The Red & Black's sports editor William Newlin caught up with men’s golf head coach Chris Haack over the phone during what will become the longest offseason of his coaching career. Haack’s team played two tournaments in the spring before COVID-19 concerns shut down the UGA golf course and all remaining NCAA competitions. Haack spoke about his one and only tee time since the cancellation, his players’ summer prospects and the feasibility of returning to the links for the 2020-2021 season.
William Newlin: How have you kept in touch with your players since the season was canceled?
Chris Haack: Well, it's obviously been different. But we’re a pretty close team, so we've done a pretty good job staying together. I was snapchatting with Spencer [Ralston] today and talking to Davis [Thompson]. I stay in touch with those guys quite a bit anyway, but it sure is different.
Newlin: Have you been able to play any golf yourself?
Haack: I played one round during this whole pandemic and played so God-awful-bad that I decided I'm not playing anymore. So, I just think I'm gonna stick to boating and coaching.
Newlin: Do you usually have a summer training schedule in Athens?
Haack: No, because those guys all go off and play in amateur tournaments all summer long. They're doing their own thing, so I very rarely see any of those guys in the summer unless they happen to be coming through town, or if I show up an amateur tournament because there's someone we're recruiting that happens to be there as well. They're all pretty self-sufficient in that regard. They don't always have to see me.
Newlin: Will summer tournament cancellations have a big effect on the athletes come the fall, and has anyone on the team competed since the season ended?
Haack: A lot of them have been [canceled], especially through June. So, it's gonna be quite different. [My athletes] haven't played any tournaments yet. I do know a lot of them are playing golf … getting together in some of their areas and playing against each other quite a bit, but there's such a big difference between tournament golf and being tournament ready, and just going out and playing with your buddies. But I guess [any] playing is helpful. It's better than not playing at all.
Newlin: Do you think the experience brought by your three returning seniors will benefit the team next year or hold back the younger guys trying to step into bigger roles?
Haack: I hope it is [a benefit]. One of [the seniors] is Spencer Ralston, who’s a two-time All-American. Our other two seniors Will Chandler and Trevor Philips have played a lot in their four years, and to come back and play gangbusters, well that’s better for us. The way our system works is that it's all about shooting numbers. So, if there's a freshman that's coming in, or there's a sophomore that was here last year, and he comes in and shoots low enough numbers, he’ll get in the lineup. So, it's not about experience as much as it’s about performance.
Newlin: Do you think it's an easier transition for golf to come back versus other college sports?
Haack: Yeah, absolutely, because number one, you're outside and you're generally in the abundant sunshine, the fresh air. You don’t have to sit next to somebody … you can get out and walk around and not have to be right on top of each other. College events, amateur events, junior events, even the Korn Ferry Tour events – if you want to stay distant and still watch a lot of good golf, you can do it pretty easily.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.