UTSA’s new men’s golf coach, John Knauer, brings championship experience, mental toughness and discipline to the job-all of which will be put to the test.
Knauer has his work cut out for him. Last year, UTSA’s men’s golf team ranked number 152 in the nation, according to golfweek.com.
But Knauer has a plan: changing the culture on and off the course.
“Just how we go about things: academics, golf, strength training, the way we look, our uniforms, where we practice, the way we practice. Absolutely everything in the program-we are going to flip it on its head,” Knauer said.
When he met with the UTSA team on Aug. 27, he was impressed with the group who would carry out this plan.
“Some of them had that fired up look in their eyes,” he said with a little fire of his own.
“There’s a new energy,” he added.
Knauer brings the experience of player and coach to the job.
In 1995 he interned as assistant men’s golf coach during his senior year at Texas A&M. A year later he was hired there, serving under golf coach Bob Ellis. He would leave in 1998 for the assistant job at Arizona under Rick LaRose.
“They’re both hall of fame coaches,” Knauer said. “Ellis was a first class guy, and LaRose taught me the philosophy of playing the game, the mental approach to the game.”
Knauer credits his father, Dr. Kenneth Knauer, veterinarian cardiologist at Texas A&M, for his success.
“My dad put a golf club in my hands when I could barely walk,” recalls Knauer. “(As I grew up) we played golf together a lot.”
His childhood fostered a passion for sports and competition.
“Growing up in College Station, we used to gather in the neighborhood. One day we would set up a little golf course in the yard, and another day we would put two folding chairs with bamboo rods across them for hurdles. We would hold track meets.”
But it was golf that captured his heart. He completed nine holes at six and was in his first golf tournament by age 10.
“You go to the same golf course; you know your best score on that course-it’s the same course (you’ve played before), and I really enjoy trying to always outdo myself or go to the next level.”
He attended high school at A&M Consolidated in College Station where he was a letterman in golf all four years. However, Knauer never played golf at his alma mater, Texas A&M, where he graduated with a degree in kinesiology.
He is astute, a student of the game on the golf course as well as off. This strength, as well as his winning experience with big-time programs in big- time pressure situations, is an asset for UTSA men’s golf.
“Some new rules have been put in place, in the NCAA, that really open it up for all teams. Whereas before it would be tougher (to compete) when only all the top schools played each other and stayed highly ranked, and the smaller schools couldn’t get into those tournaments,” Knauer said.
For example, UTSA will be competing in one of the top collegiate golf events, the Tucker Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sept. 26-27.
Knauer’s decision to accept the head coaching position at UTSA was influenced by the chance to compete on the national stage, the university’s location and its current expansion.
Family also played an important role in his desicion.
“It’s good to be closer to home. My wife and daughter are only three hours away instead of 15, when I was in Arizona.”
Being a Texas native, Knauer appreciates the uniqueness of the state.
“You know, when you’re drivin’ down the road and a George Strait song comes on in Arizona, it isn’t the same as when a George Strait song comes on when you’re drivin’ in Texas. It just doesn’t feel right,” Knauer said. You know it’s Texas; it’s its own country. There’s no place like it.”
UTSA men’s golf will be on the road starting Sept. 8 in Denton, Texas. From there they will travel to New Mexico and California before returning to Texas for the UTSA Comanche Trace Invitational in Kerrville, Oct. 27 and 28.