South Orange sits comfortably in the northern part of New Jersey. Fall is currently in full effect and temperatures are beginning to regularly hover in the 50’s.
Cebu City in the Philippines separates South Orange by a 16- hour flight from Newark to Hong Kong and then another two and half hour flight to Cebu. Right now in Cebu it is mid-summer weather, not breaking much below 80 degrees.
For two people in particular the contrast between these places is significant. For Seton Hall men’s golfers Lloyd-Jefferson Go and Gen Nagai, their move from Cebu to South Orange started years ago.
“The first time we met I was about four years old, maybe four or five,” Nagai said. “But we weren’t really friends we just played in a few tournaments together, we were just from the same place. But we weren’t from the same high school, so we weren’t really friends until I was like maybe 12 years old.”
Nagai just began his freshman year playing for the Pirates, while Go is currently in his junior year and a leader on the golf team.
With Go being a staple of the golf program at the Hall, Nagai knew he had a friend in South Orange, and when traveling nearly half way across the world for college, something of familiarity weighed on the decision.
“When I was trying to decide between schools and talking to schools, I asked him and his parents a lot,” Nagai said. “I would say LJ is one of the main reasons I’m here.”
Their head coach, Clay White, believes the same.
“For Gen it was between us and Gonzaga,” White said. “I believe he decided to come here mainly because of LJ and the connection they have.”
Their friendship is natural. It is a two way street for either of them to express jokes, or offer help towards one and other. In a sport that can usually be perceived as bland, Nagai and Go drive their competitiveness between themselves as much as possible to elevate each others play.
“Competition is very fun,” Go said. “Especially amongst your friends, the bragging rights hold a lot. That’s really fun. Whoever is the best has the most bragging rights. From an outsiders perspective it may look boring, but if there is a competition between us two it’s always going to be fun.”
With Nagai, he believes the competition doesn’t even have to be over a full round of golf. It may be something that doesn’t even effect the outcome of the match.
“Even if it’s something ridiculous like sprinting with your golf bag or whatever, we’ll try to beat each other.” Nagai said.
With Go being the established veteran on the men’s golf team and two years Nagai’s senior, a seniority mentality could be a natural obstacle to overcome in a friendship and teammate relationship. Nagai doesn’t feel that way at all, in fact, he sees this friendship more open than most.
“If I had someone who would see me as a younger person, they would act totally different to me than they would react to their other friends.” Nagai said. “And then I would have to act slightly different towards them. But with us I act the same as I do with any other person, I even actually joke around more and make fun him more. And he does the same.”
Nagai has struggled to begin his career as a Pirate, shooting an average of 77.29 so far through the fall season.
Go has spoken to him about the rough play, and simply put gave him the advice that he just needs to “have the drive to do better.”
“It helps a lot to know that someone who is not yourself wants you to do well and hopes and believes that you will get better.” Nagai said of Go.
For Nagai and Go, that connection to home is much shorter than 18 hours of flying. It’s just a drive down the fairway.
Dennis Chambers can be reached at email@example.com. edu or on twitter @Dennischambers_.