Ryan Donovan

TitleHead Coach
Ryan Donovan

Last updated on Sept. 6, 2023

Ryan Donovan is in his 21st season as head coach at San Diego State, having elevated his alma mater into a perennial contender on the national stage.

Donovan has coached the Aztecs to 212 top-10 overall tournament finishes, 142 top-five performances, 38 team titles and seven NCAA championship appearances, highlighted by a fifth-place tie at nationals in 2012. During his tenure, SDSU has advanced to the NCAA regionals in 18 of 19 campaigns (2020 NCAA championships were canceled) and have also finished no worse than second at the Mountain West championships in eight of the last 13 seasons SDSU competed (2020 MW championships were canceled), winning team titles in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2022 and 2023.

Under Donovan's guidance, Aztec golfers have garnered 38 all-Mountain West accolades and 18 all-region honors, while seven of his pupils have been named to 14 All-America teams. In addition, Donovan has mentored four MW player of the year winners in Puwit Anupansuebsai (2020), Nahum Mendoza III (2016), J.J. Spaun (2012) and Aaron Goldberg (2008), as well as the trio of Ricky DeSantis (2014), Riccardo Michelini (2013), Matt Hoffenberg (2008) and Dylan Oyama (2023), who were each named conference freshman of the year in their respective rookie seasons.

The 2022-23 season was one of the best in program history. San Diego State finished with three team championships last year, claiming New Mexico's William H. Tucker Intercollegiate (Sept. 23-24, 2022) at 16-under 848, the Wyoming Cowboy Classic (April 3-4, 2023) title for a third straight year at 7-under 857 and the MW Championship (April 28-30, 2023) for a second straight year at 60-under 804. According to Golfstat, the Aztecs' 281.85 stroke average last season was the best in program history, while at the MW Championship SDSU set program lows for a 54-hole score (804) and 18-hole score (260 in the final round), winning the title by 25 strokes over runner-up New Mexico. Both Justin Hastings and Shea Lague earned PING All-Region honors and All-Mountain West accolades for the first time, while Oyama was named the MW Freshman of the Year. SDSU tied for seventh at the NCAA Salem Regional after entering as the No. 4 seed.

The 2021-22 season was another good one for Donovan and the Aztecs. SDSU played its best down the stretch, winning a pair of team titles, including repeating at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic (April 4-5) and the Mountain West Championship (April 29-May 1). San Diego State's season came to an end with an eighth-place showing at the NCAA Norman Regional, 13 spots behind Utah for fifth place and the region's final spot into the NCAA Championships. Anupansuebsai became SDSU's first four-time all-Mountain West selection, while Zihao Jin was recognized on the all-conference team for the first time of his career. Hastings won the UC San Diego Invitational for SDSU's lone individual title.

Despite losing its No. 2 and No. 3 golfers from in 2020, SDSU had a great season in 2021 (fall 2020 was canceled), recording two team victories (Southwestern Invitational and Wyoming Cowboy Classic), seven top-5 finishes and three individual titles. Additionally, the Aztecs made their first NCAA tournament since 2016, ultimately tying for 25th. Anupansuebsai led the way for SDSU, being named a Golfweek Honorable Mention All-American, a PING All-West Region selection and a all-Mountain West pick. Anupansuebsai won a pair of tournaments, including the NCAA Kingston Springs Regional (May 17-19) and a playoff victory at the MW Championship (April 29-May 1). Steve Sugimoto also earned all-league accolades, while Liam Koeneke won an individual tournament. 

The Aztecs were poised for a rebound season in 2019-20 before the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cut the season short. SDSU had won the Bill Cullum Invitational going away in the fall with a tournament-record total of 40-under-par 824, and were off to a solid start in the spring before the virus ultimately ended the season. In the spring, San Diego State came in third at a loaded field at The Prestige and then tied for second of 19 teams at the Lamkin Grips San Diego Classic, moving up to No. 28 in the final rankings, released March 19. Juniors Anupansuesbsai (Bill Cullum Invite) and Sugimoto (CSUSM Fujikura Invitational), and sophomore Leo Oyo (The Prestige) all had individual wins for the Aztecs.

The 2018-19 season evolved into another transition year for the Scarlet and Black, as Donovan attempted to overcome the graduation of two-time all-region honoree PJ Samiere and all-conference selection Blake Abercrombie with the infusion of six newcomers to the lineup.  In all, eight different players led the Aztecs during the regular-season tournament schedule, including then sophomore Anupansuesbsai, who gave the Scarlet and Black an all-MW selection for the 18th consecutive year.

