Two seasons ago, the men’s golf team won the Atlantic 10 Championship, and was on its way to Greensboro, N.C. for NCAA regional competition. A year later, GW failed to finish in the top three of any tournament, and fell back to a sixth place finish at the A-10 Championship.
Just like that, it was time for a change. Out was five-year head coach Terry Shaffer, and in came former Northern Colorado head coach Chuck Scheinost.
In his first few months at GW, Scheinost has flipped the program upside down, instituting a much more rigorous and structured schedule, in hopes of getting the Colonials back to their A-10 Championship level.
“I think in the past they used to just show up and go play golf. They have to earn their way to the range, which is where they want to spend most of their time,” Scheinost said.
It’s not a complicated formula, Scheinost said, the team just has to “earn their way through the most important areas of golf,” like putting, chipping and wedge play.
For six years, Scheinost led the golf program at Northern Colorado, where he felt comfortable in an underfunded, yet successful program that boasted eight America Sky All-Conference selections and the 2010 League Player of the Year.
UNC was also where Scheinost met his coaching mentor, former Stanford head coach Wally Goodwin, who led the Cardinal to the 1994 National Championship, and watched the likes of Notah Begay, Casey Martin and Tiger Woods pass through his program.
“[Goodwin] always told me that there are three areas of college. You could be good at two of three areas: academic, athletic and social life,” Scheinost said. “Go recruit at the guys you want to be around that are great at the academic and athletic part, and that don’t necessarily want that social component as their main focus, and you’ll have success.”
His first coaching job was as an assistant for the men’s and women’s programs at Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina, where he built his ties to come back to the East Coast.
A few of his friends from this original position let him know that a coaching position was vacant at GW, Scheinost said. At first glance, he saw a recently fully funded program in the nation’s capital, with local golf courses, a new Nike sponsorship, and strong academics – all of which could readily help him recruit.
Scheinost will spend plenty of time recruiting over the next year, as all of the players on the current roster, including the freshmen, were recruited by Schaffer.
Thus, Scheinost has had to win over each one of his players, and despite the slow start to the fall season – 13th and last place finishes in the team’s first two events – they are starting to buy into the system.
“This is his full-time career, his full-time passion is to be a golf coach, and he loves doing it. His mentor was Tiger’s old coach at Stanford, so he knows a lot about the game. So I really trust him and what he does, and I think he’ll take us in the right direction,” senior Graham Lawyer said.
The biggest change for the team so far this season has been Scheinost’s dedication to the short game, which will help his players drop two shots from their scores, he said.
During a team practice this week, a playful wager was proposed. Scheinost asked junior Jack Persons if he had made any chip shots yet during practice. After Persons replied that he had not, Scheinost bet that he could make more shots with an 8-iron in just one minute. He grabbed an 8-iron from one of his players’ set of clubs and started chipping away, just missing his first two shots.
He stepped back, returned the club and went back to coaching, while his players continuing to chip in seven shots with two different clubs as the second part of the day’s practice.
It’s simple drills like that, Scheinost believes, that will bring the competitive drive and structure necessary to be successful across an entire season.
“I think we peaked at the right time my freshman year,” Persons said, referring to the year the team won the A-10 Championship. “And it may not have happened, but it did happen. The rigor and the intensity we have now gives us a much better chance of just kind of more plateauing and playing well all season, instead of finding a stroke of luck.
As much as the first-year coach likes to win – something he knows can’t happen overnight – he understands the necessity to have a good time, and most importantly, make sure his players learn more from the game than just golf.
“It’s a constant battle. We want our guys to be successful in whatever they go into. A lot of times the stuff we do in our program is nothing more than your employer will ask for you when you graduate: show up on time, work hard, bring a competitive nature,” Scheinost said.