BRIDGEPORT -- Before he's had to face Georgetown's pressure or Syracuse's zone, new West Virginia University coach John Beilein had to face one of the state's most challenging courses, as the 15th Annual WVU Mountaineer Golf Series visited Pete Dye Golf Club.
"I don't know how much of a break this is," Beilein joked. "I'm not a real accomplished golfer, and this is a tough course.
"But it really impresses me how not just in the Clarksburg-Bridgeport area, but in the rest of the state, people love WVU athletics. I know I haven't been in a situation where state-wide there's a group of fans who have a passion for the athletic success of the state's institution like West Virginia."
The golf series visits courses around the state to raise money for the athletic department. Currently, there are 370 student-athletes on scholarship at West Virginia University, which translates to approximately $3.8 million in costs to the school.
"I don't think there's any question these events are vital to our athletic department," WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong said. "There's a lot of young men and women benefiting from the fans and the support they give us.
"Last year was a little bump in the road, but I think there are some very exciting things that are going to happen to WVU athletics. By the tremendous support we continue to get, I think the fans realize that, too."
The team of John Lynch, Bob Lynch, Eddie Aman, John Aman and WVU strength coach Doug Elias won the tournament with a gross score of 55. A helicopter golf ball drop was held prior to the start of the event, and immediately following was dinner and awards where items ranging from WVU chairs to pieces of the old and new turf at Mountaineer Field were auctioned.
This year's proceeds went toward helping fund the 1100 Club, which helps in football recruiting. Second-year WVU football coach Rich Rodriguez said with his staff's plans to recruit on a more nation-wide basis, Monday's event was even more critical.
"This is always a good time for me," Rodriguez said. "It's such an important event for us. I've always said that this was one of my favorite areas because I'm from here.
"The fans show us tremendous support and Pete Dye is one of the most first-class operations you're going to find. Every time I come down here I get to see some good friends and enjoy a couple of good days of golf. People from around here are big Mountaineer fans and good friends of mine, so it's a good combination."
Rodriguez said he and his staff had just finished junior evaluations, and any time away from the football office is welcomed. The staff has its football camps coming up and after a two-week break will convene to begin planning for its preseason.
"It's a good chance to get away for a while," Rodriguez said. "It's tough out there today, especially when your a self-sufficient school. Our staff is very committed and our athletic department is very much behind us, but the most important thing is our fans. We can't do it without them. They're the ones who support this program."
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org