Note: The following appears in the June issue of Orange: The Experience. For full access to all of the publication's content, join IPTAY today by calling 864-656-2115.
Sometimes, the soft-sell approach is the best.
When All-ACC golfer Bryson Nimmer was in elementary school, he really wasn't into golf. His dad, Tony Nimmer, was an All-ACC golfer at Clemson in the early 1980s and certainly wanted his son to have an interest in the game as well.
However, Tony did not force the issue with his young son, and perhaps that decision is one of the reasons the younger Nimmer had one of the top stroke averages in Clemson history in 2017.
“I liked all the other sports when I was six, seven and eight years old,” said Bryson. “I hit with my dad's clubs once in a while, but I was more interested in baseball and football. My dad never pushed me towards golf, and that is probably one of the reasons I love it so much later.”
The elder Nimmer played all the big junior events, then came to Clemson where he had a major impact on the program for four years under then head coach Bobby Robinson. Nimmer earned All-ACC honors as a sophomore and holds the distinction of being the first Tiger to finish in the top six of the ACC Championship three years in a row.
When Clemson won its first ACC title in 1982, Nimmer was Clemson's second-best finisher for the 54 holes with a 220 score, four shots behind All-American Dillard Pruitt. But in the final round when Clemson won the title, it was Nimmer who was the best Tiger by three shots with a 71.
A few weeks later, Nimmer was Clemson's best golfer at the national tournament at Bermuda Run near Winston-Salem, N.C. He helped the Tigers to a No. 16 team finish with a No. 16 individual finish. He became the first Tiger to finish in the top 20 individually at the national tournament. The next year (1983), he was a starter on Clemson's fifth-place team, then the highest team finish in school history.
So, Tony knew what the life of a young golfer was all about and used that wisdom with his son.
“I saw a lot of junior players start out as phenoms, but they got burned out. I saw some parents put pressure on 10-year-olds to the extent that they stopped playing. They didn't even play high school golf.
“So, my wife and I let Bryson play the other sports and make his own decisions on what he wanted to do.”
Bryson began playing in some junior tournaments in the summer when he was 12-14. He finished in the top 10, but wanted to do better.
“Bryson took a look at his finishes and saw that the kids who were beating him were playing golf year-round,” said his father. “At that point, he wanted to do better, and he decided he needed to drop the other sports.
“He knew if he wanted a golf scholarship, he had to make more of a commitment to it.”
When Nimmer did that, his ranking improved, and head coach Larry Penley took notice and offered Nimmer a scholarship. It was a natural for Penley, who had played with Tony for two years at Clemson, and they had continued to be friends since their playing days together.
Bryson did not get off to a great start in his freshman year. In the fall of 2015, he traveled to the Dick's Sporting Goods Tournament in Nashville, but he did not do well, finishing at 17-over-par with a 55th-place finish. He was not in the team lineup for the Puerto Rico Classic to start the spring, but was invited to play in the individual tournament that is played in conjunction with that event. Nimmer played well and finished second with a score of 212.
“That seemed to be a turning point for me,” said Bryson. “I was relaxed since I was not involved in the team part of the tournament and I played well. That got me started, and I was in the lineup the next week.”
Nimmer has not been out of the lineup since, playing 19 straight events. He had a fourth-place finish at Bandon Dunes and was Clemson's second-best golfer with an even-par 213. After a solid 12th-place at the Clemson Invitational, he finished fourth at the ACC Championship with a seven-under-par 209, just two shots off the Tiger freshman record for the event. Clemson won its first ACC team title in 12 years.
A week later, he was named ACC Freshman-of-the-Year.
“If you would have told me on February 1 that I was going to be ACC Freshman-of-the-Year, I would have giggled.”
The Bluffton, S.C., native showed continued improvement in 2016-17 with another All-ACC season. He had a 71.33 stroke average, third on the talented team, but tied for 12th best in Clemson history. He played in all 39 rounds in the 13 tournaments, had seven top-10 finishes and 19 under-par rounds, including 11 rounds in the 60s. He was eight-under par for his 39 rounds as well.
Nationally, his 156 birdies were seventh most in the nation, and he was 40th nationally in scoring average vs. par at -0.21 strokes per round.
Nimmer was known for an ability to go low throughout the year. He had five rounds at 67 or better, including a career-best final round 65 at the Ka'anapali Classic in Hawaii, a round that was key to Clemson's come-from-behind victory, and an opening round 66 at the ACC Championship and NCAA Regional.
Nimmer was Clemson's top player at the ACC Championship with a five-under par 211 score, and the top Tiger at the NCAA Regional in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where had had a three-under-par 213 to finish sixth. He was in a four-man playoff for the title at the ACC Championship.
A man who can give the best comparison of the father-and-son Nimmers is Penley, who has seen both play on ACC championship teams, the first father-son ACC champion combination in Tiger golf history.
“The only real similarity between their games would be hitting a lot of fairways,” said Penley. “Tony was very good driving the ball and Bryson is too. But that is about it. Tony was terrific when it came to the short game. He was the best putter on our team when I played.
“Bryson needs to improve his putting to get to Tony's level when he played for Clemson, but that is one of our goals for him.
“I will tell you another area they are similar. Tony was a great teammate, and so is Bryson. Tony was all about the team and helping his teammates, and I see that in Bryson.”
In terms of accomplishments, there are some similarities. Tony's career-best round was a 64 when he won the South Carolina Intercollegiate as a freshman. Bryson's best so far is a 65 at the Ka'anapali Classic, a round that helped Clemson win the team title. Both have 10 top-10 finishes, but Bryson still has two more years to enhance those numbers.
“Bryson followed up an ACC Freshman-of-the-Year season with a great sophomore year,” said Penley. “He has established himself as one of the best golfers in the ACC and the country, for that matter. He still has a lot of improving to do, but he can do it.”
Tony has had great pride in his son's accomplishments, but he knows he has another attainable level.
“He made a big improvement in terms of strength and ball-striking over the last two years. There is room for improvement in terms of his short game and course management. You can say that about every young player. It just takes time and practice.”
And, just like his dad did 35 years ago, Bryson is willing to put in that time. His summer schedule includes national tournaments at the Sunnehanna, New England Amateur, Southern Amateur and Western Amateur. He also hopes to qualify for the U.S. Amateur.
While we all look at Tony Nimmer's accomplishments as a Clemson golfer and his obvious influence on his son's game, Bryson's mother, Patsy, has also been a big factor.
“My mom has been terrific. She is out there for every round. I can't tell you how many times she drove me to a junior tournament before I had a driver's license. That support from both my parents has been huge.”
With the Nimmers, Clemson golf is most definitely a family affair.