Club sports has always been a great way for students to meet friends who share similar passions. This is true for Clemson Club Golf teammates Connor Blackwelder, Spencer Magladry, Connor Skelly, Reid Smith and Peyton Steigerwald.
Gearing up to compete in the National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA) National Championship from April 26-28 in West Lafayette, Indiana, these five seniors are enjoying their last semester playing their favorite sport. With all of them graduating this year, finishing school will bring relief from a rigorous course load but will also mean leaving behind friends and a team that have shaped their college career.
“These guys are just a fantastic group of kids who never make any moment a dull one,” Steigerwald said. “It is really special for us seniors because it’s our last tournament representing Clemson, and we know if everything goes right, we have a good chance at winning.”
During the past four years, these teammates have experienced tremendous success and have elevated the status of the Clemson Club Golf team. Collectively they have attended 49 regional and 16 national tournaments, been a part of 24 all-tournament teams and achieved five wins. The first time this group of seniors played together, they won regionals by 39 strokes — which, for those who aren’t familiar with the game of golf, is a significant number; normally games are won by much closer margins. The NCCGA will be the second national championship this group plays together, and they are hoping to do well.
While competing well is important to the team, the memories that are created exceed the worth of any win.
“The best times are getting to play the practice rounds before any tournament,” said Smith, president of the club team. “You are just out there with your friends having fun because we are just learning about the course, and it doesn’t matter how well you play.”
“One of my favorite [memories] is when Reid [Smith] was in [a] long drive competition, and while the judge was wasn’t looking, he launched it, but instead of the golf ball going straight, it went right behind him,” Steigerwald said. “Without looking up, the judge just looked at his screen saying ‘That can be right…’ We laughed at that for such a long time.”
“My favorite memory is from one of my first tournaments, when I was playing with Eric Zimmerer,” Skelly added. “During the course of the round, he managed to fall into a creek and chunk a shot so badly that his glasses fell off. I was updating everyone in the GroupMe and heard a few kids laughing around the course.”
Each senior grew up playing and loving golf from a young age, so it was never a question of whether they would continue playing once they came to college. It was a question of how they would continue pursuing this passion since academics is also an important aspect of their lives. Putting academics first, they chose to play club golf at Clemson where they could continue enjoying the sport while pursuing a different career path.
“Club golf is great because it gave me the opportunity to play golf at a competition level at a big school, instead of playing varsity golf at some tiny school in Ohio,” Skelly said. “Over the past few years, we’ve been able to play some really great courses all around the Southeast, as well as nationals all over the country.”
Each one of these teammates will pursue jobs and degrees in their field after college. Smith, who is graduating in December, is looking to further his education by attending graduate school. Blackwelder will work as a mechanical engineer for Trane, and Skelly is joining Honda working in research and development. Magladry and Steigerwald have jobs lined up with Mueller Water Products and Beacon Wealth Advisors, respectively.
While golf is what brought them together, the camaraderie created by being on a team is what made them friends.
“Playing on the club team helped me to love golf again,” Smith said. “The stakes are lower, and you get to play with your friends.”
While they will soon go their separate ways, the memories this team has created together is something they will have for the rest of their lives.
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