Lucas at Large: Burcin opens notebook to build UW program

MGLF_110726_Burcin_Michael.jpgDuring his formative years as a South Carolina assistant golf coach Michael Burcin got in the habit of documenting his "brainstorming'' on a laptop. Whenever he got an idea, he filed it away.

Burcin preserved nearly everything; notes, quotes, maybe even some anecdotes.

"Riding in the car, you might have something that pops into your head,'' Burcin said, "and I thought I needed to keep track of this stuff. It really piqued my interest, so I started doing it.''

Mostly, he related everything back to becoming a better and more understanding coach through his evaluation of every situation that might come up during recruiting or the course of a season.

"Everything from how to handle qualifying to how to handle personal issues.'' he said. "After every season, I made notes on the makeup of the team and what I thought we could have done better.''

All of this came instinctively to Burcin, a coach's kid. His dad and granddad were coaches.

One of the things that Burcin chronicled on his computer was a stage in South Carolina's development under coach Bill McDonald; a growth spurt when the Gamecocks become more proactive.

"We had to do a lot of reaching out in the community and to the club pros and instructors,'' Burcin remembered. "For whatever reason, it hadn't been done in the past there.''

Burcin finds himself in a similar position today as the new men's golf coach at UW. Since his hiring in early June, he has already reached out to alums and club pros throughout the state of Wisconsin.

"If you can have a solid relationship with club pros, whether they went to school at Wisconsin or not, they can be a huge ally,'' said Burcin, 35, a former club pro himself in Lancaster, Pa.

"It's important to have those guys on your side. More importantly, they have to trust me and what I'm doing and know that I have the best interests of the kids and the program in mind.''

To the point, he added, where "they're going to call me if they have a kid. We're probably not going to have a roster of 10 Wisconsin kids. But I need to get the best player in the state every year.''

Burcin has been genuinely encouraged by his reception so far. "I've gotten unbelievable feedback,'' he said. "It blew my mind how positive people have been.''

Nationally recognized for his recruiting -- he was singled out as the nation's top assistant in 2010 -- Burcin has always put an emphasis on building relationships as a recruiter and a coach.

"I love recruiting,'' he said. "To do it well, I think you have to like it. I know a lot of guys who hate it. Would I rather be at home with my 5-month old (Josie) and my wife (Michelle)? Sure.

"But it's all about recruiting and relationships. Those are the most important thing we're going to do here -- and they're reversible and intertwined -- relationships and recruiting.

"What's exciting is that we're trying to do some things that haven't been done here in awhile, and we're trying to get players to come here that maybe would have considered this place in the past.''

What does he see as some of the keys to executing his plan for the Badgers? "Changing the mindset of the program; changing the expectations to what we can do here,'' he said.

He knows how challenging it might be, too. "Recruiting is going to be a lot of work,'' he said, "because we're going to do a different type of recruiting than what was done here in the past.''

Different how? "We're going to be more active,'' he said, noting that his assistant, Bryant Odom, didn't attend a recent youth camp at University Ridge because he was on the road recruiting.

Burcin has a vision for the program. But he must convince his golfers on its viability.

"I think that's the biggest challenge,'' he said. "We've got to get these kids seeing themselves competing at a high level in the conference, in the regionals and in the NCAAs.

"When kids come here, they've got to understand that we're trying to do some seriously big things here. I don't know it all; nor does my assistant.

"But we're both coming from programs where expectations were very high (Odom is a former Georgia All-American and grad assistant) and the kids knew, 'This is what we do here.'''

Overall, Burcin has been pleased by the "willingness'' of the UW golfers that he has inherited.

"I've been blown away by how great the kids are here,'' he said.  "I just told them, 'Alright guys, this is what we have to think about doing now.'

"And I don't think it's because they don't want to (compete at the highest levels). I just don't think it has been part of how things have been done.''

The Badgers already have some resources in place, starting with University Ridge. "This golf course,'' Burcin said, "is better than anything we had access to in Columbia (South Carolina).''

Now add a new indoor facility. "That practice facility,'' he said, "will be as good, if not better than, anything I've seen in the country. When we have that building, it's really going to make things exciting.''