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New women’s golf coach injecting life into program

New women’s golf coach injecting life into program

New women’s golf coach injecting life into program
September 21
15:59 2016

Four months after leading Texas State University to a Sun Belt conference championship and its sixth NCAA tournament appearance, Michael Akers, the newly hired North Texas women’s golf coach, sits in a cluttered office in the Olympic Sports Complex plotting the progress of the No. 198 ranked Mean Green.

Akers’ objective: improve the team 100 spots in the national rankings by the end of the season.

“I have the results from last year on the whiteboard in my office that I look at to know this is where I was, and obviously up here is where I want to get to,” Akers said. “I can’t jump from here to here. It’s going to be a lot of steps but I really think we can jump 100 spots in the national rankings.”

After one season at Texas State, Akers helped the Bobcats leap from 148th to 48th, and by the end of the 2007 season, had amassed six top-five finishes, a Southland Conference Championship and the school’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament.

“Part of my personality is definitely the underdog story,” Akers said. “At Texas State, we were able to beat Texas, Texas A&M, everybody in the Big 12 — that really drives me and this will be the Cinderella as well.”

Akers’ journey through golf began when his dad gave him a cut-down club at 3-years-old. Since then, he’s been obsessed with the game. After playing collegiately at Fort Hays State University, he was faced with the reality of not being able to play on the PGA Tour. Instead of quitting, he began a career as a club professional teaching the game.

From 1995-2002 Akers served as head PGA professional at Hays’ Smoky Hill Country Club, and in 2001, co-authored and produced an instructional CD titled “Build Your Perfect Swing.”

But in 2005, Akers returned to college golf, this time as an assistant coach at the University of Central Florida, where he said he learned an important lesson.

“I felt as a golf pro, I got too wrapped up in the perfect swing and lost sight of getting the ball in the hole,” Akers said. “Now as a coach that’s all that matters. It’s the score you put on the card and there [are] many different ways to do it.”

After one year as an assistant to both the men’s and women’s teams at UCF, Akers began his 10-year stint at Texas State.

And in May, former athletic director Rick Villarreal announced North Texas hired Akers as the full-time women’s golf coach.

“We believe that he brings a lot of golf expertise as well as great recruiting,” Villarreal said at the time of the hire. “We are excited about the team he can put together to emulate our men’s golf program.”

Junior golfer Nyca Khaw said Akers is already making an impact on the team.

Through one tournament, the Mean Green have improved their average by one stroke — a statistic Khaw attributes to Akers’ guidance on the course.

“We just came back from Lubbock and he helped me a lot,” Khaw said. “Like the way he walks with us from hole to hole to make sure we know what we’re doing and we know where to aim. He means a lot to the team.”

Although Akers has only been in Denton four months, he said the difference between working at Texas State and North Texas is night and day.

“At Texas State, I had to build all the resources and fund all the travel,” he said. “But here, everything is lined up. It’s just a matter of recruiting and developing.”

Akers’ personal strategy is not to interfere with players’ swings since most college golfers have their own swing coaches. But with the current squad he has, Akers won’t shy away from lending his insight.

“With this group, I’m jumping right in there,” he said. “We’re developing this group and we can take this group further than they’ve been. There’s been a lot more development than I’ve been doing in the recent past.”

Akers, however, isn’t just getting involved in the physical aspects of the game – he’s also focusing on the mental side. For him, the two go hand-in-hand.

Since the Mean Green have finished last in their past four tournaments, Akers is focused on building player confidence. To do so, he and men’s golf coach Brad Stracke have added a sports psychologist to the golf program in hopes of unlocking each player’s potential.

Akers said he’s been talking to the team about the goal of winning the Conference USA championship and has even started a group text where he shares motivational messages from time to time.

All things he believes will help turn the program around.

“You can’t win unless you believe you can and you set that goal,” Akers said. “It’s all about programming your brain for success.”

As his first season gets in full swing, Akers is excited to embrace the challenge at North Texas and eagerly awaits what the future holds.

“I pinch myself every day that I have this opportunity,” Akers said. “I’m in a department that operates at Division I. It’s mind boggling, the support. I’m just thrilled to be here.”

Featured Image: Michael Akers, Mean Green women’s golf coach, looks to make the 2016-’17 year a success. Akers has hired individual psychologists for the players and looks to progress the team through personal strategy. 

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Austin Jackson

Austin Jackson

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