You can look at the outlook for Clemson’s 2016-17 men’s golf season in two ways. On the one hand, Larry Penley must replace two of his most consistent players and leaders of the last decade, Stephen Behr and Miller Capps. Both were four-year starters who had terrific senior seasons, led Clemson to its first ACC Championship in 12 years, highest final ranking in eight years and three tournament victories, most in 13 years.
“We lost two terrific players and team leaders in Stephen Behr and Miller Capps,” said Penley, who has taken Clemson to the NCAA Tournament all 33 years he has been Clemson’s Head Coach. “They really had great careers as four-year starters. Stephen has to be considered on of the top student-athletes in any sport in Clemson history. And Miller was so consistent and a great example to the younger players.”
The other way to preview Clemson’s 2016-17 season is to take a look at the honors of Clemson’s returning players. Sixty percent of the returning starters made first-team All-ACC last year, more than any other sport on the Clemson landscape, even Clemson’s National Championship Football Team of 2016.
‘We have lost two starters, but we have three returning starters who all made All-ACC. It has been a long time (2004) since we had three returning All-ACC players. We will have good leadership in our seniors, Carson Young and Austin Langdale. We have gotten better each year they have been here. I know they are hungry to reach match play, something we have not accomplished.”
And one of the starters who did not make first team All-ACC last year was freshman Doc Redman, who was the team’s leader in the fall with a 70.3 stroke average and a pair of victories.
Langdale, an honorable mention All-American last year as a junior, was second on the team in stroke average last year with a 72.21 figure. His season included 13 rounds under par, four top 10s and seven rounds in the 60s. He had a shoulder issue during the NCAA National Tournament, an injury that required surgery this past summer, so he did not play in any amateur events in the summer of 2016.
He missed the first two events in the fall of 2016 but did show he was on the way back at the final fall tournament in Hawaii where he had a final round 68 to help Clemson to a come from behind victory.
Young, who had three top 10 finishes in 2015-16, had a very active summer and won the South Carolina Amateur for the second time. He was 30-under par for his four summer events and looks to have a bit more consistency in his senior year. He had a 73.39 stroke average last year when he had 98 birdies and his score counted in 26 of 33 events.
This past fall he had a 71.73 stroke average for five events, the best fall of his career, and had eight rounds at par or better in his 15 outings. He had a strong 19th place finish in the first event at the Carpet Classic, then finished 12th with a 208 score at the Ka’anapali Classic in Hawaii.
Bryson Nimmer joined Langdale and Young on the All-ACC team last year. He also made the Academic All-ACC team and the All-Region team. His most impressive honor might have been winning ACC Rookie of the Year, quite and accomplishment considering he didn’t enter the lineup on a consistent basis until March. This past summer he reached the second round of match play at the US Amateur.
Nimmer was Clemson’s second best player in the fall with a 71.00 stroke average that included a fifth place finish in the opener at the Carpet Classic. HE also finished 10th at the Jackrabbit and 19th at the Ka’anapali Classic. He had a career best final round 65 to help Clemson to the tournament victory n Hawaii to close out the fall season.
Redman went from freshman to the team’s top player with his fall performance that included a 19 under par score for 15 rounds. He won the Jackrabbit with a 13 under par 203 in September, his second career tournament, and took the Ka’anapali Classic with a school record 198 score for his 54 holes. He had rounds of 66-68-64 in Hawaii to record a 15-under score that tied the Clemson record for score vs. par in a 54-hole event.
Overall, Redman had five rounds in the 60s and nine rounds under par. He became the first Clemson freshman to win two events, never mind both coming in the fall season within his first five tournaments.
Returning lettermen Coleman Self, Josh Fickes and Peter Mathison will all have a shot to jump in the lineup. Fickes had a 73.78 stroke average for three events last year when six of his nine rounds were 75 or better. He p played in four events in the fall of 2016 and had a 75.17 stroke average. Jonathan Rector red-shirted last year and will also have a chance for action after he had an impressive 67 in the second round in Ka’anapali in November. Mathison played in four events last year.
William Nottingham, a top 50 player as a junior player, is a true freshman who had a 74.67 average in three events in the fall and will challenge for the fifth spot in the order.
The Tigers won two events in the fall as a team, giving Penley 70 career events heading into the spring. The Tigers are ranked 20th in the Golfweek/Sagarin entering the spring season, but have been ranked as high as No. 6 earlier in the fall.