It is easy to have an affinity for a town, region or even sports team. A lot of the time, where a person is from may define their futures and fandoms.
For David Nuhn, the head coach of the Idaho men’s golf team, a deep love for the sport of golf and the University of Idaho has led to a career in which he can combine the two and have a direct influence on the betterment of the lives of his players.
Nuhn’s relationship with Idaho began when he was born at Moscow’s Gritman Medical Center in the summer of 1986. The decision to dedicate his life to golf would come shortly after birth, as he decided that the sport was his calling at the age of four.
“I decided early on that I wanted to be a professional golfer,” Nuhn said. “Everyone kind of has dreams like that, but I felt as if it was something I really could achieve.”
As a standout at Moscow High School, Nuhn and fellow teammate, Chris Williams, would put the Bears on the map as a golf powerhouse with five straight state championships. A decisive victory at the state tournament at Rupert Country Club in the spring of 2005, in which Nuhn shot a 70, would earn him a scholarship to Idaho and a chance to continue his career in Moscow.
As a Vandal from 2007-2010, Nuhn averaged scores in the low to mid-70s, improving throughout his four seasons. After finishing in the top-20 at the Western Athletic Conference championships three years straight, a career as a professional seemed as a likely future.
After school, Nuhn began working on his Class-A Professional Golf Association certification, a goal which he has stuck with for several years.
“I should be done with my PGA certification in a few months,” Nuhn said. “You never know when opportunities will arise, so if you’re genuinely working to get a little better and a little further, those opportunities will show up.”
Despite the eventual professional-certification, Nuhn said coaching has always been in the back of his mind, per many peers suggesting that he would make a great coach. Another reason he decided to try his hand at coaching was the stability of the career.
Nuhn and his wife, Paula, a fellow Vandal, met in college and now have three young children together.
“Once I settled down and had some kids with my wife I began to look at the family aspect of being a professional golfer and I decided it’s not worth it,” Nuhn said. “Overall, professional golf is an an arduous and difficult goal. You have to be dedicated while also feeding mouths at home, making money and sustaining that lifestyle. So I said ‘okay what’s the long term plan?’ and I decided on coaching.”
After a short stint as an assistant coach at Washington State University in 2015, Nuhn was offered the head coaching job for Idaho in January of 2016.
As the head coach, Nuhn said he works anywhere between 60-70 hours per week. Planning trips, practicing, meeting with fundraisers, going to events and tournaments, recruiting and making sure his players are doing well in school and mentally are only some of his responsibilities.
“It’s more of a labor of love,” Nuhn said. “You don’t always keep track; you just enjoy it. It certainly doesn’t always feel like work.”
Now nearing the end of his second season as head coach, Nuhn said the job is not simply about coaching his players to be better golfers. Acting as a role model to provide his team with the skills to be outstanding members of society is another important part of coaching.
Nuhn’s style of coaching preaches confidence and comfortability, two important aspects of a successful life.
Often, players will begin collegiate play with some sort of a deficiency in their play, whether it be a heavy draw or slice or simply, the anxiousness of competing at a high-level.
Nuhn said players do not need to be changed to perfect their game. Instead, they should work with what suits them best.
“My early-on philosophy is that you need to be comfortable with what you’ve got, because there’s always going to be mechanical tweaks here and there,” Nuhn said. “It’s not about how everyone needs to be changed to fit the mold that I see that will make them a pro golfer, it’s preaching that you’re going to be a pro golfer because you’ll use the skills you have to do the best you can.”
Nuhn’s style as a coach is not to harp on his players after a tough defeat, rather, he wants to lift his team up and build confidence. He said he understands that golf is a game that is not consistently won, even by the best in the world.
Nuhn said that motivating the players to make progressions after each failure by highlighting the positives, then recognizing and attacking each failure is what will alter their futures for the better. Nuhn’s players recognize and respect this style of coaching.
“He’s great because he’s not here to tell us what we did wrong,” Senior Ryan Porch said. “I’ve never seen someone care so much for people. There’s no negative thoughts from him. He always brings out the positive.”
In golf, positives are almost a rarity. Ask anyone about a recent round and the usual response is something along the lines of, “could’ve been better.”
Porch said, after a rough tournament, Nuhn will gather the team and ask each player to list off some positives.
Nuhn said he feels as though he can sometimes come off as cold or rough to people who do not know him, but this is just his sarcastic, semi-cynical, comedic personality shining through. Self-described as “real,” a guy who will say it how it is, Nuhn said being genuine is important because the team is somewhat of a close family, and authenticity is something that can bring people together in support.
Even though the majority of his time is spent on the betterment of the student-athletes, Nuhn still finds a little bit of time to indulge in his interests — camping with the family, Seattle sports teams, The Dave Matthews Band, Tom Hanks films and, especially, golf.
“My schedule has been diminished but that’s just the nature of prioritizing,” Nuhn said. “That’s ok it’s just part of the job. I still get events here and there, maybe eight or 10 per year, but I still have to be able to go out and show the guys a thing or two.”
After a championship last season at the Big Sky tournament, Nuhn’s goal as a coach, getting his team to the NCAA tournament, appears as a likely future. Although national recognition is important, Nuhn said the game itself comes second to a successful future.
“It doesn’t end with success on the field,” Nuhn said. “Idaho has a lot of value to kids. The goal is to get kids out in the work force that impact the world positively. Those attributes are always more important than trophies or rings on fingers.”
Colton Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @coltonclark95