Nov. 2, 2005
By Tim Bourret Clemson golf coach Larry Penley and Tiger Head Football Coach Tommy Bowden have something in common this year. They both will rely heavily on the performance of freshmen this academic year.
Bowden played 19 first-year or red-shirt freshmen within the first four games of the football season, including 10 who participated on scrimmage plays on defense. Penley has five first-year freshmen on his roster, the largest freshman class in his 22 years as Tigers coach. Two played in the fall (David May and Phillip Mollica) and more could see playing time this coming spring.
“I am counting on freshmen–right now, this year,” said Penley, who has not played multiple first-year freshmen in the same year since John Engler and Lucas Glover were first year players in 1997-98. “They are going to be very much involved.”
By Clemson standards the Tigers had a disappointing 2004-05 season. The team did make the NCAA Tournament, but failed to reach the national portion of postseason play for the first time since 1981, and the first time since Penley became head coach for the 1983-84 season. It was also the first time in Penley’s career that his team did not win a tournament. In addition to five new freshmen, Penley has added an assistant coach in former Furman star Jonathan Byrd. He is the first assistant for the Clemson program since Penley was an assistant under Bobby Robinson in 1983.
“Jordan has been a terrific addition to our program,” said Penley. “He relates to these guys very well and has already had a positive impact on recruiting.” Clemson signed a top 10 class in the fall of 2005, signing two of the top 10 players in the nation according to the national junior rankings.
“The biggest challenge that Jordan and I have this season is establishing some leaders, and making sure that what happened last year doesn’t happen again,” said Penley. “We’ve got to get a lot tougher. I think this year’s team is going to be as talented as any we’ve had in a while, and that’s saying a lot.
“We have three seniors, and I have confidence in all of them. Stephen Poole and Martin Catalioto had great summers, and Brian Duncan had a top 20 finish in his first tournament of the fall this year.”
Poole is a red-shirt senior from Spartanburg who had a 75.17 stroke average last year, fourth best on the team. But, he finished strong with a three-under par 210 score at the NCAA East Regional in Nashville, the best performance among Tiger players and he was 18th overall in the field. He continued that fine play this fall with a 73.22 stroke average this past fall, best on the team. That included a top 10 at Isleworth Collegiate in Florida against a field that include 14 of the top 25 teams in the nation.
“I am counting on Stephen Poole to be our stabilizer and our leader,” said Penley. “He has the temperament and the work habits to do that. Nobody outworks Stephen. He’s usually the first one at practice and most of the time he’s the last one to leave. He does everything above and beyond what Jordan and I ask him to do, and that’s what a leader is supposed to do.”
Poole is a veteran of 18 career tournaments and has a 74.02 career average. He was a big contributor to Clemson’s 2004 team when he had three top 10 finishes, all in the spring season.
Duncan had a 74.14 stroke average last year, third best on the Clemson team and best among returning players. The native of Greenville is the only returning Tiger who played in a tournament during Clemson’s run to the national championship in 2003. He played in all 12 events last year and had three top 11 finishes, including a third-place at the season opening Ridges Tournament.
This past fall finished 18th at Isleworth against that strong field. He was actually in third place with six holes to play until strong winds forced everyone’s score upward. He then finished 19th at the Carpet Classic with a 219 total after consistent rounds of 72-73-74.
Martin Catalioto is a third senior ib the Clemson team who figures to see significant playing time. The native of New Jersey is a veteran of 20 tournaments entering the spring of 2006, including his freshman year in 2001-02 when he was a starter on a team that finished third in the nation. He got is senior season off to a good start with a 212 score at the Jerry Pate, tied for 14th in the field and best among Clemson golfers.
Tanner Ervin is a sophomore who played in five events last year. He had a strong summer that included qualification for the match play portion of the US Amateur. Like Catalioto, Ervin shot a 212 at the Jerry Pate, including a career best 66 in the first round of the spring. Ervin played in five events last year, including the ACC and NCAA East Regional.
Nick Biershenk, a former South Carolina Amateur Match Play champion, will also be in the mix. He played in two events last year as a sophomore. He is the brother of former Clemson player Tommy Biershenk, who is a veteran of the PGA Tour. Zack Siefert is a red-shirt sophomore with tournament experience, while red-shirt freshman Frank Wrenn is in his first year of competition.
The remaining players on the Clemson roster are all first-year freshmen. “My first task is to get them (the freshmen) in the game and see what they can do – get them suited to college golf and see what it’s all about,” said Penley. “Once they get comfortable, they’re going to be great players. It’s just a matter of getting to that confidence level.
“Like all freshmen, they’re probably a little unsure right now about what college golf is all about and the level of competition. But once they gain some confidence and realize how good they are, there’s a lot of great golf to be played by these five kids.”
Two of the incoming freshmen are AJGA All-Americans. David May has been ranked as the number-one junior in the country during his youth. He was a three-time All-American and a four-time all-state player from Auburn, NY.
He showed his ability at the Carpet Classic when he shot a 207 for the 54 holes, including a third round 65. The 207 score tied the Clemson freshman record for low 54-hole score, as did the nine-under par total vs. par. The 65 was one of the top 10 rounds in Clemson history. His charge on the last day brought him to a second place finish, best by a Clemson golfer in two years.
Phillip Mollica is another local product, as he played at T.L. Hanna High in Anderson, SC. He won the 2003 Jay Haas Award as the top junior golfer in South Carolina and is a two-time winner of the Southern Cross. Mollica shot a solid 220 in his first collegiate tournament at the Jerry Pate, then had a 224 total at the Carpet Classic. His 74.00 average for the fall of 2005 was third best on the team.
Luke Hopkins, a native of Greer, SC, joined May on the AJGA All-America team in 2005 and was a member of the Canon Cup’s East team. He had many top 10 finishes on the AJGA circuit the last three years, including a victory at the 2002 Callaway Golf Classic in Jacksonville. The native of Greer, SC has made three career hole in one shots.
Martin Catalioto along the way. The native of Greenwood, SC is a pupil of Billy Delk, father of former Clemson All-American Thump Delk. Martin’s grandfather played baseball at Clemson.
Hatfield won the Carolinas Junior championship in 2004 and 2005 and has the strength to shoot very low scores. He set the course record at Hunters Creek Golf Club with a 62 this past summer. He also had a 62 on the Clemson University course during practice rounds this year.
Penley hopes his freshmen can make as big an impact as Bowden’s did in the fall of 2005. Four of his Tigers earned first or second-team freshman All-American honors, helping the Tiger gridders to a final top 25 national ranking. Penley hopes to duplicate those accomplishments this spring.
He is off to a good start after a solid fall. Clemson is back in the top 20 of both polls and finished strong with a sixth place finish in the 18-team Carpet Classic that included 10 of the top 20 teams in he nation.
“It’s a whole new era as far as I’m concerned,” said Penley. “This is going to be fun. I can’t wait to play these freshmen. I’ve been to a lot of these same tournaments for 23 years, but when you start seeing it through the eyes of a first-year freshmen, you get rejuvenated as well.”
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