Kevin Miller, head Men’s golf coach at Niagara University, took time from his Spring practice and competition schedule to answer our battery of questions. The Purple Eagles recently returned from the MAAC championships in Florida.
1. What does your program provide that is unique to college golf?
Many college programs have a staff member handle the golf coaches responsibility. I coach this program because of the love of the game and ability to help influence lives of the players not only athletically but also develop them into well rounded individuals. Our program also has the ability to play everyday where one of the best amateur events in the country is played, Niagara Falls Country Club.
2. Where does your team have practice access and what does this course access contribute to your program?
We practice at Niagara Falls Country Club. For the most part we have complete access to the course and all practice areas. (regular and wedge range and putting greens) The players are able to practice between classes and on weekends. We hold practice daily usually at 4:00pm. During the winter months we spend our practice time at the Paddock Golf Dome in Tonawanda. Both of these facilities are key to keeping our program in shape. These facilities allow our players the ability to spend time on their own or with the team working on key areas for improvement.
3. What fitness/non-golf activities do you employ and how do they make your team members better, fitter golfers?
During the off season the men’s team is required to work out three days a week with our strength and conditioning coach. They not only focus on golf related exercise but also general fitness. Many of the courses we play are quite hilly and good conditioning helps as the players are required to carry and walk with their own bag.
4. What short-term goals do you have for your team and how will you reach them?
My short term goals for our team include finishing in the top half of our competitions, getting our new players to understand course management and that golf is not always about how far you can hit a golf ball, teaching all level of players to put the nerves in check when you get to the first tee. The more a player plays in off season tournaments and plays as much as possible with players that are better than they, will all go towards make them better players.
5. How much does a player’s potential go into the recruiting process?
I like to look for players that have plenty of tournament experience regardless of their success in the events. If they have shown improvement each year then potential will be there. Potential along with a good practice ethic goes along way.
6. What factor do golfing alumni play in your program?
I like to keep our alumni up to date with our program. The Niagara athletics website has plenty of information for them to follow. Contributions from our alumni help our program with equipment and travel expenses. We also like to get our alumni involved with our students for networking purposes as well.
7. Golf is an individual sport that is played in team format at the
collegiate level. How do you balance players’ individual and team goals?
Golf is an individual sport played in a team format as you have mentioned. The tournaments we play always recognize at least the top two individuals as well as the top team. At the beginning of each season my players are asked to write down both individual and team goals that they have. We review these so we know what to reach for. If an individual succeeds or fails so does the team. This is part of what we talk about regarding course management. If a player make a bad decision during a hole and finishes with a triple bogie, the team also made a triple bogie. Lesson learned, is this shot the best available based on risk / reward.
8. How does the weather affect your training program during the winter? How do you combat it?
As mentioned earlier, we do practice during the winter at the Paddock Golf Dome in Tonawanda. This helps keep players swinging. We also try to plan a trip south, in early March, to help get playing time in. Many of our players try to go south with their own families to play as well.
9. What areas of the country are your key recruiting areas?
My recruiting for the most part is within a five hour radious. Several years ago I started recruiting in Canada as well. Many players like to come to the US for an education as well as play with top college players.
10. What element besides weather could make collegiate golf in western New York better/How can the existing programs work together to make better college golf in WNY?
I believe if we had a facility that all schools could share in would be a great benefit to all our teams. The facility could be centrally located and could include hitting areas with video and computer analysis of the golf swing along with workout areas specific to golf. We could even use the facility to pool buying power for player equipment, golf balls and clothing. For each school to spend money on separate facilities would be very expensive. This kind of idea would have many possibilities including incorporate alumni use of the facility.