Q&A: Ryan Donovan discusses alumni, memories heading into 18th year as men’s golf coach


Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan, SDSU Athletics

SDSU men’s golf head coach Ryan Donovan walks the course during the Lamkin San Diego Classic on March 10 at San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista, Calif.

by Breven Honda, Senior Staff Writer

A couple of weeks ago, San Diego State men’s golf increased the amount of holes they play (doubled from nine to 18 holes due to COVID-19 regulations) during practice ‒ a couple months before tournament action can begin. 

The Daily Aztec talked to head coach Ryan Donovan about how the program is doing while also addressing SDSU men’s golf alumni and memories as a student-athlete.

The Daily Aztec: How are you and the program doing right now?

Ryan Donovan: “We’re doing well, despite not being able to compete. I was fortunate enough to have my whole team come back to campus at the beginning of the school year and it has helped build our chemistry during this fall season.”

DA: How have you been able to connect with your players during the stay-at-home orders? 

RD: “We’re allowed to practice our 20 hours a week for eight weeks. Right now, my assistant will take half to a course and I will take the other half. It’s been really good because we’ve been a lot more hands-on, one-on-one. And again able to connect with our players during these times.”

DA: During the pandemic, how much more time have you had to recruit or watch film?

RD: “Luckily, golf’s a numbers game, so we’re able to watch a lot of scores, do a lot of face time activities, touch back with our recruits over Zoom and build that relationship, where it’s more than just a phone call. We’re a couple years our recruiting fortunately, so it’s not too stressful.”

DA: Back in May you were one of few schools to promote your program on The Golf Channel’s Back on Campus. What was that experience like?  

RD: “It was amazing to see how much time and the energy the crew spent with our team and how it’s broken down into a short amount of time. I give a lot of credit to The Golf Channel and their staff for all of their hard work. I think it was a cool experience to get recognized. Definitely helps with recruiting. All in all, it was a positive experience.”

DA: You’re entering your 18th year as the head coach at SDSU. What does it mean to you that you’ve been here for that long as a head coach, in addition to as a student athlete from 1997-2001? 

RD: “I live for red and black and for the Aztec family. I feel the connection and the foundation we’ve created over the years, the relationship of our donors, the players and the community. It’s just been a dream of mine. Overall, it’s been a great experience.”

DA: What does it mean that this program has three alumni members on the PGA Tour in Xander Schauffele, JJ Spaun and Scott Piercy?  

RD: “That’s your end goal. There’s an opportunity for you to take your game to the next level. Our goal is to give them all the opportunities possible to get better and improve and we know the stepping stone to get to the tour and we obviously have great facilities and great weather. It’s a dream that is possible.”

DA: What was it like to play with Scott Piercy at SDSU and see him succeed on Tour?

RD: “We’re still good friends and he put a lot of hard work in. People don’t see the background. He’s played in many tours for eight or nine years after college. He bought a motorhome driving from city to city and to see him finally overcome and to make it on the tour has been awesome to watch.”

DA: The Daily Aztec did a top-10 SDSU athlete poll of the 2010s and Schauffele ranked number nine. What was it like to see the success he had as an Aztec?

RD: “He was just a guy that wanted to get better, wanted to work harder than everybody else. He really focused on the mental side of the game. He came here wanting to play in every single college golf tournament and he did that and it helped him get to the next level because he played against all those guys already. It’s super fun to watch. Back in the day, you never know who’s going to make it and who isn’t, but he’s a good guy. A San Diego local supporter.”

DA: What is it like to see the success Schuaffele has had on Tour? 

RD: “I’m just proud of him. I’m proud of all the adversity he’s overcome and his communication to San Diego State and the Aztec program and trying to be involved as much as he can. We’re trying to build that family unit, no matter what level you’re at and it’s nice to have him around supporting us.”

DA: What is the message for this team the rest of the winter and into the spring?

RD: “We’re all about chemistry right now and accountability and the skies the limit for this group. We are a very experienced group and the bar is set pretty high for us. No excuses for us, as we say, and we’ll be ready to go in January.”