HUNTINGTON — When someone following sports mentions “home cooking,” it usually means favorable officiating or other advantages for the home team.
But when future Marshall University golfer Will Evans talks about home cooking, he means something from the stove.
“I was stuck between two schools,” said Evans, a George Washington High School senior who finished fifth in the 2012 West Virginia Class AAA State Tournament. “Two weekends ago, we visited Marshall. Coach (Matt) Grobe took us around campus, and there was nothing I disliked. I liked everything about it.
“Plus, it’s close to home, so I can come home every once in a while and eat a home-cooked meal.”
So, Evans signed with the thundering Herd last week in a ceremony at GWHS.
Grobe also is a big believer in home cooking.
“I think whenever we have a chance to have good West Virginia kids stay in state and come to Marshall, you can’t ask for much more,” said Grobe, who just finished his first season with the Thundering Herd. “I just think we’ve got a kid in Will who’s on the upswing.
“What you see with Will is constant improvement. He has a good work ethic, and over the last four years, he’s just been getting better and better.”
In addition to Evans’ golf abilities, Grobe said the two-time All-State golfer is the complete package and a perfect fit for the Herd family. “I think what we look for is good character kids, and Will has that,” Grobe said. “He’s a good kid and a good student. And, of course, he’s a really, really good golfer. He has all three elements that we look for in our student-athletes.”
Grobe said he has known Evans for a few years, primarily through his friendship with Will’s father, Barry Evans, the head pro at Berry Hills Country Club in Charleston. The elder Evans won the 2002 PGA Professional National Championship and the 2008 West Virginia Open.
“When I was first an assistant pro at Sleepy (Hollow, in Hurricane), Barry was one of those guys I looked up to,” said Grobe, who might know a little about trying to break out of his father’s shadow. His dad, Huntington native Jim Grobe, in the longtime Wake Forest football coach and a former Herd assistant.
“Now to have Will playing for me here at Marshall is really special,” Grobe said. “Barry is a great golf professional, one of the all-time greats. He’s mentored so many professionals, and he’s done a really well with Will.”
Will Evans said it is beneficial to have his father to lean on for advice.
“Everywhere we go, he seems to know everybody,” Will said of his dad. “Everybody looks up to him. He’s a great guy. He just supports me in everything I do, not just golf.
“So, being closer to home and closer to him for college is comforting. Being close makes it easier to come home and hang out with him a little bit.”
Barry Evans might be more excited about Will playing college golf than Will is himself.
“Yesterday was a proud day,” Barry Evans said a day after the official signing. “It’s wonderful. I thought everything about him signing with Marshall made sense.
“I think the world of Matt Grobe. He’s a great guy, and he cares about the kids. Marshall was my first choice for Will, and it ended up being his, too.”
Barry Evans said he’s done all he can to prepare his son for the next level.
“Matt was the first one to say he’s not going to change anything,” Barry Evans said. “Matt is a good player, too. And from what I’ve learned about him, I’m not going to be upset if he’s trying to help Will.
“Will’s got to the point where he helps himself now, too. I had great fun teaching my son. The most fun wasn’t teaching him how to hit the ball though. It was teaching him how to play. He has a good thought process. I know how to play the game, and I think I’ve taught him some of that. You can win tournaments when you’re not playing your best.”
Barry Evans said he’s excited to watch Will play as much as possible for the Herd.
“I’ll do what I can, but I still have a job,” he said with a chuckle.
“I’m gone a decent amount playing in tournaments myself (mostly on the Tri-State PGA circuit, in Pennsylvania and West Virginia). But I’m 51 now, and the competitive desire has waned a little bit. I get more nervous now when Will’s playing and I can’t be there. I am sick to my stomach waiting to hear from him.”
Grobe said the addition of Will Evans is one more piece of the puzzle he’s trying to solve.
“We’re just trying to build a program that has a little bit of depth,” he said. “And Will does help with that. This fall, we realized we have to be strong and a little deeper.
“We’re trying to get to a place where all of our players, 1 through 10, are solid. That way, we’ll have no off years. We just want to get a little deeper and have everybody pushing the guy ahead of them.” Will is eager to do his part.
“I’ve played in a ton of junior tournaments, but I’m eager to compete against other college athletes,” he said, adding that his decision came down to Marshall or the College of Charleston (S.C.). “I’ve played golf for years, but I wasn’t real serious about it until the seventh grade.
“Now, I’ve signed with a Division I program. It’s a dream come true.