March 25, 2002
Following a successful first fall season in the NCAA's District II that included top-six finishes in all three regional tournaments, the Terrapin men's golf team stood as the mid-Atlantic region's top-rated team in the Golfweek and Golfstat rating systems. Before the Terps began their District II spring schedule, 11th-year coach Tom Hanna discussed his team's success following the geographically favorable move and its district prospects in the spring.
Question: How do you see your team's District II success carrying over from the fall and into the spring?
Tom Hanna: I think that it will really carry over in the spring, but with a little more experience. You look at the basketball team last year, in critical games sometimes they made some mistakes. This year, they get down, they just come back. And you learn that, you can't teach it, you can't coach it - you can talk about it, and we have talked about it at length, but until you experience it, until the kids get used to it, it's a hard thing to understand and that's why coaches rely on senior leadership, the experience of being there before. Well, we've been there - we had the chance to win three, we won one. I think we have a good chance to win some tournaments in the spring.
Q: In addition to the victory at the Temple Invitational, what specifically will your team take from close calls at two other tournaments in the fall?
TH: We should have won three times. A couple years ago, when these kids were all freshmen and sophomores, when they were in a position to win, they would drop back. To win, you have to learn how to win. To learn how to win, you've got to win enough times to where you get comfortable. I think the fall semester really showed these guys that, A, they can win, and B, that we were in a position to win three tournaments but made some mistakes. As we get older, as this team starts in the spring, I would hope that that experience of, A, winning, and B, not getting the job done in the next two tournaments will carry over where they play a little smarter and don't make the mistakes.
Q: Based on how they've played against the new competition and courses thus far, how would you evaluate your team's transition from District III North to District II?
TH: I think that it was a shock to them, just the attitude they had last year of, 'Well, we're going to District II and the Wake Forests, the Clemsons, the North Carolinas, the Georgia Techs, they're not up there. We're an ACC school, we play a big-time schedule, we're going to go up there and it's not going to be an issue.' Well, they found out, and I've told them all along, that there's some good players up there. They might not be as deep as we are, but there's a lot of good players up there that can carry teams. They get up there, and they found that out exactly. They expected to go up there and walk away with it, and they didn't do that. They found out there were some good players up there. I think it really brought them down to earth immediately.
Q: What about the transition to playing the favorite's role?
TH: Coming out of the toughest district in the country that has more teams that are NCAA tournament-qualified that don't go than most districts have that do go, I know that they thought it was going to be a little easier cakewalk. They've learned to overcome that. They know now, that no matter where you are, you've still got to put up the numbers. You still have to win, you still have to place high, you have to beat everybody that you can beat in your district every time. And they really focused in on that, and that's a credit to them. They know now that they're Maryland, and everybody, everywhere we go, they want to beat us. I don't care where we are or what the tournament is, when Maryland walks out on a driving range or Maryland walks out on a putting green, we are the marked person, just like when we were in District III and the Georgia Techs, the Clemsons, some of the highly ranked teams in the conference come out and we're looking at them like we want to beat them. We are the marked man, and the kids have learned to accept that role and respond to it. I'm very happy about it, I think they've done a good job so far.
Q: How do you see the different competition and decreased travel distance preparing your team for the ACC Championships?
TH: They're not as tired. I don't care if you drive or fly, it's a big hassle. The way the tournaments are set up, you play a practice round the first day you're there, second day you're playing 36 holes - which is a drain - and the third day, you're playing your 18 holes. Then you drive four, five or six hours home. That's after four days of golf and we're coming out of 50-to-low-60-degree weather and going into 70, 75, 80 degree weather, which again, the kids are not used to. So it's definitely been a strain physically on us, and it showed towards the end of the semester [when] we would get tired. And I tried to break out the tournaments where we would have a four-to-seven day period between a tournament and the ACC, and sometimes it didn't work out. So I think the decreased travel time - and again, we're still going south - but there's enough tournaments, like William & Mary, that are an hour-and-a-half, two hours away. Liberty is three hours away. It's the getting back on Sunday or Monday night at nine o'clock rather than three o'clock in the morning, that's the huge, huge difference. They're really going to be well-rested, they can get to bed at a decent hour and get in Joe College, average college routine for the next couple of days. And that is huge, the last couple of years and two years ago, we were exhausted. I think that's really helped us, there's no question about that.
Q: How are your players dealing with elevated individual expectations at the district level after a successful fall season?
TH: On an individual level, I don't think any of them are satisfied. These guys are all working at it. They have got an idea that to be an All-American, you have to be a district All-American first. There are some standards, and you have to reach those standards in order to be considered for All-ACC and All-American. They know that they still have to perform. What I like about the team is that they're not resting on their laurels, it seems to me that they're not. They've set a standard, they've upped the bar for themselves. I didn't do it, changing districts didn't really do it - they've done it themselves, they've set a higher standard. Now, can that be passed on to the incoming freshmen and the youngsters coming in and the guys returning? It should. My senior leadership is doing very well and they're bringing people to a new level. I think that they've raised the standard and hopefully they're going to work to that standard. They'd better.