-time coach, the players often practiced on their own.

But under a full-time coach, Magruder said the practices are more structured, which has led to more team discipline.

“We all have certain swing coaches that we’ll go to, but just to have someone there when we’re practicing helps too,” she said. “If we go get a lesson, we won’t see that person for a week. With a coach there, he’s there all the time to just keep us on track.”

Often, not all of the players would be able to practice at the same time when there was a part-time coach. Magruder said now they’re all practicing together as a team.

The men’s team is also experiencing its first season with a full-time head coach.

Phillip Hatchett was introduced as the full-time head coach in August and echoed what Burchett said about the benefits of expanding the job.

“Having a full-time coach here, the guys know they have someone who they can depend on,” he said. “They get a little more attention, which is important in golf. For me, it’s great because I get to see these guys developing.”

The men’s team hasn’t experienced the type of success that the women’s team has just yet, but junior Andrew Heiser said he too can see immediate differences under Hatchett.

He said the players have seen improvements in virtually every aspect of their games.

“When we had a part-time coach, we had no idea what we were doing wrong, and it stayed that way,” he said. “Now he’s there and can get us back on track.”

Athletics Director Ross Bjork said having full-time coaches are beneficial for numerous reasons aside from just the logistics of them putting in more time.

He said it impacts the recruiting aspect as well. Bjork said before, some players wouldn’t consider WKU because they didn’t have a full-time program.

Bjork said he’s hoping that changes under full-time coaches. The Toppers compete in their Sun Belt tournament on April 25-27 in Muscle Shoals.

“When you have full-time coaches, they can fully dedicate themselves,” Bjork said. “That goes for travel, to go watch tournaments and to do all of the other things that coaches in college golf and athletics are doing.”