MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – You probably recognize the name “Molinari” from the back of a No. 48 old gold and blue football jersey. Michael Molinari was the man behind that jersey from 2011 to 2014.
Molinari wasn’t really recruited to play football coming out of high school. His only hope at being a collegiate football player was to attempt becoming a walk-on at his chosen school, which happened to be West Virginia University.
“My only option was to come up here and try out, “ said Molinari. “I wanted to (play), but the uncertainty was really high. But, I came up here and I tried out for the team and Coach Stewart (Bill Stewart) gave me an opportunity. Once I made the team, I knew that was the fit for me.”
When Molinari was a freshman, Bill Stewart had put together one of the most iconic rosters in West Virginia football history. That year, Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Bruce Irvin led the Mountaineers to an unforgettable Orange Bowl victory, defeating the Clemson Tigers 70-33.
According to Molinari, that game rings a bell as one of the best moments of his football career.
“A lot of great experiences, you’ve got the Orange Bowl victory, and I had a lot of great individual performances that are very relevant in my brain,” said Molinari, reminiscing on his gridiron days. “Just very memorable. Just being a part of a team and being able to experience that for four years was what sticks out the most. And the friendships that I made and just being able to be around those type of guys and experience that, that’s what sticks out the most.”
For most athletes, their collegiate athletic experience ends when their four years of eligibility run out. But for Molinari, he now has the opportunity to partake in yet another Division I sport at West Virginia, as a Graduate Assistant for the Men’s Golf team.
“I wasn’t too serious about (golf) but once I got to college I started working at a golf course and that kind of boosted my interest in the game of golf,” he said. “I got the opportunity to meet Coach Covich (Sean Covich) through a friend and we played some golf together last summer and created a relationship. I kind of knew that he was going to need to hire a graduate assistant and I knew that I wanted to stay in school so I knew I’d be looking for a graduate assistantship so it was kind of unsaid but it just happened.”
Since then, Covich has helped Molinari realize some future career dreams. Molinari says Covich is like a mentor to him, sharing his ample golf experiences and allowing him to envision what he hopes to be a long career in the golf industry.
“I mean that’s what I wanna do potentially as a career,” Molinari said. “So, to be able to be around him and just being able to absorb all of his experience…just being around that has helped me a lot and further enhanced my wants and desires to work in the golf industry one day.”
As a Graduate Assistant, some of Molinari’s duties include handling the transportation for the team, helping prepare for daily practices and competitions, and ultimately being the coach’s right-hand-man.
While football was obviously a big part of Molinari’s life, he’s decided it’s time for bigger and better things.
“I had the opportunity to stay with the football team and be a GA for them but I kind of wanted to branch out a little bit and do something different,” he said. “Golf provided me with that opportunity. To be able to experience football as a DI athlete and go through that process and then transition into golf as a GA, I can take a lot from football and apply it to being a GA. That adds a lot to the experience I already have.”
This year, the Men’s Golf team is returning to West Virginia University as an official varsity Division I sport for the first time in 30 years. The team will partake in 13 tournaments during the 2015-16 season.
Headlining the roster is Easton Renwick, a redshirt senior regarded as one of the top golfers in the Big 12. Others include freshmen Cole Hand and Max Sear, sophomore Tae Wan Lee, and junior Alan Cooke among others.
“We’re very excited about the season,” says Molinari. “We’re anxious to see how we compete as a Big 12 team. The Big 12 Conference is pretty good golf wise…Just moving forward, excited to have a golf team here. That’s the bottom line, and we’re gonna enjoy it.”