Feb. 3, 2014
Head Coach Nick Clinard expects another solid year out of the Auburn golf team
Fresh off of a 13th-place finish at last year's NCAA Championship, the Auburn men's golf team and head coach Nick Clinard are looking for an ever higher finish this year.
"My demands and expectations never change," Clinard said when assessing this upcoming spring season. "I expect us to be the most prepared, committed and knowledgeable team competing each and every week. We will understand our own games, our own technique and how to the play the game. We will always be prepared and hold ourselves to high demands. I look forward to competing with the guys this spring."
Auburn's fall season took the team to four tournaments and it claimed a pair of top-five finishes, including a runner-up showing at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate in late September.
"The fall season was productive as we were able to play seven players which should help us during the spring season," Clinard said. "We had four freshmen that saw playing time which should help with the transition factor to the collegiate level."
Leading the charge for Clinard's team throughout the fall were senior Niclas Carlsson and sophomore Jake Mondy, both of which were the team's high finisher twice. Carlsson finished the fall season with a 72.67 stroke average while Mondy was slightly behind him at 72.75.
"Niclas Carlsson is our senior leader and a big-time player. With three collegiate wins under his belt, he is well-seasoned and understands the game. If he can stay patient with himself, look for a big finish to his career," Clinard said. "Jake Mondy has been a leader on and off the course this past fall. He had two top-five finishes as well which shows his game is continuing to mature and he has loads of raw ability."
Clinard's freshman crew was also impressive throughout the fall. Matt Gilchrest, from Southlake, Texas, counted 11 of the 12 rounds he competed in for Clinard while Victor Henum, from Copenhagen, Denmark, counted all six of his rounds and had a sixth-place finish at Wolf Run.
"Matt Gilchrest and Victor Henum bring big-time experience to the freshman class. Both are top-ranked amateurs in the world and both have a high level of golf smarts. They both work with exceptional swing instructors and I've been impressed with their knowledge of technique and the game," said Clinard. "I really think they can be All-SEC type players this spring and beyond."
Relied on less during the fall but no less important to the team's success this spring are fellow freshmen Will Long, Victor Wiggins and Blake Messer. Wiggins and Long are both from Gastonia, N.C., while Messer, from Hampton Cove, Ala., did not participate in any fall tournaments.
"Will Long has the talent and passion to be something special this spring and throughout his career at Auburn. He's played a lot of great golf and we think he will really mature this spring as a person and player," Clinard said. "Victor Wiggins is another talented young man that needs to prove he can play at the collegiate level. He's a wonderful young man that is still transitioning to the college game; however, watch out for him this spring as he could really push for playing time.
"Blake Messer came in a little more raw than the others, but he's made great strides since August. I've been very impressed with the improvements he's made in his technique and knowledge of the game. He's still learning, but stay tuned as he could turn some heads and be a contributor this spring."
Between the experience of Carlsson and Mondy and the freshman class lies junior Dan Stringfellow, who could be a key to Clinard's team making in back to the NCAA Championship. Stringfellow boasted a 73.83 stroke average this fall after finishing last year at 75.71 in just nine rounds.
"Dan Stringfellow is always a guy that you think should be an All-American based on physical ability. We need him to believe in himself and be ready to play. He has the talent to be something real special," Clinard noted.
Auburn's spring schedule starts the first week of February at the Amer Ari Invitational in Waikoloa, Hawaii, where the team started last spring with an eighth-place finish, and then to the Mobile Bay Classic in Mobile, Ala., a week later, a tournament where Auburn will be defending its title from a year ago. The team will also play host to the Tiger Invitational at Grand National in nearby Opelika March 10-11 as the team plays in seven tournaments before heading to Sea Island, Ga., for the SEC Championships.
"Overall our spring schedule presents many challenges, different types of grasses and some great weather," Clinard said. "We are really looking forward to competing and winning some tournaments for Auburn."
Overall the schedule is setting the team up for a return to the NCAA Regionals, which Auburn will play host to on its home course at the Auburn University Club, May 15-17.
"Anytime you can host NCAA Regionals and sleep in your own bed, that's a huge plus," Clinard said. "Being comfortable in your own environment is a big advantage as is our knowledge of the AU Club. The golf course should be in outstanding shape come May and we know the course very, very well. I appreciate Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs and the entire athletic administration's commitment to Auburn golf and hosting the 2014 NCAA Men's Golf Regional."
Clinard's team will be preparing for the season with heavy hearts as Director of Golf Operations Danielle Downey passed away just prior to the start of the spring season.
"Danielle was a wonderful young lady and a true friend. She was special in so many ways and always had a smile on her face. She loved Auburn, Auburn Golf and the Auburn Family, and she will be sorely missed by all each and every day," Clinard said.