July 3, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON - It wouldn't be accurate to say that Matthew Grobe is headed for foreign territory.
After all, Grobe, the new men's golf coach at Marshall, was born at Cabell Huntington Hospital and attended Meadows Elementary and Cammack Junior High before his father's football coaching move from Marshall to Air Force took Grobe to Colorado Springs, Colo., where he was a high school graduate.
However, Grobe has never coached collegiately as he follows in the very large footsteps of his former Herd coach, Joe Feaganes, who just retired from an MU job he held for four decades.
Grobe, 41, has been a club pro for all of his career since a 1995 MU graduation - spending most of that time in Las Vegas, where he leaves DragonRidge Country Club after six years as the head pro.
The difference from there to here - he starts work at Marshall on July 16 - is mostly semantics, as he sees it.
And while most of his native state's golf attention is obviously focused this week on the PGA Tour's $6.1 million Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, Grobe - from 2,072 miles away - is into planning for his first job in his father's longtime profession ... collegiate coaching.
"There's going to be a difference, but in the role I've been in as a golf pro, you're always trying to help people with their games, with teaching the game," Grobe said by phone from Nevada. "You watch people's games grow, and it's kind of the same thing at Marshall, I think.
"You teach people as time goes on, but in college, you're in a controlled environment, and you're only teaching people for a certain amount of time (years). Still, you're trying to help people be the best golfers they can be."
Grobe becomes the eighth Herd men's coach since the program started in 1949. He said he already has gotten a "great amount" of help from Feaganes, who has promised to "hang around" and aid the new coach as he arrives on campus only five weeks before his student-athletes report (Aug. 20).
Feaganes already has done a considerable amount of work on the Herd's 2013 spring schedule, and the 2012 fall schedule is complete, starting with the annual Marshall Invitational at Guyan Country Club on Sept. 10-11. The tournament has a 15-team field.
The Herd men have four other fall tournaments, hosted by Louisville (Simpsonville, Ky.), Xavier (the Cincinnati school's event is in Fort Myers, Fla.), Cincinnati (Hebron, Ky.) and Old Dominion (Outer Banks, N.C.)
Meanwhile, Grobe knows the degree of difficulty of following Feaganes - after all, Grobe played in the program.
"It really is a challenge following Coach Feaganes," said Grobe, who is married (wife Melanie also is a Huntington native) with two children. "The main thing I've got to try to do is just do the best job I can to be successful. I've talked to most members of the team and there's no reason we can't continue what Coach has started."
He never has recruited student-athletes, but doesn't seem fazed by it. Maybe it's because his father, Jim - has been a successful head coach and built programs at Ohio and Wake Forest, a career that also included an assistant's stint at Marshall.
"I was fortunate as a kid that when school was out early, I'd go with my dad or be around him and go on the road (recruiting)," Grobe said. "Working with young people, with student-athletes, I think that's the exciting part of the job, and I'd have jumped at a chance to come back to Marshall at any point.
"What I want to make sure of is that when I go out recruiting, I'm seeing the right kind of kids, and talk to them about the university and what it offers, and our golf program.
"We want people with good character, good academic kids and good golfers. Then, you take all of that and try to be successful. There's no reason we can't do that. One thing I know is that golf in West Virginia is very good."
Grobe was aware of one potential coming challenge, as West Virginia University looks to add men's golf to its sports offering to reach a needed sports sponsorship in its new Big 12 Conference affiliation.
Marshall has had a big advantage in getting most of the Mountain State's best golfers without competition from the state's other Division I program.
He intends on getting out and recruiting upon arrival, likely taking in the State Amateur at the end of this month at The Greenbrier. He's been brought up to speed by Feaganes on the Herd's returning talent, including rising senior Nathan Kerns and rising junior Brian Anania, who are having very good summers.
Anania, of Hurricane, is among the top three in the race for the 2012 West Virginia Golf Association Player of the Year. Kerns, of Ironton, Ohio, won the Mid-Ohio Golf Association title against a quality field last month.
Anania recently finished seventh in the West Virginia Open at Edgewood CC in Sissonville, one of six current or former Herd golfers in a top 10 led by champion Jonathan Clark, one of Grobe's former Marshall teammates.
Anania, Kerns and Aaron Barna, another Herd junior from Hurricane, finished first, second and tied for fourth, respectively in the Dave Boyer Invitational this past weekend at the redesigned Sugarwood Golf Club in Lavalette.
The new coach also has one newcomer for 2012-13, recruited last fall by Feaganes - Logan Lagodich, from Canton (Ohio) Central Catholic High.
Grobe wasn't alone among the finalists for the job who had Marshall or in-state connections, and I asked how well he knew Herd Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, who was the athletic director at UNLV prior to returning to run the department at his alma mater.
"Really well," Grobe said. "UNLV had several of their fundraising tournaments and events at DragonRidge (in Henderson, Nev.). I'd see Mike out here at those and I've gotten to know him. I know he's really trying to build the Marshall athletic program."
So, how would he describe Hamrick's golf game?
"Uh," Grobe said, laughing, "he's a once-a-year player. I think Mike and (Wake Forest AD) Ron Wellman go out and play once a year, then put the clubs away until the next year ... so, no, I don't think Mike will be helping coach the golf team."
Besides, it's a job Grobe embraces.
"Coaching is something I've wanted to do my whole life," Grobe said. "This is the right job for me. Coaching has always been in my blood, obviously. Coming back to Marshall, it's a dream job for me."