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The Stretch Run

The Stretch Run

May 16, 2000

by Tripp James Clemson Golf Team Member

As spring turns into summer, our golf team is finally set to complete the journey we started nine months ago. That journey involved three main goals. One of these has been attained and the other two are there for the taking.

Three weeks ago, we captured the ACC Championship at the windswept Old North State Club in New London, N.C. Four birdies and an eagle on the final hole propelled our come from behind victory over Georgia Tech. To say this was an exciting win would be an understatement.

Now that we have achieved our first objective, we must focus on our next two, which are to win the NCAA East Regional and NCAA Finals. The East Regional will be held next week in Scranton, Pa. This tournament will serve as a qualifier for the NCAA Championship later this month in Auburn, Ala. As always, our goal will be to win the Eastern Regional Tournament, but a top eleven finish will advance the Tigers to the NCAA Finals.

Our starting lineup is strong and ready for this important stretch run over the next three weeks. We are led by our three All-Americans: John Engler, Jonathan Byrd, and Lucas Glover. John has had a remarkable year and probably would have won the ACC Tournament if he could have caught a few breaks. He is one of the best ball strikers I have ever seen. As a left-handed golfer, he can even hit the ball well right-handed!

Jonathan Byrd is our senior leader and a great role model. His final round 67 at the ACC Tournament was the catalyst of our come from behind victory. He is a first team All-American on the course and in the classroom and he may be the most consistent golfer Clemson has ever seen.

Finally, Lucas Glover had the greatest fall season in Clemson history. Just about every time he teed it up he shot under par. He has continued his stellar play this spring and matured into a team leader at the same time. Lucas is highly respected by the entire team and he always rises to the challenge of the big tournaments.

All three of these All-Americans were recently selected to represent the United States in the fourth annual Palmer Cup Matches. This competition places the best collegiate players from the U.S. against the best collegiate players from Great Britain and Ireland in a Ryder Cup style format. This is a wonderful honor for these players and our golf team because it is very rare to have three players from the same team selected.

D.J. Trahan and Jani Saari will round out our lineup for the stretch run. D.J. is a freshman with incredible talent. He hits the ball as far as Tiger Woods and already has one collegiate victory on his resume. He won the Las Vegas Invitational earlier this year and has continued to play well throughout the spring. He eagled his final hole in the ACC Tournament and was a very important contributor to our win.

Jani Saari is another phenomenal player who brings additional experience to the lineup. He played in both the NCAA East Regional and NCAA Finals last year. He has one of the best short games around and can get up and down from anywhere! Our entire team is very confident in both D.J. and Jani.

At the beginning of the year, our team adopted an approach that is similar to the one used by the Atlanta Braves. We decided to conduct ourselves in a professional manner and let our scores do the talking. Our goal would be simple: win as many tournaments as possible, but most importantly the NCAA Tournament. Nothing short of a victory in our last tournament would be acceptable. We are on our way, now all we have to do is finish the job.