For the past two seasons, the Seton Hall men’s golf team has not dealt with bringing a freshman into the fold or helping a young golfer mesh his college experience and college game all into one.
This year that changed. Twice.
Freshman newcomers Gen Nagai and Chris Yeom are currently trying to figure out the college experience, just like every other freshman on campus, on top of learning and growing their golf game from six other teammates, all of whom happen to be upperclassmen.
“Since they’re juniors and seniors, they are acclimated to college life,” Yeom said of his teammates. “I am going to learn a lot from them, learn from their mistakes sophomore year and learn what they want me to do to become a better player.”
Being a freshman on a team dominated by seniority could lead a person to feel like they will have to wait their turn to contribute—pay their dues, so to speak—before their impact is felt.
For Nagai, his initial expectations for his Pirate career are the exact opposite.
“My expectation, goal-wise, is to count for every round that I play,” Nagai said. “One of my goals is to be one of the top players for the team, and basically help the team get better and get good results.”
Seniority on the team, sprinkled with naivety of the freshman experience, could lead to a group of golfers ready to take on just about anybody.
Quickly, expectations will arise and people may tend to get ahead of themselves.
Head coach Clay White understands all of this. He has brought in freshmen plenty of times and knows exactly what he has to do to gel everyone together into a realistic expectation.
“Well, obviously, I have had a lot of freshman classes before, and I think, as a coach, you try and get the guys to be relaxed as possible,” White said. “As much as Gen would like to contribute, and Chris didn’t verbalize it as much, but I think everybody wants to contribute. I think Isaiah Whitehead wanted to score as many points as possible for the team [last year].”
White understands the importance of tempering large expectations, especially from younger guys, because sometimes failure is inevitable. That does not make it permanent, though, and White believes there is a perfect example right on the team for Nagai and Yeom to look toward if and when they are faced with adversity.
“Lloyd (Jefferson Go) is one of the better players to come through,” White said of his junior star. “I know Lloyd didn’t even qualify for his first tournament as a freshman. I took him as an individual, and he’s played in pretty much everything since then, but his score hasn’t counted every single time.”
Moving away from home to come to college is not an easy task for most people, and when you add the prospect of being a Divison I student-athlete at a school like Seton Hall, the level of difficulty increases.
With that said, a freshman needs people in his corner to help guide him, because everyone on the team before him had this experience, as well. White preps for that when he brings golfers into his program.
“I like to think that I recruit good kids, and kids that were freshman, too,” White said.
White made it known to his older players that they are expected to break the young guys in, help ease their process and share a little bit of wisdom with them.
“So as you guys are walking down the fairways, make sure you’re waiting,” White said of the message he relayed to his upperclassmen. “And talking to them and telling them of your experiences of adjusting and things like that.”
The message for senior David Cha to Yeom was apparently well received.
“David, he really tells me what I should do and what I shouldn’t do,” Yeom said. “Like his flaws and what he regrets doing freshman year, so I can focus more on a certain aspect that will help me improve.”
A lot can happen from freshman to senior year, but for Nagai and Yeom, it seems like they are well on their way to success.
Dennis Chambers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DennisChambers_.