The postseason has begun as teams are in must-win situations. Towson University entered the CAA Championship ranked 151st in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, but that didn’t mean a thing. The Tigers stole an at-large postseason berth with the school’s first CAA title. I spoke with Towson coach Brian Yaniger about his team’s big victory.
What does a CAA Championship title mean to the team and to your university?
This is a pretty big deal for the athletic department. As in all universities there are priorities in terms of athletics with many fully-funded in various sports. At Towson, golf is not one of the fully-funded sports. To win a conference championship in this conference, which is a pretty strong mid-major in terms of golf, it brings a lot of attention to both the university and to the golf team.
What kind of pep talk did you give your guys before the tournament, knowing you had to win in order to move on to the postseason?
I thought the 151st ranking we had was a little low for us. That comes from us not playing in some of the more prestigious tournaments. We have beaten some of the ACC schools early on, we lost to UNC Wilmington by one up at Bethpage, we lost to Coastal Carolina by five (shots) at Bethpage. That’s pretty good against some pretty good teams. I told (my players) that we played Princeton the week before and finished third and really didn’t play well. (I said), “Imagine what you could do if you do play well.” I think the team listened.
Do you feel your team is overlooked because you’re a lower ranked mid-major team?
I do. I understand how this works. I have been doing this for 13 years now. We had pretty good teams in 2004 and 2005. We lead the country in par-5 scoring in ’05, we were 12th in the country in scoring average, and at only one tournament did we finish lower than third. No matter how good you are it’s really tough to get that ranking without the schedule. When I call the bigger schools to get (into their events), a lot of the time the answer is: “Well, we’ll see what we can do.” That is pretty much a polite way of saying no. So it’s tough to get in.
This is the school’s first CAA title, but Towson has won before when it was a part of the America East Conference. What was the transition like going from one mid-major conference to another?
To go from the America East to the CAA in golf is night and day. In the America East there were a couple of competitive teams up there – Hartford was pretty good. Moving to the CAA, where golf is a way of life down south, we’re talking about playing teams that are ranked in the top 50. This year VCU was ranked in the top 50, UNC-Wilmington was ranked in the top 50, and we just needed to step it up. That’s all there is to it. Every now and then we seem to be OK and we get good players. This proves that it’s not all about the scholarships. When I recruit kids I tell them it’s about graduating, it’s about maturing, it’s about being respectful and learning integrity. Golf is always about fifth on my list of things to talk about because all that other stuff comes first. When you do that, you get the type of kids you want.
I know everyone’s excited to be going to a regional, but how do you keep the guys grounded and ready to play when the regional bids are announced?
We are really not caught up in the headlines. We enjoyed the moment on the ride home, and we’re enjoying it today. All of the text messages, phone calls, and e-mails are really good. It will be interesting to see where we get placed in the regionals, because I think that will go a long way in to determining our success. We played in a regional in 2004 at Yale, and Yale is having it again this year. In that year I believe eight of the top 10 teams in the country that year went to Yale, and that course is not a Southern golf course (in terms of) style. The teams from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi have a problem playing the mountain golf courses. That however, is something we are accustomed to, just like at Homestead this past weekend. That might be an advantage for us if we are placed at a regional up there. If we are placed at a school down south like at Georgia Tech, that wouldn’t be an advantage. We are looking at location as an important part to giving us a chance to move on.
Not a lot of people are familiar with Towson. How good is your team?
It was clear who my top one and two players were on the 2004 and 2005 teams. This year I’m not sure I have a No. 1 player, but I have three No. 2s and two No. 3s. I think that is a pretty good mix to get it done. We can advance. We are good enough to win any tournament we play in. But we are not good enough (to win any tournament) if we don’t really think our way through. If I can keep them in a good mindset – and that’s my job – then we’ll have a pretty good opportunity.