Every sports team has obstacles in its path, and each individual challenge needs to be addressed differently. This season, the Michigan men’s golf team will have to rise to the task of adapting to a different coach for the first time in nine years.
After nine seasons as head coach, Andrew Sapp chose to step down in June to coach at a familiar school for him, his alma mater North Carolina.
Sapp boasts two NCAA top-10 finishes in the past three seasons and has eight tournament titles under his belt.
Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon emphasized that there are no hard feelings in Sapp’s decision to leave Michigan.
“Andrew felt this was an opportunity he could not pass up, and we wish him all the best,” Brandon said.
The team will not be left high and dry, as they gained a worthy replacement.
After acting as assistant coach for the past five years, Chris Witten was selected as head coach. Michigan alumnus Nick Pumford will rejoin the program as the assistant coach.
“I feel like I’m ready for it,” Witten said. “It’s an amazing opportunity, and I’m trying to look at it in the short term for right now for what needs to get done in the next few weeks to make sure that I’m on task. I’m looking at it in the long term as well.”
Witten comes from a golf background and is equipped to handle his new challenge of leading the team to a successful season.
A graduate of Notre Dame, Witten was a part of two runner-up finishes at the Big East Championships in 1999 and 2002. He returned to his alma mater from 2003-05 as an assistant coach. And in his 2003-04 season of coaching in South Bend, he helped the Fighting Irish to a Big East championship.
Witten has learned from Sapp’s previous instruction and is using skills employed by Sapp that he finds useful and important to golf dynamics.
“The thing that I’ll take away from Coach Sapp above everything else is his communication style,” Witten said. “He was always very even and steady and consistent. Even in some tricky situations he always kept a level head and did a full evaluation of a situation before he made a decision.”
Athletes to look out for this season include senior Matt Thompson, who will be acting as a team leader now that Master’s qualifier Lion Kim has graduated and gone to professional golf. Freshmen Noori Hyun and Andrew Wong will be joining the ranks this year.
Michigan will host the Wolverine Intercollegiate on Sept. 12-13, where the team will begin its journey to Big Tens, which will be held in May.