Note: The following appears in the Charlotte gameday football program.
It was only a recreational practice round with his older brother, Andrew, on a late summer afternoon, but there was some pressure on William Nottingham as he approached the 18th hole at Ridgefield Country Club in his hometown of Kingsport, Tenn.
The Clemson rising senior needed a birdie on the final hole to shoot 59, the most revered number in golf. He had already made 12 birdies in his first 17 holes, and one more would give him that number on the par-72 course.
“I shot a 29 on the front side with seven birdies,” recalled Nottingham. “So, the thought (of a 59) crossed my mind. I made a birdie on 10, then made a par on the 11th, the easiest hole on the course.”
He responded with birdies on 12 and 13.
“My brother wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go in,” admitted Nottingham. “But I made him stay.”
Nottingham wanted to make sure he had a witness to history.
After birdies on 15 and 16, he just needed a birdie on the last, a par-four, 380-yard hole, to reach the special number. Nottingham hit his second shot to within 10 feet and made the putt.
Nottingham is hoping that history repeats itself as he heads into his final season as a four-year starter for a program that has finished in the top 15 in the nation each of his first three seasons.
Former Tiger Bryson Nimmer shot a 59 in a practice round leading up to last season, and it turned out to be a foreshadowing of a great final year. Nimmer went on to be a first-team All-American, set a Tiger record for stroke average (69.7) and won a record four tourneys.
Shooting low numbers is not new for Nottingham, who fired a school-record 62 at the Wolfpack Spring Open in Raleigh, N.C. on April 14, 2017. That day, he also set records for nine-hole score (29), birdies (12) and consecutive birdies (7).
Shooting low numbers is all about ability, but there is a mindset as well. Head Coach Larry Penley refers to some players as “afraid to shoot a low number,” but that is not Nottingham’s approach.
“I take it one stroke at a time and have a mindset that I won’t settle for what I have done so far. If I have a low round going, I don’t just try to par out the rest of the way.”
Nottingham has scored under par in 22 of his 96 career rounds, including nine rounds in the 60s. He has six top-10 finishes, a total he wants to improve on in his final year. If he can do that, combined with the performance of five other returning lettermen and two talented freshmen, the Tigers will once again challenge to reach the match play championship at the NCAA Tournament.
“Last year was a great year (tied for eighth at the NCAA Championship), but losing in a playoff for the final spot in match play was tough. That is going to motivate us all year. We saw that this summer in the way the guys played.”
Nottingham had a strong summer with a second-place finish at the Tennessee Amateur and a spot in match play at the North-South Amateur at Pinehurst.
As the only senior on the 2019-20 Tiger squad, Nottingham naturally has more leadership responsibility.
“William Nottingham is a great leader,” said Penley. “I don’t have to worry about him in any way. He sets an example in every way for his teammates, whether it be in work ethic at practice or in the classroom.”
Nottingham has been named to the All-ACC Academic team twice and was named to the Golf Coaches Association Academic Scholar team last season. The secret to his success is being efficient with his time.
“I try to get things done and not waste time. If I have a few minutes, I try to use it, whether it be in practice or on academics.”
That approach has been sound for Nottingham, whether it be in his pursuit of a low score or a high GPA.