Note: The following appears in the June 2022 issue of ORANGE: The Experience.
On the third hole of his final round, Jacob Bridgeman had a clothing malfunction. Following through on his swing, his belt snapped and broke. Bridgeman was grateful when an ACC official offered up his own belt for him to wear for the remainder of the day.
This wasn’t any ordinary belt, however. It was an expensive belt made of locally sourced alligator from Lake Powell, which lies adjacent to much of the back nine of the Shark’s Tooth Golf Course where the ACC Championship was being held.
Unknowingly at the time, this belt would be an omen.
As the clock turned to 5:00 p.m., and the sun was beginning its descent, birds were still active in the Florida sun during the Saturday afternoon final round. Bridgeman had just played his 19th hole of the day and 55th in the last 24 hours. He was heading back to the tee box on the 18th hole for a second playoff. He had just narrowly missed a chance to clinch the ACC individual title with a seven-foot birdie putt, allowing himself and North Carolina’s Peter Fountain, the previous year’s individual champion, to both make par.
“I missed it, but it bumped out,” Bridgeman recalled. “I hit a really good putt, so I wasn’t upset at all with that. It just hit something and bumped left. I felt completely confident in my putter, and I had been great with it all week. If I could just get it back near the green, somewhere near the flag, I could make another one.”
Bridgeman would not be denied a second time.
With seemingly all the weight in the world on him, he showed tremendous poise under pressure. Bridgeman striped his drive to begin the second playoff hole right down the middle of the fairway, even further than his first. Fountain would hit his shorter and off to the left of the fairway.
After Fountain overshot the green, Bridgeman again kept his second shot tight and sat within eight feet of another birdie attempt.
“I knew I was going to make that one,” Bridgeman said with a smile. “It was a little bit longer, but I knew I was going to make that one.”
And he did. He nearly walked it in with the ball still rolling toward the cup before it disappeared, clinching the title.
Bridgeman hadn’t paid attention to any scores throughout his final round but came off his final hole thinking he might have won. When he found out there was a chance for a playoff, he immediately headed to the range.
“I had a little more emotion when I finished my round earlier…I had my emotions there and thought I had won,” recalled Bridgeman. “I got back, got under control, went to the range and hit some more balls and I got back into that same kind of feeling [in preparation for the playoff].”
After he clinched the second playoff hole, it all sunk in officially for Bridgeman that he had won.
Bridgeman became the first Clemson golfer to win the ACC Individual Championship since 2009 when David May was co-champion with NC State’s Matt Hill. However, Bridgeman is the first outright individual champion for Clemson since John Engel in 2001.
Over two decades later, history was made. Bridgeman became the seventh Tiger in history to claim an individual ACC championship: Parker Moore (1976), Kevin Johnson (1988), Danny Ellis (1992), Charles Warren (1997 and 1998), John Engler (2001), David May (2009). Of those on that list, only Bridgeman, Johnson and Warren can claim individual titles and team titles in their careers.
“That’s special [to be in that company]. We have a lot of history at our school,” Bridgeman detailed. “To make some more, that’s really special to me. I like to follow in the footsteps of some of our pros. Coach [Jordan] Byrd’s brother [Jonathan Byrd] is one that I look up to. To see that I’ve made my mark in Clemson history is awesome.”
Speaking of making his mark in Clemson history, Bridgeman broke the Clemson career record for rounds in the 60’s with his opening round 69. He followed that up with an ultra-impressive second round score of 66 and final round 68.
The opening round 69 was the 47th round in the 60’s of his career, one more than the previous record of 46, held by his former teammate Bryson Nimmer. He finished his career with a record 50 rounds in the 60’s.
The entire spring Bridgeman had been building toward this moment and beyond. With his ACC victory, he added his fifth-straight top four finish – tying former Tiger and current PGA Tour player D.J. Trahan.
With his senior year body of work, Bridgeman finished second in program history with a 70.74 stroke average – just .04 behind Doc Redman. Bridgeman holds the highest stroke average of any golfer in program history that played at least three seasons.
He rounds out his career not only as an ACC Individual Champion, but as the 2022 ACC Golfer of the Year – just the fourth in Clemson history.
“I will miss competing for Clemson with the paw on my chest,” said Bridgeman. “It has been an honor to represent Clemson as much as a I have. I will really miss fighting and grinding alongside with my teammates, some of which I’ve been with for all four years.”