July 13, 2015
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
BY MEGAN ROWLEY
IOWA CITY, Iowa — After serving as assistant coach at Minnesota for three seasons, former University of Iowa assistant coach and student-athlete Tyler Stith returned to campus to serve as head coach of the UI men’s golf team in 2014-15.
During his rookie season as head coach, Stith led the Hawkeyes to third place finish at the Golfweek Conference Challenge, third place at the Big Ten Match Play Championships, second place at the Big Ten Championships, and sixth at the NCAA Yale Regional.
Iowa also joined Illinois as the only Big Ten programs to compete at the NCAA Championships in each of the last seven seasons.
Under Stith’s guidance, sophomore Carson Schaake won Big Ten medalist honors, and sophomore Raymond Knoll earned All-Big Ten honors. Schaake, Knoll, and senior Brian Bullington were named to the Division I PING All-Midwest Regional Team.
Prior to serving as head coach, Stith was an assistant coach from 2008-11 under former UI head coach Mark Hankins. As a Hawkeye student-athlete, he was a four-year letterwinner and team captain during his senior season. The Mount Pleasant, Iowa, native graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in management information systems in 2002.
Stith recently sat down with hawkeyesports.com to discuss his first year back on campus as Iowa’s head coach.
Last season was your first in the head coach’s chair, how did the experience go for you personally and professionally?
“I feel fortunate that I had six years as an assistant underneath two outstanding head coaches that helped prepare me for the challenges I would face during my first year as a head coach. Professionally, it was extremely successful. We crowned a new Big Ten Champion, first one in 23 years and third in the history of our program. We finished the season ranked 38th in the country and qualified for regionals. We missed the chance to go to the NCAA finals by one shot and got beat by the eventual national champions. Personally, my first year was very rewarding. I had the opportunity to return to my home state and alma mater. It is very nice to be back amongst family and friends.”
You finished the season strong and built a lot of momentum heading into Year 2, what will be the key to sustaining that momentum?
“We have a number of guys that are returning. Everyone on the team, at some point last season, played and contributed and that is going to give us confidence for next year. We have an extremely motivated and talented group. They have all played and competed and are working very hard this summer to make sure we can build off the momentum from last year and carry it into the fall.”
Year 1 always has a unique set of challenges. What do you see as possible challenges for Year 2?
“We are replacing two very experienced and talented senior golfers, Ian Vandersee and Brian Bullington. They played a lot of golf for Iowa at a very high level. I know their leadership and presence will certainly be missed. With that comes the opportunity for other guys to step into those leadership roles, and more opportunities for younger guys to compete and travel.”
Your lineup card last season included the Big Ten champion, what is the most crucial advice you can give to any player in the midst of a great run?
“With success comes more attention and a change in expectations. After his Big Ten title I told him that people would look at him differently. And now he has a target on his back where before he could sneak up and beat people. That’s no longer the case. When you’re on top, people come at you. This is where he sees himself and where he wants to be as a player.”
What do you know about this job now that you didn’t know 12 months ago?
“I don’t think I quite appreciated how rewarding it would be to just experience success and failure with my guys. It has been extremely enjoyable journey and I am lucky to have such a great assistant coach and eight, now nine, outstanding young men to mentor and coach. Experiencing their competitive and academic journeys has been very rewarding.”
How will the goals and expectations change for this team now that you have one season under your belt?
“Our goals will always be to qualify for the postseason and win every tournament we enter. That is how we have always approached things. Of course, with the group we have coming back, we want to push beyond those annual goals. We want to win a Big Ten Championship, we want to reach the NCAA finals, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We have to accomplish our initial goals first and continue to do the small things week in and week out. The first part of fall may affect our goals throughout the year because our goals are cascaded in a way that they build on one another as we go. How far we go will depend on how successful we are at the beginning of the season.”
How would you like to see this program evolve moving forward?
“I feel like our program is on a fantastic trajectory. We are one of only two schools in the Big Ten to qualify for the NCAA tournament seven years in a row. We now have an indoor training facility that we call home that allows us to attract high-level student-athletes. My goal is to not only maintain where we are right now as one of the top teams in the Big Ten, but I want to grow the program so we can become a team that is regularly competing for championships on the national stage. We have the resources and commitment from our supporters, and I am looking at taking what we have to the next level.”