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Larry Penley Answers Your ‘Ask The Tigers’ Questions

March 1, 2001

Below are Larry Penley’s answers to the selected questions that you submitted this past week to “Ask The Tigers”. would like to thank you for all of your questions submitted. We would also like to thank Larry for his time and sincere effort with “Ask The Tigers”. _______________________________________________________________

Larry, Every year the Tigers have tremendous success in the Eastern Regionals, which is typically as good as any competition you will play. Given that Clemson has won the Eastern Regional several times, and hasn’t been able to win the National Championship, would you say that it is tough to play that stringent of competition that close together?Jackie Thorton Baltimore, MD

I would say “No”, but I think it is tough to win both and I think it took a lot out of us last year when we did win the East Regionals. It is just hard to win that many golf tournaments. Especially winning the ACC Championship and the East Regional back to back, it was kind of tough to duplicate those two efforts a third time. It is something I have been struggling with, and we have tried at times to go into the Eastern Regionals with more of a laid back, “let’s qualify, let’s get through this and then save our best efforts for the NCAAs”. But every time we have done that, we have barely gotten through the regionals. That is something I don’t want to go through again. Sooner or later we are going to learn how to save our best efforts for the finals, and when we do I think we will be very successful. Maybe it will be this year.

Larry, You loaded up the fall schedule this year, do you believe this will help keep the guys fresh for your run at the ACCs and NCAAs? Go Tigers…win it all this year!Bobby Doolittle Jupiter, FL

Spoken like a true All-American, Bobby. You must be remembering the times where we had such a strong spring schedule and once we got to the conference, and the regionals, and the nationals, we were all very, very tired. We are trying to change our philosophy a little bit, split our seasons more equally. In our spring season we only have four regular season tournaments. Most tournaments have two weeks between each tournament. Being tired at the end of the season will be no excuse now. The guys should be mentally fresh for the regionals and the nationals, and hopefully a lot less tired. Good to hear from you Bobby. Email me when you get a chance. Talk to you soon.

Larry, During your years at Clemson, who is the best player you have coached or played with?Rob Madigan Orlando, FL

Wow, that is tough to say. As far as championships go, it has to be Charles Warren. Winning two ACC Championships, an NCAA Championship, and then finishing runner up at the NCAAs. As far as a player getting up for big tournaments, Charles was always at his best. Chris Patton and Kevin Johnson probably still hold most of our records although they are gradually being broken, and we’ve got two seniors on this team right now, Lucas Glover and John Engler. Engler has the all-time low Clemson career scoring average, and Glover is about three shots behind him. Maybe these guys are going to rewrite the record books as well. But that is a very hard question, the game has changed over the last 10-12 years, players are better. I don’t even know if I could make this team, back when I played. The guys are just so much better. Then you’ve got Kevin Johnson who won the Pub Links, he was a Walker Cupper, he won an ACC Championship, should have won an NCAA Championship. Then you’ve got Jonathan Byrd that was a four-time All-ACC player. So a lot of different players have left their mark, and I think it would be very difficult to pick one. Unless that be Robbie Madigan. If he could have putted AT ALL, he would have been a four-time All-American. Where was the long putter back then, Robbie?

Larry, Bad weather often shows up in your score, how do you prepare your team to face inclement weather?William Lovett Atlanta, GA

We practice and play in it. I like to save our good days for practice. Our bad rainy days, we always play. I’ve had a hard time getting the guys to concentrate and do what they need to do from a practice standpoint in bad weather, but when you put them out on the golf course to play, their concentration level always increase. You find who the mentally tough players are, and who the guys are that can handle the inclement weather. We end up laying in a lot of bad weather, we end up playing in the wind early in the spring. It really does show in our scores. But it is something you can prepare for.

Coach Penley, Clemson University built an on-campus golf course and yet the golf team plays here in Seneca at Cross Creek. Why is this? I would like to see the golf team support Clemson and play at the Walker Course where the lockers are instead of supporting the Shadwicks and other Seneca residents. I am a huge, I mean huge Clemson fan, from football to golf to whatever we are playing and I would like to see our golf team play at our course. Thank you for your time.Marc Gaillard Seneca, SC

That is a real good question. The biggest reason we play at Cross Creek is because of the condition of the greens and the slopes around the greens. The Walker Course, if you’ve played there a lot, you know that the greens are very flat, the areas around the greens are very flat, and it makes for some fairly easy short game work. Cross Creek produces some challenges that we see in a lot of courses we play, and we just don’t see that at the Walker Course. And the Walker Course is usually so crowded that we can’t get on. You know, they are in the business to make money, and usually they have tee times booked until 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon, and we can’t in 18 holes, and there is never anyone at Cross Creek. We can go there at 12:00 and there will be 12 cars in the parking lot and 8 of them will be ours. We never feel like we are in anybody’s way, and they are very accommodating. We also play at Pickens Country Club, Boscobel, and Smithville in Easley.

Coach Penley, Obviously, you think a lot of the talent in South Carolina since golfers from all around the country show interest in Clemson and the team is typically made up of 8 or 9 South Carolinians. How have you been able to build such a powerful program with players primarily from this small-populated state? Dustin Jones Georgetown, SC

We have been very fortunate. The players over the past 7 or 8 years in the state of South Carolina have been great players. That is a tribute to the South Carolina Junior Golf Association and the Carolina Junior Golf Association for really building great junior programs. You know not only us, but the University of South Carolina, Furman, and Coastal Carolina, we all have a lot of South Carolina boys on our teams. Obviously I am very partial to the kids in our state. When and if given the opportunity, I will always recruit the best players in our state, but we have been very fortunate lately. With Jonathan Byrd, Lucas Glover, Charles Warren, Chris Patton, all those homegrown players that are national champions, we have been very lucky. We’ve been very lucky that the players have reached that level of competitiveness and they haven’t had to go very far to go to school. It is easier for me to recruit in-state players. I don’t have very much success recruiting Florida. Florida kids just don’t want to go north to go play golf, and that makes good sense to me. With Georgia and Georgia Tech, it is very hard to get kids out of the state of Georgia. So, I like being stuck with these South Carlina kids, they have done an awesome job with our program.

