Nagy, Volunteers recover
MURRELLS INLET, S.C. – The vast potential of the University of Tennessee golf team was on display here Tuesday, and even though the Volunteers finished third, coach Jim Kelson was smiling over his club’s prospects.
The biggest smile was created when freshman Oliver Goss earned a share of medalist honors with Taylor Pendrith of Kent State. Senior Jay Vandeventer placed fourth and sophomore Thomas Dunne took 14th among the 63 players in the nine-school event at TPC Myrtle Beach.
“I’m excited for this team for the possibilities of what we can accomplish,” Kelson said as Goss approached the 18th green and a par putt that secured a share of medalist honors. “We’ve got high hopes. I’m equally excited about the futures of our young guys.”
One of those young guys is freshman Mike Nagy of Manistique, who rebounded strongly from a dismal opening 36 holes Monday with a 2-over-par 74 (36-38) Tuesday.
“He’s got what it takes to excel at this level,” Kelson said of Nagy. “His wedges are as good as any freshman I’ve had here (in 25 years). He practices hard, he plays golf and he takes our advice in. He will be great.”
Kelson saw Nagy’s potential from the get-go, after he was recruited by UT assistant coach Casey VanDamme, a native of St. Nicholas and a former Mid Peninsula High School athlete and coach. Nagy is a three-time Upper Peninsula high school champion and won the 2012 Michigan junior amateur title.
“Some of the shots he can hit are special, the way he wedges it and pitches it,” Kelson said. “He has all the shots and he has a great demeanor. We have a great deal of confidence in him.”
Nagy rebounded well Tuesday, displaying a strong character in the face of adversity that followed a discussion with VanDamme about his play after Monday’s round.
“Yesterday I lost my confidence,” Nagy said, referring to a pair of triple bogeys and a double bogey in his opening six holes that led to an 85 (45-40). He came back with an 80 in Monday’s second round.
“I was over-thinking too much,” he said of that opening 36 holes on a difficult course. “I struggled off the tee and that didn’t put me in a good mind-set.. This course is not bad if you hit it straight.
“Today I just let it go. I was more relaxed. I let it happen instead of trying to force anything.”
He had bogeys on Nos. 14 and 17 but otherwise played cleanly and efficiently, with more receptive greens after an overnight rain that delayed the start of the final round by 20 minutes. The bogey on No. 14 was painful because Nagy said “I wanted a birdie there. It was one of the last birdie chances.”
Nagy said the Vols “were all a little rusty” entering the General Jim Hackler Championship because poor weather conditions forced the team to practice indoors for three days.
Goss, ranked 18th among the world’s top amateurs, also had to overcome some issues to earn a share of the title with Pendrith, with VanDamme noting that his scrambling skills enabled him to atone for poor execution with his driver. Goss, a freshman who arrived from Perth, Australia in January and was playing in his third collegiate tournament, shot 71-72-72 while Pendrith hit 71-75-69.
“Goss is certainly one of the best college players,” said Kelson, who noted senior Rick Lamb (who finished at 226) “is one of the best in the country.” Vandeventer finished with 217 and Dunne had 223.
The Vols finished with 880 for their five-man, two-day total, seven strokes behind Arkansas and Kent State. A playoff to determine a champion in the team and individual portions was called off because teams had flight obligations to meet. The Vols rode a bus from Knoxville, one of the few times they do not fly.
Kelson is excited about his team’s prospects because Vandeventer and Lamb are the only seniors on a team that has four freshman, a sophomore and three juniors. He said Nagy “is fighting it out for the fifth spot and Mike is certainly right in the mix for that spot. Mike has done a terrific job. He is a really, really good player.”