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Mix and Match

Men's golf team drives to success with an international roster.
J.J. Spaun
J.J. Spaun
Ryan Donovan is among the winningest coaches in Aztec history. Now in his ninth season as head coach for men’s golf, he has led the team to 76 top-10 tournament finishes (including 11 of 13 in 2009-10); 53 top-five tournament performances; and three NCAA national championship appearances.

An SDSU graduate, Donovan was named Mountain West Coach of the Year in 2011, the same year he was tabbed Eaton Golf Pride West Region Division I Men’s Coach of the Year by the Golf Coaches Association of America.

Just over a decade ago, Donovan, ’01, was on the green for the Aztecs as a player himself. He turned pro briefly, returned to Montezuma Mesa as assistant coach in 2003, and took the helm at the beginning of the 2004 spring season.

“When I started here, I knew I needed to jump-start the program,” Donovan said. “We were just beginning to build it up again, and my goal was to use all the resources available to recruit top-level student-athletes.”

Donovan sought out the best native talent while simultaneously recruiting from outside the country.

“I flew overseas every year to recruit great talent from places other schools weren’t touching,” he said. “The students liked hearing they could play golf all year round.”

Donovan’s mix-and-match strategy has filled the Aztec roster with plenty of Californians leavened with players from Europe, Canada and New Zealand. A top recruit from close to home is Los Angeles County native, J.J. Spaun, pictured at left, who led the team in stroke average last year with a 71.62.

Spaun had the best season of his young career in 2010-11, tying for third at the NCAA championships, garnering third team All-America honors and capturing all-league honors for the second consecutive year.

He was also named the Golfweek National Player of the Week last April when he joined Phil Mickelson as the only competitors to win back-to-back individual titles at the 39-year-old Thunderbird Invitational in Arizona.

Playing with international recruits is a plus for Spaun. “Having people from different backgrounds gives the team balance,” he said. “The camaraderie is great, regardless of background, and it’s valuable to learn things from players with different experiences.”

To follow Spaun and the 18th-ranked Aztec men’s golf team during their 2012 spring season, visit goaztecs.com.
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