Forced to compensate for the loss of three-time all-Mountain West selection and 2016 third-team All-American Nahum Mendoza III, San Diego State witnessed a rebuilding year during the 2017-18 campaign, as four freshmen made at least two varsity starts. Despite the influx of youth, the Aztecs produced another successful season, recording top-10 finishes in 12 of 13 tournaments, including four in the top five. Individually, Samiere capped off his collegiate career by meriting PING All-West Region honors for the second year in a row after earning all-Mountain West recognition along with fellow senior Abercrombie, which gave Donovan multiple all-conference selections for the eighth straight season.

SDSU weathered some nagging injuries during the 2016-17 campaign before clinching another postseason berth. With Donovan at the controls, the Aztecs recorded two tournament victories to go with eight additional top-10 placements, while five different golfers paced the squad in 12 events. Individually, Samiere garnered PING All-West Region accolades and received all-league distinction, along with Mendoza and Abercrombie, giving Donovan three all-MW picks for the fourth year in row.

Donovan also fielded a deep squad in 2015-16 as five different players led the Scarlet and Black in 12 events. Overall, the Aztecs captured two team crowns and finished among the top five in nine of the 10 remaining tournaments, including five in the top three. Along the way, SDSU compiled an impressive 125-30-1 record in head-to-head competition (.804) and maintained a top-30 ranking for most of the year. Not to be outdone, the Aztecs secured their fourth trip to the NCAA Championships in six seasons after a thrilling sudden-death playoff victory over Texas A&M to claim the Albuquerque Regional's fifth and final berth. Meanwhile, Mendoza (second team) and Ryann Ree (honorable mention) each received All-America honors by the GCAA while earning a spot on the all-conference team along with Michelini.

In 2014-15, Donovan collected his third MW Coach of the Year honor after leading the Aztecs to their third league title over a five-year helm. With Donovan at the helm, SDSU logged top-five finishes in eight additional tournaments, including a runner-up showing at the NCAA New Haven Regional to clinch a trip to the national championships for the first time since 2012. Individually, Xander Schauffele capped off his brilliant career on The Mesa, earning third-team All-America honors by PING and Golfweek after collecting his second straight all-region accolade. In addition, Schauffele received all-MW recognition for the third consecutive season, joining first-time honorees Mendoza and Ree.

In 2013-14, Donovan coaxed a youthful squad to the program's 16th straight NCAA regional appearance, following a second-place showing at the MW Championship. Despite a challenging schedule, the Aztecs recorded five top-five finishes on the season, highlighted by the team title at the Jones Invitational in the spring. Individually, Schauffele received all-region distinction and was named to the all-MW team, along with DeSantis and Michelini.

Despite the loss of four regulars from the previous year, Donovan guided SDSU to the brink another NCAA championship berth in 2012-13, before falling in a sudden-death playoff in the regional round. With one senior in the starting lineup, the Aztecs still managed seven top-five team finishes on the season including the championship at their own Lamkin Grips San Diego Classic. Individually, he oversaw the development of Tom Berry, who earned all-region recognition and landed on the all-MW squad, along with fellow teammate Schauffele.

With Donovan at the controls, San Diego State soared to new heights in 2011-12, as the Aztecs posted their highest finish ever at the Division I level with a fifth-place tie at the NCAA Championships. SDSU, which was one of just eight squads to advance to the match-play phase of the tournament, staged an incredible rally during the final 18 holes of medal play, catapulting from 15th all the way into a tie for fourth after carding the low round of the event.

The 2011-12 Aztecs maintained a top-20 ranking throughout the campaign, winning five tournament titles, including four straight, while boasting a combined head-to-head record of 174-27-3 (.860). Donovan helped the team earn consecutive Mountain West crowns, becoming the first league school to accomplish the feat since 2005-06. For his efforts, he was named MW Coach of the Year for the second straight season and was one of just seven finalists for the Dave Williams Award, which is presented annually to the national coach of the year in Division I men's golf.

In 2010-11, Donovan led the program to its first Mountain West and NCAA regional championships. In addition, the Aztecs claimed five other tournament titles, including their own Barona Collegiate Cup at Barona Greek Golf Club. The seven titles ranked second nationally, trailing only consensus No. 1 Oklahoma State, which had eight victories.

He also helped the 2010-11 squad to a high NO. 4 national ranking by, 13 top-five finishes, including 12 in the top three, while boasting a combined head-to-head record of 168-31-1, which amounts to a 84.3 winning percentage. SDSU did not finish lower than seventh at any 2010-11 outing prior to the NCAA national championships and twice was named the national team of the week by Golfweek.

Under Donovan's tutelage, J.J. Spaun was named a third-team All-American and first team all-conference honoree, while freshman Todd Baek picked up honorable mention All-America and national all-freshman accolades. Both Spaun (t-3rd) and Baek (t-10th) finished in the top 10 at the NCAA championships and were joined by Alex Kang on the all-region squad.

