It’s been just two weeks since Chris Whitten was promoted to head coach of the Michigan men’s golf team, but he already has his blueprint in motion for the future of the Wolverines.
Already busy searching for the best and brightest golf recruits in the nation, the enthusiastic and optimistic Whitten plans to establish a squad that will continue the long line of success with Michigan men’s golf for many years to come.
The Wolverines have finished in the top-10 at the NCAA Tournament twice in the past three years, both times under the direction of former head coach Andrew Sapp and Whitten as an assistant.
Whitten has aspirations to surpass this previous success, and build a program that will one day bring home a national championship.
And Whitten is no stranger to the high caliber level of elite golf.
His father, Buddy Whitten, played on the PGA Tour throughout most of his son’s childhood, with the younger Whitten often being a caddy for his father.
Chris Whitten, a Rockford, Mich. native, brought his golf skills to Notre Dame, where he played all four years. He earned the Fighting Irish’s Varsity Monogram Award and the Knute Rockne Scholar Athlete Award in 2002.
It was there in South Bend, Ind. that he discovered his love for teaching and turned down the opportunity of a professional career for himself.
After joining Michigan’s staff in May 2006, Whitten’s young career flourished. For the past two seasons, he was one of five finalists for the Jan Strickland Award, given to the top assistant coach in the NCAA.
He has spent the last few years learning the ropes of coaching under Sapp, who recently accepted a position as head coach at the University of North Carolina.
One of the most valuable lessons Whitten learned under Sapp was the importance of consistency.
“My goals are more process oriented (now),” Whitten said. “I’m a strong believer that if you do the right things on a daily basis, the results will show up at the tournament.”
While there will be more pressure on him to produce results this upcoming year, he will rely on his instincts and follow through on the regularity that his players seek.
Whitten hopes to model a lot of his coaching style off of Sapp, in that “(Sapp) was really consistent in his decisions, interactions with the players, practices, etcetera. The guys always knew what to expect.”
With two incoming freshmen joining the team in the fall, Whitten will be responsible for eight male golfers. One of the most promising looks to be senior captain Matt Thompson.
Residing from Battle Creek, Mich, Thompson will continue the legacy of previous male golfers from that area.
“Matt has been here for a lot of Michigan’s golf success,” Whitten said, “And I look forward to watching him keep the winning tradition alive.”
In addition to Whitten’s talented crew of eight already on the squad, he is looking to add an assistant coach to the team as well. According to Whitten, interviews are still taking place to fill the assistant coaching vacancy.
Once Whitten gets his 2011 crew finalized, don’t expect any drop-off in production under the untested head coach. Whitten’s no greenhorn — he’s seen the best of collegiate and professional golf — and now he’s ready to lead the Wolverines.