Very little about Andres Pumariega's path to the men's golf team has been ordinary. Golf was never his game growing up, and once he did pick it up, GW wasn't the place he initially decided he to play. But things have a way of working out and the junior is defying expectations, leaving his mark on the Colonials' record book as the only golfer to win three straight individual tournaments.
In his first spring season since transferring to GW from Mercer University in Macon, Ga., Pumariega has been on a tear, beginning with a victory against St. Thomas University March 14. Pumariega won his second straight tournament the following weekend when he shot the low score at the GW Golf Invitational in Bethany Beach, Del. He capped off his winning streak with a victory in the Penn Quaker Invitational in Flourtown, Pa.
The streak of individual victories for Pumariega has helped to create a shift in culture for a golf team that in past years has struggled to play well against tougher competition.
"We're trying to get the program to be more focused on playing good golf instead of like, 'Oh, well we're at GW, whatever, we're not really good golfers,'" Pumariega said. "We're trying to work harder and change the entire mentality."
Pumariega's spring performance has been especially impressive in relation to his play during the fall season, when he shot a single-round score of 83 in each of his three first-semester events.
Part of his struggles, Pumariega said, stemmed from his transfer to GW, a result of a conflict with a coach at Mercer. Now, at GW, Pumariega credits his new head coach, Terry Shaffer, with helping him regain his confidence on the course.
"I came in last semester and it was a perfect storm of bad stuff, where I played horrible," Pumariega said. "I played horrible last semester, and coach never said anything but, 'Alright, keep practicing, keep it up, stay positive."
The Miami native is currently averaging a team-best score of 74.6, but more than that, the Colonials' head coach has seen a change in his entire team's mentality.
"I don't know what transpired at Mercer, but I just feel that it's Mercer's loss," Shaffer said. "I think Andres is a good, I'm gonna say, catalyst. I think he's done a good job in really helping the team realize that they're capable of achieving great things," he added.
To remind himself to remain focused on the course, Pumariega said he has developed a habit of marking his balls with the initials "M.K.," a reference to the PGA's current top-ranked player, Martin Kaymer. With just one more event to sharpen that focus before the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. beginning April 29, Shaffer said that, while Pumariega's success might have been a surprise to some, the standout play hasn't come as a shock to him.
"He realizes how difficult this game can be and he just stays at it all the time," Shaffer said. "His three straight tournament wins are a blessing to the program and I really kind of expected him to play well in all of these tournaments because to me he's one of the best players out there. So to me it's no surprise," he added.