Search Shop

Jonathan Byrd Honored As IPTAY Athlete of the Year for the Second Straight Year.

Sept. 5, 2000

By Tim Bourret Sports Information DirectorThe Citadel Game Program – September 2, 2000

This is the second straight year I have written an article on Clemson golfer Jonathan Byrd for the Clemson football program. It won’t be the last.

This is the second straight year Byrd has been honored as Clemson’s IPTAY Athlete of the Year, an award presented in honor of the late Gene Willimon, IPTAY Executive Director between 1950-77 (see page 120). The award is presented to the top all-around student-athlete as voted on by Clemson’s head coaches and administrators.

It doesn’t take much inspection of Byrd’s resume to see why he is the first two-time selection for the award. Quite simply, he is the first student-athlete in Clemson history to be chosen an on-the-field-of-competition All-American and an academic All-American in the same year, twice.

Now, just think about that. It is not very easy to accomplish either one, never mind both in the same year. Out of the thousands of athletes in Clemson history, Byrd is the only person to do it twice.

Byrd has been the corps of an unprecedented era of success for Larry Penley’s golf program. “Jonathan has been a dream to coach,” said Penley. “He has been a great team leader, someone the younger guys have been able to look up to. He showed great leadership qualities when he was a freshmen.

“We have had some great players, great student-athletes. But, Jonathan set a new standard for Clemson golfers and really Clemson athletes in the future. His accomplishments in athletics and in the classroom will be hard for anyone to match.”

On the course, Byrd led Clemson to four straight top 10 finishes at the NCAA Tournament, the first time in Clemson golf history that has happened. In fact, it was the first time since the 1980-83 era that any Clemson sports program has posted four straight top 10s. Byrd is the first athlete to start on four straight top 10s since the 1976-79 era when some Clemson soccer players turned the trick.

Byrd was a first-team All-American on the course in 1998-99 and a third-team selection this past year, when he helped Clemson to the ACC Championship and the NCAA Regional title before a seventh place national finish. The native of Columbia, SC is the first four-time first-team All-ACC performer in Clemson golf history and started on three ACC Championship teams.

He was a model of consistency, setting Clemson records for round under par in a career (61), round at par or better (75) and rounds of 75 or better (129). He also tied the record for career rounds in the 60s with 30, a mark he shares with Chris Patton, who will be inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame next week.

With all these accomplishments one might think that it would be difficult for him to pick out his most memorable moment at Clemson. But when the question was asked, he gave a quick and surprising answer.

“Camping out for tickets for the Wake Forest basketball game my freshman year,” said Byrd. “I remember spending the night in cold weather in a tent outside Littlejohn Coliseum with Charles Warren and Joey Maxon. That was great, there were over 100 tents on the lawn at Littlejohn, I will never forget it. Wake Forest had Tim Duncan and we were both ranked in the top three in the country.”

It is obvious that Byrd is one athlete who experienced all aspects of college life. “Really, the things I will remember the most are the friendships I formed with my teammates and the students at Clemson, not my scoring average. I made the perfect choice when I decided to come to Clemson. I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else.”

Byrd had some opportunties to turn professional, but like all of his predecessors in the program, he stayed all four years, and earned his degree. “Staying four years was the way to go for me. I can’t speak for everyone, there are some players who should turn pro early. But, I know I have matured quite a bit during the last four years. I don’t regret anything, I wouldn’t take anything back.”

Now a graduate, Byrd does not regret his decision to come to Clemson or stay for four years. The Clemson golf program and its high level of competition against a national schedule has prepared him for the professional game. His family has prepared him to deal with all aspects of life that will bring new problems as he strives to join the PGA Tour.

Byrd proved to himself that he can compete on the professional level when he finished 29th at the Greenville stop on the Tour this past summer. “College golf is at the level of the Tour, so that isn’t really that big a change. You just have to go out and get the experience and mindset for tournament golf. In college you are used to the team aspect of the competition.”

Another reason Byrd is ready for the next level is the guidance he has received from his parents, Jim and Jo Byrd, and his older brother, Jordan, a former starter on Furman’s golf team, who is currently pursuing a professional golf career.

“When I first came to Clemson I didn’t think my parents had any of the answers. Four years later I can see they had all the answers. My parents and my brother have given me great advice and guidance the last four years. I couldn’t have done any of this without their help. I am lucky to have such a great family.”

Byrd has had a busy summer, playing in amateur tournaments, including the Palmer Cup, where he helped the United States to a second straight victory over the team Great Britain/Ireland team. In two years on that team, he never lost a match, the only United States player who could make that claim. He will be turning professional soon and his family will be following his career every step of the way.

We probably will have an update on Byrd in this publication in the 2006 season….when he is inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame.

Byrd Career Highlights*First four-time first-team All-ACC golfer in Clemson history. *Starter on four top 10 teams, first Clemson athlete to do that in 20 years. *Two-time on course All-American, two-time first-team Academic All-American *Ranked in top 15 nationally of final Sagarin and MasterCard polls in 1999 and 2000. *First-team All-American in 1999 and third team in 2000. *Ranked first in Clemson history in career rounds in the 60s. *Amateur Golfer of the Year in South Carolina for 1999. *Two-time United States Palmer Cup Team member, posting a 7-0-1 record. *Third in Clemson history in stroke average, second in top 10 finishes.