Jonathan Byrd’s Answers To Ask The Tigers

June 2, 2000

Senior Jonathan Byrd, a member of the Clemson golf team, sat down after the second round of the NCAA Golf Championships to answer questions submitted by Clemson fans. thanks Jonathan for taking part in Ask The Tigers and we would also like to thank those fans who submitted questions.

Skip Browning, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. J-Byrd, glad to hear things are going great for you and the golf team. I wish you guys continued success. My question is, how do you prepare for, and overcome the pressures golfers have during such strenuous tournaments? Especially when you have guys on the team like Brennen and Engler, and I almost left out Lucas!!!! Good luck Buddy, I’ll be rooting you guys on.

Jonathan Byrd’s Answer Being around the guys takes the pressure off. I am not the most loose guy on the team. But, John Engler and Lucas Glover are free spirits and they keep us loose.

From a physical standpoint, we stretch for about 15 minutes. Then we putt for 20-25 minutes and work on long putts and get the speed. We get the stroke smooth and then go to the range and chip. I work on tempo with high irons first, then work up to the driver.

By the time I tee it up on the first hole I am ready to go.

Jeff Gibson, La Plata, Md. I would like to know what you as a golfer have to shoot in order to qualify to become a member of the team. Thanks for your time.

Jonathan Byrd’s AnswerYou really need to be a scratch golfer to make the Clemson team. You can’t be a scratch golfer on every course, but you need to be capable of shooting in the 60s in high school on a consistent basis.

From a game (style) standpoint, you need to have a good short game. You need to be around 75 on bad days. The best way to set yourself apart from the crowd is to have a good short game. If you can manage your game, you can make up for many mental mistakes.

In high school at times I made some stupid mistakes. Don’t try to drive the ball too far. Hit a smooth seven iron instead of killing an eight iron. In general play within yourself.

Joe Redlinger, Pittsburgh, Pa. How familiar are you and the Clemson team with the Grand National Country Club, and what will be your approach preparing for the NCAA Championships this week? Best of luck. GO TIGERS!

Jonathan Byrd’s Answer We played in the fall at the Preview (in September) and that helped a lot. We were all familiar with the set up and where to hit the ball in the fairway. The greens were not good in the fall, so we have had to adjust to the speed of the greens in the spring.

The course forces you to play a certain way. In most traditional courses you are challenged with a fairway that gets more and more narrow the farther you hit it. If you want to be aggressive you hit a driver.

This course, you can’t hit it past a certain point. There are bunkers in the middle of the fairway that you have to hit over or hit short. You can’t hit driver on every hole. You have to manage your game and give yourself chances to score.

The greens are large with a number of tiers. The greens are a lot like Cross Creek Country Club in Seneca, where we play back home. There are a lot of ridges and areas where you have to hit the ball. Just getting it to the green is not enough, you have to hit it to a certain area.

Chris Ewart, Marinez, Ga. Can I carry your golf bag when you go pro? I will probably make more money than becoming a plastic surgeon. Good luck at the national tournament.

Jonathan Byrd’s Answer This summer I will stay as an amateur until after the United States Amateur, so you will have to wait and see. I have a heavy bag, hope you are strong.

I will play in the Palmer Cup, which will be held in England in August. That is right before the United States Amateur. I hope to win the United States Amateur, that is a dream of all golfers.

I hope to go to tour school after the United States amateur. I will get my degree from Clemson in August.

Tim Seymour, Winston-Salem, N.C. The issue of slow play has frequently been discussed in the golfing community. I have taken the WFU B team to a number of tournaments over the past few years. Why does the average college round take 5 hours to play when the USGA would like all rounds of golf to be completed in 4 hours or less?

Jonathan Byrd’s Answer I play slowly, but for an NCAA champioinship the play has been fairly quick. You can’t expect in a national championship for it to be played in less than five hours. The scores have been low and that tends to speed up play.

Terry L. Long, Clemson S.C. In competing for a national championship, is the mental or physical part of the game the toughest?

Jonathan Byrd’s Answer The mental part. As we do this interview, we are sitting waiting to see if we make the cut. It is very difficult to just sit and there is nothing you can do about it.

The mental part is tough because of the execution and pressure that you have when you are playing.

The physical part of playing the game for 18 holes and carrying your bag is not taxing at all. In fact, the adrenalin flows so much more, it feels like we have played just nine holes a day.

William Sanford Ware, III, Clemson, SC What is your single most important swing thought when standing over the ball? And do you have one during the backswing? Also, what things should a high single digit handicapper work on most to get to the low single digits?

Jonathan Byrd’s AnswerI tell myself to think about a smooth transition at the top of the backswing. You don’t want to get too quick. I concentrate on the target and don’t really have that many swing thoughts.

You can overthink when you are out there. That is especially the case on this golf course. When you play U.S. Open type courses you can get into trouble hitting it left or right off the fairway. Playing on some courses in the Northeast you can under think. But, this type, just get up there and hit it, the roughs aren’t that high here because of the lack of rain.

Work on your short game. That is the area you can make the difference. Don’t go buy some special clubs, just spend the time chipping and putting. Learn how to chip and putt without using your hands. Use your shoulders, the big muscles. That will make a difference. You can save quite a few shots around the green. Ball striking will come and go, but you can control your short game.

Jonathan Kent, Toronto Canada I am going to be playing golf next year at Old Dominion University in Virginia and my question is, when you are struggling for birdies what do you do? Do you keep grinding and trying hard to make them or do you relax and try to take them as they come. Hope you played well at the nationals, thanks.

Jonathan Byrd’s AnswerTell yourself to relax. When you grind you start slaving over every putt and you make it that much harder on yourself. Just relax and let the shots and putts come. Make the hole simple and trust your game.