photo by Chris Thelen
Kevin McPherson approaches the game of golf like he approaches life, his placid demeanor hiding a predatory-like focus on his goals.
That disarming equanimity has enabled the youthful McPherson to capture titles on and off the course, including two NCAA National Championships and the head coach position for men’s golf at Augusta State University.
Last June, when men’s golf coach Josh Gregory announced his resignation, candidates for the position came from across the country. An opportunity to coach the reigning NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Champions—two years running—understandably attracted some of the best in collegiate golf.
As Big 12 Conference coaches circled ASU like sharks in a feeding frenzy on the greens, McPherson did not waver. He was confident in his proven record built the previous four years as ASU’s women’s golf coach and the men’s assistant coach. Despite the elite talent pool he was swimming in, the 31-year-old rested in his demonstrated ability to spin Division I golf gold from Division II resources. Afterall, he had already shown what he could accomplish with a budget only a quarter-size that of most larger universities.
“The biggest thing for me is that I understand what it takes to recruit at Augusta State,” McPherson says. “These [Big 12 Conference] guys had no idea what it was going to take to recruit at Augusta State versus where they’ve been for the last few years.”
In the end, Augusta State agreed. McPherson wasted no time, before and after his appointment, to begin rebuilding. Given a team depleted by 60 percent after last year’s graduation, McPherson spent the summer selling ASU to potential players. His campaign paid off with five promising new golfers.
With back-to-back championships, McPherson admits, recruiting has become a little easier since he first began at ASU. Vying for attention with other coaches who may don conference rings, McPherson’s dazzling 2011 and 2012 National Championship rings receive deferential attention when trying to secure new talent.
If anything ruffles the composed coach—and it’s clear not much does—it might be the regular hails from fans for a “three-peat,” to which he smiles casually and says only, “It would be nice.”
While he understands all the hope and hype surrounding the team, McPherson remains pragmatic about a legendary third national championship. “There’s so many different steps to it and it’s so hard to get there. But we made it look easy the last couple of years.”
So McPherson moves forward into his first season as head coach with a balanced perspective. He knows that his team is capable of another national victory. And drawing on wisdom only a true champion can possess, McPherson is keenly aware that every putt and every stroke must fall their way to win again. He bases his vision for the team on that experience.
“The biggest thing for me is to have a program that is very competitive and have the possibility of playing for a national championship. And to continue to have our players graduating with honors,” says McPherson, pointing out another team stat—an overall 3.3 GPA from last semester.
“I’ve got very high expectations for the team, but I’m very realistic. If we don’t win a national championship this year or the next year or the following year, I’m not going to be disappointed in myself or the players. I know how hard it is to get there.”
The two national championship rings perched on the shelf in Kevin McPherson’s office remind him every day of the reward for that cool-headed perseverance.