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How a focus on camaraderie is turning Clemson’s golf program around

Jonathan Nielsen
Jonathan Nielsen and head coach Jordan Byrd.

Clemson’s men’s golf headed to Shark’s Tooth Golf Club in Panama City Beach, Florida, this week after winning its first tournament of the season in Charleston, South Carolina. It was the Tigers’ first win in the last two seasons, and it came after the program had been active on and off the course, working to instill new team strategies to stay successful.

The newest update of the spring golf season is the appointment of a team captain by head coach Jordan Byrd, and senior Jonathan Nielsen holds that title with pride.

“There’s responsibility in a leadership role,” Nielsen said in an interview with The Tiger. “Coach Byrd and I meet to exchange ideas that some of the players have while also understanding decisions from his perspective.

“There is much more accountability within the team, which places emphasis on all players being on time to workouts, practices, tutor sessions and class.”

The team has prepared more than ever to increase the players’ ability to be ready to play in any condition. This includes practice rounds in the rain and high winds, at least two full 18-round practices a week and weekly lifts. They also utilize TrackMan, a golf simulator that tracks ball and club data to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of the golfers.

All these efforts, Nielsen said, have greatly contributed to his team’s winning capabilities.

“We’ve built a team environment this semester that holds everyone accountable on and off the golf course,” the Copenhagen, Denmark native said. “There is a lot of focus on doing the little things right because we know that will yield results in the long run. Now, I’m more motivated than ever.”

With conference competition now on the horizon for the Tigers, the team is looking to win each tournament to show out at the ACC Championship come April 19-22. In the meantime, the Tigers will travel to tournaments hosted by Florida State, Wake Forest and Virginia. Clemson does not host any conference tournaments at its home course.

Junior Andrew Swanson is also more confident following the team’s first-place win in Charleston on Feb. 6.

“Everyone did their part,” Swanson said. “As a team right now, I think everyone is confident in each other.”

“Specifically, with my game, I am looking forward to driving (the ball) better in the next tournament. I struggled a bit off the tee, which cost me quite a few shots,” he said. “I have put in enough work where hopefully it will be better in our next event.”

Swanson finished tied for second at the season opener, shooting a season-best round of 66 (-6) on day one.

Their final goal? Making it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2021.

The road to the championship is a long one. Nielsen and Swanson noted their team’s camaraderie, saying the tight-knit group uplifts one another on and off the green.

“Coach always talks about how he strives for the program not only to be full of talented golfers but for each one of us to develop character and become men,” Nielsen said.

For now, the Tigers will focus on the four tournaments ahead before the ACC championship. Updates can be found on their Instagram page, @clemsonmgolf.

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Kiley Bouchard
Kiley Bouchard, Senior Reporter
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