West Virginia men's golf to return in 2015-16

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Oh, the difference 33 years can make.

Since West Virginia University closed up shop on its men’s golf program in 1982, the sport has grown in the state – with the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic serving as proof.

Now, the sport is returning to the mountain state’s largest university. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The school announced that it will reintroduce men’s golf for the 2015-16 season. The change comes as a way of fulfilling Big 12 policy – golf will become WVU’s sixth conference-sponsored men’s sport, the minimum required.

The announcement came as the 2013 Greenbrier Classic kicked off festivities in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

Coincidence? West Virginia Golf Association executive director Ken Tackett said maybe not.

“It was the perfect time. There’s a lot going on for golf here in West Virginia,” Tackett said. “When you have your flagship university bring golf in, it brings a lot of momentum for the sport. It’s another moment for us to rally behind.”

The return of men's golf to WVU is 33 years in the making, and it could take several more years for the team to catch up with its conference mates in the Big 12.

“Out of the gate, they’re not going to scare anybody for a title,” said Tackett. “But, under [athletic director Oliver Luck’s] leadership, it will be a sound program.”

Former Mountaineers golfer Danny Ackerman serves as the general manager and head pro at Golfweek's No. 1-ranked public-access course in Ohio, Longaberger Golf Course. When WVU cut the men’s golf program in 1982, he was a member of the team missing out on his senior season.

“They’ll get out of it what they put into it, is the best way I can explain it,” Ackerman said. “The Big 12 is a fine conference, but if you want to compete at that level, it’s going to require a great deal of effort and support.”

How much WVU puts into the program can can be calculated. According to the university, it will provide 1.5 scholarships in 2015-16, less than the NCAA’s maximum of 4.5. Once scholarships are fully implemented in 2017-18, program costs will amount to $257,162 annually.

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