Donovan was rewarded for the team's success, becoming the first Aztec named Mountain West Men's Golf Coach of the Year in the league history. He was also honored on the national stage as one of 12 finalists for the Dave Williams Award. In addition, Donovan was tabbed region coach of the year by the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) for the second time in his career.

In 2009-10, Donovan helped San Diego State to seven top-five finishes, including victories at the Turtle Bay Resort College Invite in Hawaii and the Barona Collegiate Cup in March. The Aztecs were also runners-up at the Mountain West Conference championships and prestigious U.S. Intercollegiate, attaining a final No. 24 national ranking in the Golfweek/Sagarin.

Individually, four different SDSU players won or shared an individual tournament title. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Morris kicked off the year by placing first at the Firestone Grill College Invite in October, before Andrew Cooley and Kang shared medalist honors at the Hawaii event in November. In the spring, Spaun, who later was named all-MWC, beat out 88 other golfers to win the Thunderbird Invitational in a playoff in Arizona.

The 2008-09 campaign saw Donovan lead the program to 10 top-five finishes, bolstered by six runner-up performances, en route to its 11th consecutive and 14th overall NCAA regional appearance. The Aztecs ended the season ranked 21st nationally by, and narrowly lost in a playoff to TCU for the 2009 league crown. Three players finished as tournament runners-up, including then sophomore Johan Carlsson, who received conference player-of-the-month honors in November 2008, and was later named all-conference.

Under Donovan's direction in 2007-08, San Diego State placed in the top 14 in all 15 outings with the 15th tournament of the campaign being a 14th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, the school's best placing in 26 years.

Just getting to the national stage took a great leadership from Donovan, as he helped the Aztecs vault 11 places from 20th into a tie for ninth to force a three-way playoff during the final round of the NCAA?West Regionals. SDSU posted a tournament-low tying 5-under-par 283 over the final 18 holes of regulation, then shot a combined 2-under par along with Texas in a shotgun sudden-death format to advance to nationals.

Individually, Donovan tutored a pair of athletes, senior Aaron Goldberg and junior David Palm, to All-America accolades. Goldberg became the first Aztec to gain All-America status in consecutive seasons since 1983-84 after he was awarded with third-team honors. Palm, meanwhile, was named to the honorable mention squad. Additionally, both were all-Mountain West Conference and all-Southwest Region selections. Other players to earn season-ending recognition under Donovan were Matt Hoffenberg (MWC?Freshman of the Year, all-MWC, all-Southwest Region) and Carlsson (all-Southwest Region). For his team's performances, Donovan, himself, was named the Eaton Golf Pride Division I Coach of the Year for the Southwest region, given annually by the GCAA.

In 2006-07, SDSU secured three team tournament titles and reached the NCAA?Regionals for the team's ninth straight appearance. Goldberg had one the program's finest seasons, finishing with a scoring average of 70.71, seven top-10 finishes and medalist honors at the District 7 Fall Shootout on his way to being named a honorable mention PING?All-American, the program's first such honor since 2001.

The 2005-06 season was equally impressive as Donovan guided SDSU to three team tournament victories en route to its eighth consecutive NCAA regional appearance. Three Aztec golfers - seniors Andrew Scott and Josh Warthen and sophomore Palm - also claimed individual titles during the season, while Scott and Goldberg garnered all-Mountain West Conference accolades.

In 2004-05, Donovan led SDSU to its second NCAA championship appearance in three years, while the Aztecs posted 12, top-10 individual finishes to go along with six straight top-five team performances during the regular season.

Donovan returned to Montezuma Mesa as an assistant coach under former head coach and current director of operations Dale Walker, but was later promoted to interim head coach after the conclusion of the 2003 fall season and guided SDSU through the entire 2004 spring campaign.

Donovan completed his first season as head coach with four of his players combining for eight top-five individual finishes and two tournament wins.

Prior to coaching at SDSU, Donovan was a four-year member of the Aztec golf squad and went on to join the professional ranks.

Donovan competed for the Aztecs from 1997-2001. His most successful season came as a junior when he posted five, top-30 finishes. During his senior year, he shot a career-best 4-under 212 at the Aztec Invitational, placing second overall and helping SDSU to the tournament title.

Donovan also has national experience on his playing résumé. He qualified for the U.S. Amateur in 1996 and 1999, and played in the British Amateur in 2001 before turning pro. He then competed on the Golden State Tour in 2001 and the Gateway Tour in 2002.

A native of Yorba Linda, California, Donovan was a four-time all-Sunset League performer at Esperanza High School and was named first-team all-Orange County his senior season. Donovan graduated with a degree in public administration and currently resides in San Diego with his daughter Raegan.