Clemson golf’s superstars have moved on, but Tigers are in a good place in new season

Larry Penley
Larry Penley

Clemson’s men’s golf team lost All-American Bryson Nimmer and his sub-70 scoring average to graduation and would-be-a-senior-this-season Doc Redman is already carving out his niche on the PGA Tour.

But this is no time to shed tears for the Tigers, coach Larry Penley said.

“We have really good players,” he said in evaluating his team, currently ranked 15th nationally by Golfstat. “We don’t have a No. 1 guy, a dominant player like Nimmer or Redman, but we have outstanding depth and experience. We challenged them to step up and be accountable, and they have.”

Without Nimmer, who owns a prominent place in the school record book, and Redman, the 2017 U.S. Amateur champion who turned pro in 2018, the Tigers headed into this weekend’s tournament in Hawaii with a win and two third-place finishes in five fall starts.

Penley, in his 37th season in heading the Tigers’ program, believes he has “five players who could win a tournament at any time. In our four stroke-play tournaments, we’ve had a different individual leader three times, and that really emphasizes the quality of our depth.”

Sophomore Jacob Bridgeman (71.2 scoring average) leads the remarkably balanced squad; only 13 strokes separate the top five scorers after four tournaments. Juniors Turk Pettit (71.5) and Colby Patton (71.7) follow, and senior William Nottingham (72.1) and junior Kyle Cottam (72.3) round out the starters.

“I really like our experience,” said Penley, a member of multiple halls of fame. “This team, with Nimmer, tied for eighth in the NCAA Championship last season. We lost to SMU in a playoff (for the final berth in match-play) and that was tough to swallow, but we know we can play at a very high level.”

Consistency is always a goal in any sport, and how a team reacts after a poor performance can be telling. A silver lining for Penley came from seventh-place showing in the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate.

The Tigers ranked 12th in a field of 14 after the first round. Then, “We fought and scrapped over the final 36 holes and moved up five places against a great field,” Penley said. “We didn’t a have a good start, but we came back with good, solid play, and that speaks well.”

After this weekend’s Hawaii tournament, the Tigers will be off until February. The spring schedule includes four events prior to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and the NCAAs. Clemson will be the host team for the NCAA Regional at the Cliffs at Keowee Falls in Salem.

“We just want to get better every day,” Penley said. “Sure, it’s hard to take a 68.5 scoring average (Nimmer) out of the lineup and not take a step back, but I like how these players have responded.

“They’re really good players in a sport with a lot of really good players. They have competed successfully at a very high level, and they know what it takes moving forward. We know how close we came last season, and like every other team, we want to be playing our best in the spring.”

The Tigers’ combination of experience and depth suggest that will happen.

Chips shots. South Carolina’s women’s team surged from behind to win the Landfall Tradition in Wilmington, North Carolina for its second tournament triumph in four fall starts. Individually, senior Ana Pelaez finished second and freshman Pauline Roussin-Bouchard tied for third. Coach Kalen Anderson saluted “a great effort” from all five players. “I’m really proud of the mentality they had in some adverse conditions,” he said. “It was a great way to end the week and the fall season.” The Gamecocks are ranked seventh nationally by Golfstat. . . . Clemson’s women’s completed its fall season by finishing eighth in the White Sands Invitational in the Bahamas. Ivy Shepherd (12th) and former Lexington High star Garcyn Burgess (14th) led the Tigers. . . . USC’s men team will join Clemson in this weekend’s Ka’anapali Collegiate in Hawaii.

Director of Sports and Visuals at The State in Columbia, South Carolina. I’m a fan of my family, naps and the Boston Celtics. I’m part of the award-winning Sports staff that includes our work on GoGamecocks.