Today, we catch up with his successor, Gregg Burke, to find out his plans for the future of the Rhode Island program. Burke is the deputy director of athletics at Rhode Island and knows he has some big shoes to fill.
How do you go from deputy director of athletics to also being a full-time college golf coach next fall at Rhode Island?
It wasn’t my idea, I’ll tell you that. My athletic director came to me and told me the news that Tom was going to retire. We started to come up with a plan. Since golf has always reported to me, we had already started to go down the path. We had some names, but the AD called me and said he knew exactly how the golf program was going to move forward and he said he had a coach in mind. At the time, I expressed disappointment that I wasn’t part of the decision, and that’s when he said, well, it’s you! After offering it to me a few times, I finally decided to go ahead and do it with his support. I wouldn’t be doing it without him.
Did you play college golf?
I did not. I’ve been an avid golfer since the time I got out of college, and golf has reported to me for seven years and I’ve worked closely with Tom for the last several years. I’m a pretty passionate and enthusiastic guy, and I think that’s what our AD saw in me and wanted in our new coach.
How do you replace a guy like Coach Drennan, who has been a part of the program so many years and built it to where it is?
You don’t replace Tom; you just take the seat he was sitting in, and there’s a huge difference there. We have incredibly different styles. I have told the players and the recruits and parents of recruits that I’m going to be different. I’m not going to be like Tom was. I’m going to be different. In no way shape or form am I expecting to be better, but I know it’s going to be different and hopefully we get similar results.
What are going to be your short-term and long-term goals for the program?
My first goal is to go back to the top in New England. Right now, we’re fifth or sixth in New England, and that’s somewhere we’re not accustomed to, and that’s someplace we’re not going to stay at very long. I’ve already built the schedule for next fall and I have us playing in six straight New England tournaments. We’re going to places like UConn, Hartford and Central Connecticut. All the teams that are ahead of us, we’re going to go play them at their courses and put the peg in the ground and see who is going to be better over the next couple of years.
What are your thoughts on trying to win the A-10, which Charlotte has dominated the last couple of years there?
You know, it’s really unfair to other coaches in the conference to just say Charlotte is the best. I know they are a new team with a new coach and a program with tremendous, tremendous support, and they have the one thing many of us don’t have, which is climate. There are some really good programs in the league. St. Bonaventure, they get three days of sun all year and are moving up the rankings. Xavier, they have a great coach and terrific program. There are so many good teams in the conference that right now I really want to just concentrate on being the best team in New England. We are really going to concentrate on keeping the best New England players home and recruit Ireland some. I think if we get to the top of New England again, then I think that will change our recruiting profile. Then we can start thinking about the conference. When we play in big tournaments down the road, I want my guys to be able to look to their right, look to their left and know they were outworking those players without a golf club in the winter months. We’ll be working hard in the weight room preparing with core strength and other things that will make us stronger for the year.
What are the things you think you’ll need to learn or adopt to become fully entwined in this world of college golf?
First of all, this year had been great because I have reported to Tom as an assistant coach and he has reported to me as a deputy AD. I think what I need to do is see more things. Like yesterday, we had a senior forget an umbrella, and it’s something I put on all the players’ itinerary. It’s something that really irks me, because now he needs to drive back to the hotel to get a dry shirt. Those are the type of things I need to see and realize they are going to happen. Just because I make this elaborate and thought-out itinerary doesn’t mean everything will go right. In a golf-tournament setting, you can’t get annoyed. We all need to stay patient and learn to adapt to one another.
Well with those six-hour rounds in college golf, you are going to need patience!
I’ve already learned that. That’s the one thing I learned as an administrator when I would tell my office I’m going to go out and watch the guys for a few holes, and I don’t come back the rest of the day. I learned real quick I’m lucky to see a nine in under three hours! it is tough.