April 11, 2014
Nick Clinard says he believes the Tigers are headed for bigger and better things (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - It took Nick Clinard just more than two seasons to lift Auburn's men's golf program from last place in the Southeastern Conference to No. 1 in the national rankings. In his fifth season as head coach, his mission is to take the Tigers to a championship.
"We have a great recruiting class coming in," Clinard said. "I think the next couple of years we'll have probably the best team I've ever had. We have some real firepower coming in."
But don't be deceived. Clinard is not ready to write off this season. Led by senior Nic Carlsson, the Tigers have won three tournaments. They are ranked No. 19 nationally going into this weekend's Bluegrass Invitational in Lexington, Ky.
"Our goal is to just improve," Clinard said. "I think if we can continue to make putts we would have a chance to surprise some people at SEC's and win in regionals. Once you get to NCAA's, who knows?"
The Tigers will play in the one-day Capital City Club Collegiate Invitational on April 19 in Alpharetta, Ga. The SEC Championship gets under way on April 25 at Seaside Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga. Auburn will host a regional at the Auburn University Club, starting on May 15.
Clinard expected some growing pains going into the season. After all, five of 11 players on the Auburn roster are freshmen.
"We have a young team," Clinard said. "This team has accomplished a lot. Almost half our team is freshmen. I'm probably a little bit surprised we've won as much as we've had."
Carlosson has been a big reason, perhaps the biggest reason, for the surprising success.
"Nic has been fantastic," Clinard said. "He's played like an All-American. We've had some freshmen kind of step up. We thought they were good players when they got here, but they've been better than we thought."
Carlsson has finished in the top five three times and top 10 three times this season. He's finished in the top 20 six times. Carlsson and freshman Blake Messer have won individual tournament titles this season. Every player but one on Auburn's roster has had at least one top 10 finish.
Clinard says Carlson, a senior from Enebyberg, Sweden, is ready to take his game to the highest level.
"He's been terrific," Clinard said. "He has won four times in college. He's always had the talent level. It's whether he's had the discipline with his practice and time management. I think the light has come on for him now. He's a senior getting ready for the next level."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: