Be accountable! No excuses! Be a leader!
That is the message from Clemson Head Coach Larry Penley to his 2013-14 golf team. His squad is young with just one senior and two juniors, but Penley feels there is no reason why his 31st Clemson team can't compete for an ACC title, get to the NCAA Championship Tournament, and be in the mix for a top 10 finish.
"We need each player to push one another," said Penley, who has taken the Tigers to the NCAA tournament each of his previous 30 years in charge of the program. "We need a team of leaders, not just one guy."
Last year, the Tigers got off to a good start and held a top 25 ranking into the middle of the spring. But the season did not end well as the Tigers finished 12th out of 14 teams at the NCAA regional in Arizona.
"Accountability is one word that comes to mind," said Penley. "We have to go into each tournament with the attitude that we can compete for the championship and make it happen as a team. It takes everyone having the proper focus. We have the talent to be successful, but I won't hesitate to shuffle the lineup to get the right combination."
Penley has a 10-man roster, including seven returning lettermen, four of whom are considered returning starters from last year. But, no one has a lock on a position on Penley's lineup card.
"There will be stiff competition for the lineup. The tournament qualifying will be extraordinary. The new freshmen will have a chance from the very beginning. They are talented players who are used to winning individually and in terms of team golf."
That was shown in qualifying for the first tournament as 23 under par won the six rounds of qualifying. Eleven under par got you into a playoff for the last spot.
Carson Young and Austin Langdale are the two first-year freshmen who are expected to have an immediate impact on the program. They come to Clemson from nearby Pendleton High School where they played many a practice round at Boscobel Country Club, a prime practice location for the Clemson golf team for many years.
"Carson and Austin are competitors who are not afraid to win golf tournaments. They have been practicing at the same course our team plays since they were little and they are well aware of our tradition. They were born to be in our program. They know what our guys have built over the years. I know it is in them to be contributors to that tradition."
Clemson does have its top four stroke average players from last year returning, just the third time that has been the case in the last 14 years. Those four players combined for eight top 10 finishes a year ago, but no one had more than three.
The leading returnee in terms of stroke average is Stephen Behr, a sophomore from Florence, SC. Behr finished with a 72.97 stroke average last year. He had seven under-par rounds and three top 10 finishes and he was Clemson's top golfer in 10 rounds. He posed a fourth-place at the Carpet Classic and a seventh-place at the Fighting Illini Classic against national fields to show his capabilities. His score counted in 27 of 29 rounds, the best percentage on the 2012-13 Clemson team.
"Stephen spent the summer working on getting stronger. You can tell he has a larger frame, yet he is more flexible and that should lead to greater distance." Behr had a good summer on the course also, finishing his summer with a fourth-place finish at the South Carolina Amateur.
Miller Capps is another sophomore who had a solid freshman season. He tied for second on the team in stroke average with a 73.72 stroke mark and had the top two performances in team tournaments by individuals last year with a pair of third-place finishes (Jerry Pate and Wolfpack Spring Invitational). His score counted in 24 of 29 rounds and was second on the team in birdies with 90.
"Miller might have had the best summer of all our returning players, so we certainly hope that continues this fall and spring. He didn't play a lot, but when he did he was outstanding." Capps, a sophomore from Denver, NC, finished second at the Carolinas Amateur, sixth at the Rice Planters, third at the Cardinal Amateur and 10th at the North Carolina Amateur.
Cody Proveaux, a classmate of Capps, had the exact same number of strokes in the same number of rounds, leading to a 73.72 stroke average as a freshman. He had just one top 10, a seventh place at the US Collegiate, one of the top fields Clemson faced all year,. He led the team in birdies with 91 and had the best score of the day eight times, second on the team.
"Cody had a solid freshman year, but we look for more top 10s from him this year. He has the talent to compete at a high level." The highlight of Proveaux's summer was a third-place finish at his US Open Local Qualifier and a 15th place finish at the sectional.
Billy Kennerly enters the 2013-14 season on a record run. The junior from Alpharetta, GA scored in the 60s in each of his last five rounds of the year, establishing a school record for consecutive rounds in the 60s. And those were in big tournaments, three ACC and two NCAA. He was 10-under-par for his last five rounds of the year and finished in the top two of both postseason events, the first Tiger to do that in seven years.
"Billy is a guy who is going to go out there and count just about every day," said Penley. "He reminds me a lot of David May and David showed great improvement over his career. Billy is an outstanding ball striker who knows his capabilities. We expect a very good year from David." Kennedy had an active summer that was highlighted by a fifth-place finish at the Palmetto Amateur.
Blake Kennedy is still another sophomore who had his moments last year. The native of Spartanburg, SC and Dorman High School played in four tournaments last year and posted a 74.42 average. He had a 67 in his second career round at the Jerry Pate Invitational and finished 11th in the national field with a 218 score. He also finished 11th at the Charleston Shootout playing as an individual.
Thomas Bradshaw played in just two tournaments last year, but is the second most experienced golfer on the Clemson team. The native of Columbia, SC has played in 17 tournaments and 51 career rounds. A starter on two NCAA Tournament teams, the Clemson team captain has had 15 rounds at par or better in his career.
Hayden Garrett is the top student-athlete on the Clemson team with a 4.0 GPA. He played in just one tournament last year, but he tied for medalist honors. Playing as an individual at the Charleston Shootout in March, he had an even par 216 score over three rounds to tie for first.
Parker Mills is a red-shirt freshman in 2013-14. The brother of former Clemson All-American Corbin Mills sat out last year, but had a strong summer of 2013 as he won the Festival of Flowers in Greenwood for the second straight year.
The aforementioned Carson Young and Austin Langdale, born just two days apart, have both had great high school and junior careers. Young won the South Carolina State AA Championship each of the last two years. He won the Carolina Amateur in 2012 and this past summer he won the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley against a national field of 54 junior golfers, then finished the summer by winning the South Carolina Amateur. He was the only active Clemson golfer to qualify for the US Amateur as well.
Langdale is a four-time runner-up at the AA State Championship, finishing second to Proveaux two years and second to Young the last two years. He beat Young to win the Azalea Amateur this past March and finished with a top 10 at the South Carolina Amateur. He also finished second to Young at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley.
"I knew last year would be a challenge with so many freshmen in the mix," said Penley. "The guys have worked hard and played in a lot of competition over the summer. We played average golf last spring. This team is ready to step it up."