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Sport College golf and COVID: Santa Clara's Andrew Larkin on building a program amid a pandemic

16:50  20 october  2020
16:50  20 october  2020 Source:   golfweek.com

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With some conferences playing and others not, Golfweek is pulling back the curtain on this unique college golf season with first-hand journal entries from players and coaches across the country. Next up is new Santa Clara head men’s golf coach Andrew Larkin.

a man standing on a baseball field: andrew larkin santa clara © Provided by Golfweek andrew larkin santa clara

When I left my assistant role at UCLA to take the Santa Clara men’s job, I knew I was ready to take the next step in my career and become a Division I head coach. I’m always a glass half-full kind of guy, but even I’m not sure I had any idea what I was getting myself into trying to build a program during a pandemic.

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For the past five months I’ve essentially been a digital coach. The most challenging aspect for me is, without a doubt, not being able to fully coach my student-athletes.

We’re not allowed to give them any requirements in terms of workouts, practices, anything. Since our guys weren’t allowed to come back to campus, it’s the little stuff that gets frustrating. Like if a player wants help with his golf swing, there are limits and restrictions on what I can provide him and what he can send me, even in terms of swing videos.

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Now that said, it hasn’t been all bad. In some ways this year has been similar to when I was playing professionally and took my first coaching job at my alma mater, Occidental College in Los Angeles. My then-girlfriend and now-wife was in San Diego for grad school. It was really difficult to be in a long-distance relationship, but from a coaching standpoint, it was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me because it gave me unlimited time to focus on my job.

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I wasn’t out late at the bars. I’d be up at 6 a.m. to practice on my own game and then go coach my teams. I’d be in the office making recruit calls for six hours a night. I had nothing else to do, so it was a huge advantage for me. I reflected back on those days during quarantine. Sure, I could be upset and bored. Or I could spend 12-14 hours a day making calls and going through data. I can’t recruit in person, but I can go through old notes on 2021 recruits I may have watched and make decisions on who I think could be a good fit for us going forward.

Having all that time to plan ended up being a really unexpected benefit for both me and my wife. With the stay at home order we stayed in L.A. for almost two months and then moved to Santa Clara in the middle of July. The last time we moved was the week of NCAA regionals, so it was up to her to coordinate everything. Luckily I was able to be a part of this move and take some of that stress off her shoulders.

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a man standing on a baseball field © Provided by Golfweek

Former UCLA assistant and current Santa Clara men’s golf coach Andrew Larkin.

The other benefit is the team. I have a phenomenal group of young men that want to be coached and share a desire to get better. We have strong leaders and the whole team is hungry to compete. I haven’t had too many reservations about them just from looking at the questions they ask and how seriously they take our Zoom meetings. As a new head coach, I can’t do much for them in person at the moment. They’ve taken a lot of that burden off of me, and that’s been refreshing.

My excitement level for this program is through the roof. Longtime coach Rob Miller – who recruited me back in the day – left behind great talent, great resources and set this program up to be a regular contender. I have no doubt that over the next few years we’re going to leave a legacy for this program.

It’ll just take some time.

About Andrew Larkin

Andrew Larkin is in his first season with Santa Clara after spending the previous five years as an assistant coach at UCLA where he was a finalist in 2019 for the Jan Strickland Outstanding Assistant Coach Award. Before his time with the Bruins, Larkin was the head men’s and women’s golf coach at his alma mater, Occidental College. A professional player since 2012, Larkin has 12 tournament wins.

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