Coach Penley, Does Clemson have plans for a Women’s Golf program in the future?Jill Becker Lexington, KY

Right now, Jill, I don’t know. I don’t think so. When we did our last Title IX assessment, I think we are in compliance. It would make sense though that we did have a women’s program, having our own golf course now and facilities that could probably accommodate a women’s team makes it seem like a natural fit. However, when we were adding women’s sports, and in the last six years we have added women’s soccer and women’s crew, we needed big numbers for Title IX, and we needed sports that we could put a lot of money into. Women’s soccer and women’s crew demand a lot of money. Women’s golf on the other hand is a fairly inexpensive sport, there are only six scholarships, and the facilities are already here, so we wouldn’t be spending money on facilities. So the overall budget would probably be less than $100,000. When they added those two women’s sports, they had to add sports that require lots of money, and they’ve done that, and I think they’re in compliance. So I don’t see them adding a women’s golf team in the future.

Larry, At the top level our golf program has achieved, you are dealing with the most talented junior golfers in the country. Once on campus, what do you think are the most important lessons/tools you must give these “youngsters” to prepare them for the next stage of their lives as professional golfers or, as they enter the business world? Julian Taylor Greenville, SC

Time management is probably the most important thing they have to learn. Our days have gotten unbelievably short, with the amount of practice time and the amount of study time that is required of all these guys. Our days go from 8 until dark, and unless they have very sound time management skills, they are going to be lost. I can only be with them four hours a day, and all that is involved with golf. The rest of their time is their class time, there study time, and what little time they can squeeze into a social life. So the guys that do have the good time management skills are able to have a social life and enjoy college a lot better. They are able to prepare themselves more for a business career and life outside of golf, but it is impossible to do without time management skills.

Larry, The golf team recently achieved the highest GPA of any athletic team, and higher than the student body average. What do you attribute this to? Cody Robinson Savannah, GA

Well it is Joe White. He is our academic advisor in Vickery. And it’s Bill D’Andre, and it’s Vickery’s set up and Vickery’s support. We miss a lot of class, and the players understand that because we miss a lot of class we are probably under a microscope a lit more about our grades than any other sport at Clemson. We are missing 11 to 13 classes a semester, and that is a lot, especially when you throw in the Tuesday/Thursday class, which is about a class and a half. So they make sure that we do well. If we don’t do well, I could see them start cutting our class days missed, and that would affect our schedules. The guys know all this, and they know that if they want to play against the best competition in the country and play the best tournament schedule we can play, they have got to be good students. Honestly, we do recruit good students, and that makes my job and Joe White’s job a lot easier. Joe is involved in our scheduling, he is involved in their academic progress, their study skills management. He is a very hands on coach, and a very vital part of our golf team, and we honestly couldn’t do it without him.

Coach Penley, Not to look ahead too much, but what players do see leading the team in the years to come? In other words, what underclassmen that we don’t know about show the most promise?Jeremy Bullock Clemson, SC

Right now it would have to be D.J. Trahan and Greg Jones. Everybody knows about D.J., he wins the U.S. Pub Links this past summer, he will be playing in The Masters in April, and he has two more years of eligibility left after this year. He will probably be one of the best, if not the best player in the country. We are going to have to build around him. Greg Jones, a red shirt freshman from Florence, is really showing a lot of good golf, and really stepping up and getting the job done in the four spot. I am really proud of what he is doing for our golf team. Other than those two guys, we have got to have some people step up. Ben Duncan has got to get better. He is a sophomore from Traveler’s Rest, he is going to have two more years of eligibility left. We are counting on him heavily to get better and improve. Then we’ve got some guys sitting around waiting in the wings, that I think given the opportunity could be good players. Matt Hendrix is a red shirt freshman from Aiken. Matt has a world of talent. Michael Simms is a red shirt freshman from Spartanburg. There again, he has a lot of talent and a lot of experience. The only player we signed last year was Jack Ferguson from Seneca. He is a very gifted and talented player. He has got some areas where he needs to improve, but I think he can play a lot of big time golf for us. And then we’ve got Tripp James, who is a red shirt Junior. He could be a senior leader, a guy who steps up and plays golf for us. So there are a lot of guys that are going to have the opportunity to do it, it is just a matter of which ones are going to grab the bull by the horn and do it.

Coach Penley, What is the secret to producing top ranked teams year after year? Keep up the good work!Eric Sprott Clemson, SC

We just recruit good players and recruit good kids. Our biggest reason for success over the few years has been probably our team unity and cohesiveness. These guys buy into the fact that we are a team, even though golf is an individual sport. They do have common goals, they do practice and work together. We try to make it as much of a team as we possibly can and it seems to take some of the pressures off of them individually. It almost allows them to free up and play their individual games. Having strong belief in their teammate is something that we are going to continue to do. That is something that Coach (Bobby) Robinson instilled in us when I played a long time ago, and that is a very successful part of our program right now, and I don’t think we are ever going to change that.

I would like to thank everyone for your great questions. I enjoyed this and hopefully we can do it again. Go Tigers! Larry Penley

Next week’s guest on “Ask The Tigers” will be junior starting shortstop, Khalil Greene.