The first in our series of profiles of local college golf programs. Steve Latimer, head coach of the Niagara University women’s golf team, raced to complete our questions, and we thank him for it.
1. What does your program provide that is unique to college golf?
There are a few programs that are run by PGA Professionals. I have over twenty years of teaching and competition. I have extensive training in not only the mechanics of the golf swing, but the psychology of the game. I believe the mental aspect of the game of golf is greatly overlooked, and I almost work as much on the brain of my team, as on their swings and fitness.
2. Where does your team have practice access and what does this course access contribute to your program?
When unable to get outside (only the early spring season) we practice at the Paddock Dome in Tonawanda. Niagara Falls Country Club is our home course. The club allows full access to the practice areas, and golf course.
3. What fitness/non-golf activities do you employ and how do they make your team members better, fitter golfers?
I am slowing working on adding training programs to make our team more fit. The Titleist Performance program has designed golf specific exercises that work on an athletes strength and flexibility.
4. What short-term goals do you have for your team and how will you reach them?
Being at basically the end of my first full year, I have a pretty good idea of the job and the team’s potential. I hope to identify my best 5 players this spring, and would expect to lower our best daily team score of 380 in every event we play.
5. How much does a player’s potential go into the recruiting process?
Playing ability right now is one of my top priorities now. The addition of new and talented players improves the team dramatically. My incoming class should help Niagara University to get closer to seriously competing in tournaments and conference play.
6. What factor do golfing alumni play in your program?
We are slowly working on relationships to help build the program. I have many personal friends who are NU graduates, and I keep them informed of the overall happenings of the team.
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?
That goes back to the mental preparation. Team goals will happen when individuals achieve their personal goals. I stress to everyone that you do not need to hit great shots to improve your score. They just cannot hit bad shots, that lead to big scores. Being a new program, our expectations only grow with each year.
8. How does the weather affect your training program during the winter? How do you combat it?
Also another mental challenge. Our team right now is pretty tired of indoor practice. The weather is basically the same for all players at our tournaments. You cannot do anything about the weather, so put on your rainsuit and do your best on every shot. Our conference tournament is in Orlando. That is a nice prize for enduring the cold and wet of Western New York. We have to worry about dehydration and sunburn there.
9. What areas of the country are your key recruiting areas?
I look for players who want to come to Niagara University first. That is usually NY, PA, and Ohio. There are a couple recruiting websites that inform me country-wide and international prospects.
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?
Unfortunately, there is no other Division I program within 3-4 hours of Niagara University. Also, Division III programs are limited in this part of the country. I am looking to continue building relationships with area high schools coaches to make sure that we keep the most talented area players close to home.