By Harrison Sillings
Five years ago, 26-year-old Peter Pougnet was named the head coach of the men’s golf team at Roosevelt University. The former graduate assistant inherited a team that consisted of four golfers, including one who was injured and unable to play.
In his first year at the reigns, the Lakers were only able to compete with three golfers and had to borrow a men’s basketball player just to have a fourth man to use in the conference tournament.
The team finished dead last out of 14 teams in the conference that season. From there Pougnet had to work on building a team from the ground up.
That rebuild began with his first recruiting class who are now seniors and will be graduating this spring. The class consisted of Charlton Zimmerman, Jake Myers, Graham Green and Kevin Cunningham.
“For the first year and a half there wasn’t any culture. We had no team identity, no real leaders, and we were all just trying to figure out where we stood with coach and with each other,” Zimmerman said. Pougnet then helped to change the team’s mindset and help them work more as a team.
“After the first year and a half we shifted our mindset from just hitting balls and playing to setting individual and team goals and working hard to achieve them,” Myers said.
The four players, then freshmen, were able to make an immediate impact on the course. Taking the team from 14th to eighth in the conference in their first season, all four were thrown into the lineup from the start and were able to get a lot of experience early on in their careers.
Myers was even able to earn all-conference honors after his freshman campaign. Green said he gives credit to Coach Pougnet’s practice structure which was set up to make a competitive group of guys even more competitive. “We have always been a competitive bunch and we have become more competitive over the last few years,” Green said. “Couch Pougnet has done a lot to facilitate this development in structuring our practice and keeping us in a competitive mindset.”
Since their freshman year, this class has played a pivotal role in the team’s constant improvement. They helped earn the program’s first tournament win, the USF Spring Invite, in the spring of 2017 and have taken the program from the conferences’ cellar to a third place finish last year. With the core of the team returning this spring, it’s safe to say the Lakers are conference contenders.
Off the course, the four became each other’s best friends, which created what Green referred to as a “family culture.” That family culture has continued to develop with the classes that have been added since.
“It does not matter how good you are on the course or how long you have been on the team, once you are on the golf team, you become a part of the family,” Green said.
The golf family has seen changes over the past few seasons with the departure of Cunningham, the addition of transfer student Andrew Good ,and three additional recruiting classes.
“This senior class helped get us to the point where we were able to compete day in and day out, especially with helping classes behind them understand the day to day life of college golf. They played a big role in our first program win in 2017. Hopefully we can work hard and have a great end to their careers,” said Pougnet.
All of the seniors agreed that there is even greater success and more wins in store for golf team in the future.
“With the depth coach has been able to add they’ll be able to rely on seniors just as much as they will the freshman. That will be key for the team moving forward,” Zimmerman said.
Pougnet said next season would be different because of the roles of leadership the seniors had stepped into. “We potentially have a large recruiting class coming in and the current guys will need to lead by example to show the freshman how our program works as a family,” Pougnet said.
“The seniors’ legacy is still unwritten,” Pougnet continued. “We’re looking forward to trying to build off of the fall and achieve team goals this spring. Hopefully, they’ll go out being apart of something special.”
The Roosevelt golf team kicks off their spring campaign in Arizona, March 10-12 at the Embry Riddle Spring Invitational.