When Austin Conroy took over the Indiana Wesleyan men’s golf team at the beginning of 2014, he had heard a little bit about Jake Coffey.
Now, Conroy, a former NAIA All-American at IWU, is getting to see first-hand all the great things he had heard about Coffey’s game. The freshman from Columbus North has helped lead the Wildcats to this week’s NAIA Tournament in Daytona Beach, Florida.
“I knew his pedigree and definitely heard of him,” Conroy said. “I’ve only seen Jake play a little bit, but I knew his background. He’s such a talent, and I kind of have to be careful and not forget that he’s only a freshman.”
Coffey played like a seasoned veteran in the Crossroads League championship. He carded rounds of 77, 76 and 75 at Harbour Trees in Noblesville to tie for fifth individually and help lead IWU to the team title and an automatic NAIA tourney berth.
“It felt good,” Coffey said. “It’s a big confidence boost going down there (to nationals). It’s a confidence boost for the entire team.”
This spring, Coffey has played mostly in the No. 2 and 3 positions for the Wildcats. He played some No. 1 and No. 2 in the fall for former coach Steve Evans.
“I felt like it was a breakthrough in the spring,” Coffey said. “The weather in the spring was a lot more consistent. The weather has been clearing up, and I’m starting to harness everything. At conference, everything came together, and I shot some consistent scores.”
Coffey has become more adjusted to the college game this spring.
“It’s been quite different for me,” Coffey said. “Definitely in the fall, it was figuring out how to manage my time. In the spring, we have less tournaments, but I feel like I’m playing just as much as high school.”
He worked at his game over the winter, as well.
“He’s always in the weight room and working out and swinging in front of the mirrors,” Conroy said. “It’s easy to keep the clubs in the corner of your dorm room and collect dust when its 20 degrees outside instead of hitting balls, but he was there hitting balls. He’s someone that quietly goes about his business and gets better every day.”
The NAIA Tournament begins Tuesday and continues through Friday in Daytona Beach.
“I look for him to do really well at nationals,” Conroy said. “We’re going to get some good weather down there, and his game is going to be perfect for it.”
“I think I’m going to go into it with no specific goals and take it shot-by-shot, hole-by hole,” Coffey said. “I’m not going to go into it with too big of expectations. I’m just going to go and do the best I can.”
Coffey, who majors in accounting and finance, hasn’t ruled out playing professionally when his college days are done.
“I haven’t really thought about it, but that’s definitely an option,” Coffey said. “It depends how I play the next few years.”
Conroy is happy to have Coffey for three more years.
“He’s the type of kid that is going to be a model recruit for me going forward,” Conroy said. “He is going to be a great, great person to build a team around. He’s somebody that I’m going to model my recruiting around.”