Fall Sports Media Day - Men's Golf
Aug 27, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Head Coach Greg Nye Opening Statement: On my right, we have junior Xander McDonald-Smith. He's from the Queens, NY. On my left is Shane Stewart. He's from Dublin, Ohio. He plays a bunch of nice golf courses out in that area. They're excited to get our campaign going this fall. We've got five events coming up with some team qualifying going on right away. Off we go to Minnesota, then we head over to the Wolverine, and then off to Chicago to play in an outstanding tournament there. It's bang, bang, bang right in the month of September. They are all terrific tournaments. We take a couple weeks where we re-qualify people and head down to the Bank of Tennessee event in Johnson City which draws an outstanding field. We were in that last year and we finish the fall at Georgetown. If you're not familiar with our sport, we have the challenge of being ready to go, straight out of summer, flow through October and then guess what happens? This part of the country shuts it down on us and we become a two-segment sport and start back up in January where we get prepped up to go to the Big Ten Match Play. We've got a match down in Richmond before spring break where we head out to Florida State. Follow the spring break trip down to Kingsmill - a very, very large field there. We have an early April break which is nice because the weather is a little tough that time of year. Then we head out to the Kepler Intercollegiate at Ohio State. We close out the regular season here at the Rutherford with great weather. That gives you a little bit of some parameters. These are two outstanding players. If you're not familiar, this summer Xander [McDonald-Smith] qualified for the US Public Links. By virtue of getting in is a challenge and then when you're there you attempt to make the match play and he did achieve that. It was an exciting event for him to be involved with. I just want to make one more note. Yesterday afternoon in Omaha, Nebraska was the final round of the Web.com Tour. Kevin Foley, who is a 2010 graduate of Penn State, earned his PGA tour card; very exciting news for us. We're very proud of him. He's a young man that came up in a way where he had some challenges and has pushed himself through from a point of no status all the way to the Tour. He has quite a story. He's an alumni who is very faithful and is very well-loved.
Q: How do you keep sharp during those cold weather months?
McDonald-Smith: Besides working out with our trainers, we go to Holuba Hall and we hit there. We also have a brand new facility at our clubhouse with a lot of new technology that really helps us stay sharp during the winter.
Q: You had Xander at the Public Links and you also had JD at the U.S. Amateur. How does that influence the start of the season having guys coming off tournaments like that over the summer?
Coach Nye: That really addresses the heart of all. If you're a northern program it's essential that you have players play in a tournament schedule in the summer. It's beyond JD [Dornes] and Chris [Houston] what's happened this summer. Those were the news-grabbing ones, but with Xander [McDonald-Smith] doing what he did and there's a couple things Shane [Stewart] did this summer that were true indicator of success that's just right ahead. Good programs have people achieving at that level. Now these guys come back to school and we need to move it a notch higher. Other schools that have top programs have the same things going on.
Q: Can you talk to the depth of your team?
Stewart: My first year in the program we were a team surrounded at the time by TJ Howe, who was an All-American and just a rock solid player. I wouldn't say we had a weaker roster, but we relied on TJ weekly and then players sort of filled around him. This year is a different story. We have a smaller roster of 9 guys and every single one of us could probably compete on a weekly basis. It's just trying to deal with the hot hand of those 8 or 9 guys that are in contention. I think everyone is really excited because every single one of the guys on the team has the potential to become a superstar to the next level. It's just who takes the next steps and hopefully ultimately push ourselves to that point.
Coach Nye: If you have depth and then you push forward and have anyone merge that can give you a strong performance almost every week - that true number one player and possibly a true two player, that's a huge difference maker.
Q: How special is it for you to see Kevin Foley, a former teammate, earn a Tour Card?
Stewart: It's really cool. [Foley] is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. He truly is always there for you. He comes back in town a couple times a year and hosted me on my recruiting visit. He was extremely welcoming and always has been. He obviously has an enormous amount of game and we're all excited for him next year and beyond.
Q: In your mind as a player, what would you have to do to go out and get a Tour Card?
Stewart: I think we all jump from level to level whether it's junior golf to collegiate golf to high amateur golf to professional golf. Each time the pool of players you're playing against gets better and better. Personally, that's why I'm excited to have two years left and see what's in store for me. The first step is becoming an elite college player then moving on to the next level from there. That's why I was mentioning earlier how excited we are to have eight or nine guys that can truly make that step and want to make that step is a pretty rare thing that I haven't seen the last few years here.
Q: What's the strongest point of your game?
Stewart: I have a really good mid iron game I would say. Low to mid irons I'm very comfortable with.
McDonald-Smith: Probably driving. I'd say that's my strength, I just hit it pretty straight and pretty long, too. It's a good combination, I guess.
Q: Are there any other major success stories over the summer along with the US Amateur and Public Links?
Coach Nye: The Sunnehanna is a very difficult amateur tournament down in Johnstown. JD Dornes went right out there and did what's very difficult to do and posted a number and got in the tournament. That one comes to mind that you might not notice. He's just a new guy on the scene and I don't even know if he appreciates how big a deal that is to be involved in a tournament of that size. That's one that Kevin Foley won a few years ago beating Ricky Fowler and a couple other guys we're watching on TV. Jens Talbert is one of our better players too and he was injured late last year and took some time to get it going. He won a small tournament down in Arkansas. Christian Elliott coming in had a very good summer.
Q: As it becomes colder do injuries become a problem?
Coach Nye: No, injuries should not be much of a problem in golf, really. We had a number last year and it was a mystery to me. We've had some, but cold weather shouldn't bring it on. With a good warm up and proper gear you should be fine.
Q: Xander, can you talk about your experience at the Public Links?
McDonald-Smith: It was my first USGA event. They had a qualifier here at our home course, so I drove up here and played the qualifier. I got into my first USGA event which was really cool. When I got there I didn't really know what to expect, but it was really awesome and was run really well. It was a little intimidating because there were bunch of good players there. I just went out the first day and just played solid. I made a couple birdies and did the same thing the next day. It was definitely nerve wracking the last day because I knew I was up in the top ten and that was a good experience for me to start trying to deal with the nerves. I didn't deal with them great but it's a good start and it's great playing in those big events when you get nerves running. Then you can transfer that into the big events we play too.
Q: Shane, how do you plan to lead such a young team as a captain?
Stewart: It's such a good group of guys. Great students, good folks, and just guys I like spending time with so it's actually really easy. I live with Xander [McDonald-Smith] and Jens [Talbert] and I feel like I may be a captain but we have a lot of older leadership. We've been in touch with the young guys all summer and I feel like they feel well-accepted and well-welcomed. I think we're all ready to start playing some good golf. I'm excited to have that captaincy seat but I think we have a lot of other strong leaders that can help get these new guys acclimated and play strong golf.