Q&A with Bowen Sargent (May 17)
The Virginia men’s golf team travels to Radford, Va., this week for the NCAA Regional taking place at the Pete Dye Lakes Course at Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers will need a top-five finish to move on to the NCAA Championships. UVa has successfully navigated through a regional in each of the last three seasons. Cavalier coach Bowen Sargent talks about the week ahead and the team’s quest to be one of the “Fortunate Five.”
Question: Ben Kohles recently was named the ACC Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. He’s only the fifth player in ACC history to repeat as the player of the year. What was your reaction and how does that type of individual accolade help the program?
Sargent: I was very excited for BK. He is a great kid and he’s worked really hard. He deserves all the accolades that he receives. There were some very good players in the ACC this season and for the coaches to select him is quite an honor. It is nice for the program to have someone as solid as BK representing our university.
It certainly helps in recruiting. I sent out something this week to a recruit and talked about how much he (Kohles) improved from a freshman to now. Even a player as good as Ben is, he has improved more than one-and-a-half shots a round since he has been here. I hope that speaks to the work Jay (assistant coach Jay Fisher) and I have put in. Obviously the player puts in a lot of work himself. I hope it speaks to the attention we give our players. Hopefully that will help in recruiting going forward.
Question: Ben and senior Will Collins have been the most consistent players in the program the past two years and anchored a great deal of Virginia’s success. What does it mean for the team heading into the NCAA Regional to have three players like Ben Rusch, Henry Smart and Bruce Woodall playing their best golf right now?
Sargent: Anytime you go into a regional it is critical to have five guys playing well. As I like to say, you need to have five guys pulling on the same end of the rope. Oddly enough, the last three Regionals we have gotten through where we could have left one player home. In other words, at least one player never counted as one of our four scoring players during the tournament. I would say there are not too many teams to have ever done that, even a single time, and advance on to the national tournament.
It is nice to have five people playing well. It certainly makes the week a little less stressful. If you want to win a national championship, you have to have five kids who are capable of winning a tournament. I think we have five kids on this team who could win a tournament on a given week. It is awfully nice to have those guys playing well in addition to Will and BK.
Question: The NCAA Regional is the most pressure packed three days of the season. Regardless of a team’s success up until this point of the season, if it does not do well at this single event it will not advance on to the NCAA Championships. What’s the key to moving on?
Sargent: You have to have five guys playing solid. This is a tough regional. I think there are eight really good teams and only five teams are going to advance. I hope we can be one of the fortunate five. If we go play like we have all year long, this team will advance. I don’t think we have to do anything super special. We do have to play well. If you look at what we have done over the course of the year, this team has played solid almost every time out. If we play like we’ve played all year, we’ll get through.
Question: How does this course set up for this team and your particular lineup?
Sargent: I think very well. It is a ball strikers’ course. It has small greens and it is long. I think we play tougher courses better. I think the course suits us well.
Question: How important is it to have a lineup that features four players who have competed at a regional during their career?
Sargent: It is always comforting to go with a team that has been there and done it. And we have. BK and Will have been here and played in a couple of national championships. Bruce and Henry have both played at the NCAAs. It is nice to have players in the lineup who have some experience at this event. They should all go out and perform with confidence.