Having been to six straight NCAA championships, Auburn men’s golf is no stranger to success under head coach Nick Clinard, who is entering his ninth season.
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The Tigers finished second at Regionals and 11th at the NCAA Championships last season and are hoping to find similar success this year.
“We have a great skill set, as a team our talent level is very high, it’s just a matter of maturity,” Clinard said. “We have a lot of young guys that bring a lot to the table, it’s just about maturity, how fast they can grow as human beings in life, in college, and as players as well.”
The Tigers return seven players this season, including junior Trace Crowe, who had a team-low 71.82 scoring average last season and was named All-SEC second team.
“Trace is a great player. He’s a very talented kid. He has a great work ethic, he’s got a great motor for the game, it’s just a matter of kind of cleaning it up a little bit,” Clinard said. “Ball-striking can be just a little bit better, a little straighter on his misses, and make a few more putts and he has a chance to play on the PGA Tour one day.”
In addition to the returning players, the Tigers added five new freshmen who Clinard hopes will contribute right away.
“I think they come off great pedigrees as junior golfers,” Clinard said. “We have one freshman that’s already won twice on the amateur circuit. They’re big time players and they don’t have a lot of fear. I think they come in with the right culture, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do and we’re glad they’re here.”
Auburn will look to blend both the old and the new faces into one cohesive group this season and carry over the winning culture from last season.
“The guys we have returning are very positive, very optimistic human beings and great leaders,” Clinard said. “I think the culture. The culture of the team last year was the best its been since I’ve been here and I think the culture we have in that locker room is huge.”
The Tigers have qualifying this week to determine the lineup heading into the fall season. Freshman Wells Padgett shot a 67 on Monday that included a back-nine 30 to take the early lead, but the lineup is expected to change throughout the season.
“I would anticipate some changes throughout the fall,” Clinard said. “It’s interesting to see what these young guys can do too. I think they’re going to push the upperclassmen, which from a coaching perspective is a wonderful thing. It makes them work a little bit harder and be really competitive. We’ve created a nucleus on the roster where it’s a very competitive environment. A lot of it is going to be up to them.”
The Tigers are leave themselves no time to ease into the season, as they will begin the year playing against six SEC teams and three ACC teams at the Carpet Capital Collegiate in Dalton, GA on September 8-10.
Their tough fall schedule also includes some of the biggest events in collegiate golf, including the Trinity Forest Invitational in Dallas and the Tavistock Invitational in Orlando. The Tigers will also defend their title at the Jerry Pate Invitational hosted by the University of Alabama.
“I like where we are. Alabama is really good, Florida’s really good, LSU is always really good. They’re all good. You’re always sitting here as a coach thinking how are we going to beat those guys,” Clinard said. “But I like where we are, we’re worried about Auburn, we’re worried about ourselves. If we can do the right things on and off the golf course, and play to our ability, then I think we can compete and beat anybody in the country.”
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