Alpharetta, Ga.—Clemson had its best round of the year on Friday afternoon, and is tied for the lead with host school Georgia Tech after the first round of the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate at the Lakeside Course in Alpharetta, Ga. Clemson shot a 12-under par 276 on the par 72 course to tie the 13th ranked Rambling Wreck for first place in the 14-team field.
Clemson beat five of the top 12 teams in the nation on Friday with the list including fifthranked Stanford (280), sixth-ranked Texas A&M (299), seventh-ranked Virginia (284), 10th-ranked Tennessee (286) and 12th ranked Alabama (280). Clemson is also head of defending National Champion Pepperdine by three shots.
“This was our best round of the year,” said Head Coach Jordan Byrd. “We really handled the speed of the greens well. We played a practice round at St. Edwards leading up to this tournament and I think that really helped us prepare for the speed of these greens.
Clemson excelled on the par four holes on Friday, playing those holes at nine-under-par, six shots better than any other team in the field. “We played the par four holes well because we really drove the ball well. I don’t remember seeing very many wayward drives.”
Three Tigers shot in the 60s, four shot under par and all five shot par or better, as Clemson had just its second under-par team round of the year. It marked the first time Clemson had three players in the 60s on the same course since the opening tournament of 2021-22 when all five Clemson players shot in the 60s at the Maui Jim Invitational in Arizona.
Super senior Zack Gordon, who had a 68 in that impressive round at the Maui Jim last year, led the way on Friday with another 68. The native of Gaffney opened with a birdie at the par four 10th hole, then made a bogey on the par three 13th hole. The Tigers played the back nine first so the 18th hole closed out Gordon’s first nine.
Gordon, a veteran of 103 career rounds at Clemson, made birdie on the par five 18th, then birdied holes 1 through 3 to become the first Clemson golfer this year to make four consecutive birdies. His 68 tied for his low round of the year and equaled his team best 68 at this tournament last year. He is tied for fourth place after the first round.
Supporting Gordon were Jonathan Nielsen and Kian Rose with scores of three-under par 69. They are both tied for 12th in the individual race. Nielsen had the comeback round of the year by a Clemson golfer as he played the first eight holes in three-over-par, then played the last 10 in six under. He shot a five-under-par 31 on the front side with five birdies. It was the lowest front nine score among the 75 players in the field. Rose was more consistent with nine-hole scores of 34-35. He finished strong with birdies on the last two holes.
“Jonathan is starting to figure out how good a golfer he is,” said Byrd. “He is driving the ball farther than he had previously and he has always been a great putter.”
Sophomore Andrew Swanson had the best start by a Clemson golfer at the tournament with a four-under-par 32 on the back nine. He shot a 38 on the front, but still finished with a strong two under-par 70, his third under-par round of the year. He is tied for 19th place.
Transfer Alberto Dominquez was Clemson’s non-counter on Friday, but he still shot a strong even-par 72 with two birdies and two bogeys.