Golf coach aims high for low scores

By Tyler Davis

When Leroy Newton began his job as SIU’s ninth men’s golf coach only one Bush had been president, and the cost of tuition at SIU was $3,522.

Newton retired in May after 18 years on the job.

The man who succeeded Newton in July, Justin Fetcho, was not even in high school when Newton took over at SIU. Nearly five presidential terms later, Fetcho begins at a time when the cost of tuition at SIU is more than $10,000, according to It’s safe to say times have changed.


Fetcho, an Eldorado native, was a former assistant at the University of Illinois, the University of Oregon and the University of South Florida. He wants to change one more thing about Southern Illinois University.

“I want to bring the Missouri Valley Championship back to Carbondale,” Fetcho said. That would be the first championship in the 39-years of Saluki golf in the MVC.

Fetcho knows those results won’t come easily. Newton led the Salukis to their best stretch in school history. Over Newton’s career SIU had eight top 4 finishes in the MVC tournament and 13 All-Conference golfers.

Fetcho said he respects everything Newton did for SIU golf but sees his hiring as a chance to make history.

“I think Coach Newton did a great job building up the program,” he said. “I’ve known Coach Newton for a long time and I’ve got some big shoes to fill, but that championship is our goal and we’re going to get better each and every day leading up to that conference championship.”

Some players have already noticed Fetcho’s more intense approach. Junior Drew Novara said in just a few conversations, he realized the new coach will demand more out of his players.

“Talking with Coach Fetcho I think we are planning on working out a little harder,” Novara said. “I think some of our practices will be a little bit tougher.”


“Working hard” is a phrase Newton used frequently, but after a couple poor finishes in a row, Newton said he questioned how hard his golfers were working during an interview in April. He said his team was “not working hard enough” after a bad showing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock First Tee Collegiate Classic.

Fetcho said hard work and dedication will not be a question on his team.

“What I’m going to bring to try to turn this around is going to be hard work,” he said. “We’re going to be working hard, we’re going to be preparing and we’re going to have this attitude from the first practice of the year.”

He said his attitude of preparation and practice is a product of his former jobs at other schools. He has worked on some of the best teams in the nation including an Illinois team that finished in the top 5 twice.

While at USF Fetcho worked closely with two Big East Freshmen of the Year and at Oregon he was an interim head coach with the women’s team. Fetcho said these experiences have prepared him to lead a team.

“I’ve been very diverse in my locations,” he said. “I’ve been on the East Coast, West Coast, Midwest; I’ve worked for some great coaches and I’ve learned a lot, so now is a great opportunity for me to combine all that and put my own little flavor into the team aspect.”

Senior Steve Souchek also noticed Fetcho’s differences from Newton.

“I think Coach Fetcho is a lot more business-like,” Souchek said. “I think a lot of things will be more structured and timely versus Coach Newton who would usually let us know about our practices the day of. I think with Coach Fetcho, we might have schedules in advance.”

Even with the changes coming for Saluki golf, Fetcho expects his team to contend from day one. He said even though Wichita State University has claimed 12 of the last 15 MVC Championships, he is not worried about SIU competing.

He said strategy and focus will be vital to unseating the dominant Shockers.

“I’m not scared of Wichita State,” he said. “I’m not scared of any of the teams in our conference. I respect them, but every time we tee it up against them we’re not going to be afraid to play them. We’re going to go out and take care of our business. That’s the only thing we can control.”

“If we have short games, if we drive the ball well and we play the game the right way, that’s what we can control and that’s how we’ll be great.”

It’s been a while since SIU has been “great” in golf. Fetcho hopes to change that and more when the season starts Sept. 8 in Edwardsville.

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected]on Twitter @TDavis_DE