|Wilberforce Golf Program Growing Under Coach Will Ware’s Leadership|
|By Sean Melia|
Will Ware has spent the last 11 months rebuilding the men’s and women’s golf programs at Wilberforce University. Since his hiring in July 2020, Wade has worked tirelessly to fill out his men’s and women’s golf rosters, all while dealing with the complication of a pandemic. When Ware was hired last summer, most golfers interested in playing competitively in college had picked a school, so Wade had to be creative. He scoured the Dayton public schools for “athletes that were interested in going to college.” He found some and got to work.
His new players weren’t just new to Wilberforce, they were new to the game of golf. Ware started with the basics during the team’s visits to the Bears Den driving range - grip, posture, alignment. Ware said he was “teaching them how to hit balls and play golf.” While Ware planned to see his players three times a week during the summer, his team caught the golfing bug and practiced everyday, with or without Coach Ware.
Due to the pandemic, the Wilberforce Bulldogs have not played in any matches or tournaments; in fact they have to wait until spring of 2022 for their first taste of competitive golf. Even so, Coach Ware found plenty of opportunities to test the players’ nerves with chipping and putting games and hitting at various targets on the range. “Under pressure they’re going to get bang for their buck practicing the short game,” Ware said.
Technology also plays a big role in how Ware is helping his players improve. Over the years as a teaching pro at Madden Golf Course, he developed online training tools and videos for his pupils. Each week, he picks points of emphasis and shares a practice plan with his teams via Google Classroom. His player’s excitement for the game has them practicing on their own, and Ware believes the online component helps. Ware can also watch video of his players and offer advice remotely - “It gets them up to speed as fast as possible. I’m not seeing them everyday, so I have to make sure they aren’t practicing bad habits.” All of the men on the golf team are on campus and practicing in person; however, the five players on the women’s team are more spread out. Three of them are off campus, opting for remote learning. The online tools give Ware an avenue to make his remote players feel like they are part of the team, while also allowing him to coach them and build relationships and trust.
A second piece of technology that shows how serious Wilberforce is about golf was installed this month - a brand new simulator. This purchase was made possible after the PGA donated $100,000 to Wilberforce University’s golf program in December of 2020. The donation came after Steph Curry, Phil Mickelson, Charles Barkley, and Peyton Manning raised $5 million for historically black colleges when they competed in The Match: Champions for Change. Without that donation, the simulator would not have been possible. Ware is taking the long view on the donation and wants to make sure he’s building something that is sustainable far into the future.
Ware is feeling optimistic about the players he molded this year. He also has a new batch of recruits coming in next year. “We are going to have golfers that can shoot in the 80s and 70s.” But for Ware it isn’t just about success on the golf course, he knows it can take a long time to win events and compete on a week-to-week basis. He is setting his sights on academic achievement first, “Our goal is to win the academic award in our conference.” His men’s team has a 3.71 GPA this year and the women aren’t far behind with a 3.3 GPA. Ware knows that in the long run, if he can blend golf and academics, he’s done his job. “I want to build a culture of golf at Wilberforce. That’s my plan. I want people to know Wilberforce has a golf team. They have fun, they hit the books, and they work hard.”Between Ware’s ingenuity and determination and the PGA Tour’s donation, Wilberforce seems primed to grow and thrive far into the future.