Coach’s vision allows UH to take flight
Six years ago, assistant coach Chris Hill marked 2014 on his calendar.
Though he worked for Houston Baptist at the time, Hill knew he would soon join his good friend Jonathan Dismuke at UH.
Hill and Dismuke, the director of golf, believed that 2014 would be the year that the Cougars would go from also-rans to regaining the national prominence the program once enjoyed when legendary former coach Dave Williams led UH to 16 national titles.
Hill is no fortune teller, but his premonition proved correct. UH, which was No. 180 when Dismuke arrived, has risen to No. 8 in Golfweek’s rankings.
“The history was here, and Houston is a golf community. It gets behind junior golf and player development,” Hill said. “Where there’s history, they’ve done it before, and the pieces were here. We just needed Jonathan to put them back together.”
The Cougars and junior Roman Robledo have swept three consecutive team and individual titles, including a defeat of No. 1 Alabama at the Querencia Cabo Intercollegiate on March 4. The win stopped Alabama’s 11-game winning streak.
UH will put its three-game winning streak on the line Monday with a trip to Palm City, Fla., where it will face 11 teams in the top 30 during the Valspar Invitational at Floridian.
The Cougars’ success this season didn’t surprise the coaching staff or the players. Hill said he knew the team was ready to compete at a high level when the golfers “worked harder than they’ve ever worked” during the offseason, but the players knew earlier.
“We knew right after we won conference that we were going to do something special,” said senior golfer Curtis Reed. “Amongst us, we were saying, ‘We’re going to be good. We’re going to be really good next year.’”
Since winning the Conference USA tournament for the first time since 2001 and making the NCAA tournament, the Cougars have won four tournaments and crept into the top 10.
Some of the Cougars’ ascension can be attributed to Robledo’s growth as a golfer. He leads UH with a 70.86 scoring average, 15 rounds of par or better and seven rounds in the 60s to earn a No. 15 ranking among individuals. Robledo, a two-time American Athletic Conference Golfer of the Week and a Golfweek National Player of the Week, has won four tournaments in 2014.
However, Robledo said the team’s chemistry and competitiveness have helped him develop as a golfer.
“The way our team works, we’re tight. It’s like a brotherhood,” Robledo said. “We’re there for each other no matter what.”
Before Robledo’s recent hot streak, Hill said his golfers reminded him of the 2004 NBA champion Detroit Pistons, who didn’t have a star but played well as a team to upset the glamorous Los Angeles Lakers in the finals.
Like the Pistons’ Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, Dismuke took over a program starving to return to championship contention.
Now, the Cougars have championship expectations and expect to win every tournament they enter. Brown has already earned a title, but Hill has no doubts that Dismuke will win at the championship level.
“I met Jonathan six years ago when I was at Houston Baptist. He was the first person I met while I was recruiting. Wherever he was going to coach, I was going with him,” Hill said.
“He’s the best coach in golf.”