Gen Nagai had himself quite the homecoming during the first weekend of January, as the Philippines native came away with the victory in the Philippine Amateur Open Golf Championship.
“I haven’t won a tournament in general since I got to Seton Hall, so to finally pull something off felt really good,” Nagai said. “It gives me a lot of confidence heading into the season.”
For the tournament, Nagai shot 14-over-par on a difficult course through tough conditions, battling back in the third round to force a playoff before capturing the tournament in the final round.
“The course is probably the hardest course I’ve ever played, and the scores did show it. I never forced anything,” Nagai said. “I was really patient with it and tried to mentally outsmart anyone just because the course was so hard you couldn’t really outplay the course. I just tried to keep that mindset throughout the entire course and through the playoff, so it worked out well and I’m happy it did.”
The tough course played right into Nagai’s strengths, according to head coach Clay White.
“Anytime you can win a golf tournament, it’s pretty cool,” White said. “It was great to see him persevere because from what I hear it was very tough conditions, pretty windy and a really tough course. The tougher the conditions the better chance he has to win. He works really hard, so it’s nice when it pays off. I’m really excited about what he has coming in his last semester.”
Along with family and friends, Nagai also saw some other familiar faces as teammates Alex Chalk, Alex McAuley, Tyler Po and Chris Yeom all competed in the tournament.
“It was really cool. We were just hanging out and playing golf for two weeks,” Nagai said. “I felt like it was a tournament but at the same time I felt like it was a vacation. Just enjoying seeing all my friends and family and being able to play where I grew up.”
Yeom, a fellow senior, finished 13th in the tournament. Together Nagai and Yeom will look to lead the Pirates this upcoming spring in the pair’s last go around.
“They’ve done so much for our program that I hope they can go out on a really good note and have a good last semester here. They never give up, they continue to fight the entire time,” White said. “The entire time is a constant battle with yourself and to continually be able to keep yourself going.”
“We try to do our best by leading by example, so we try to outwork everyone and try to keep everyone in check. [Coach White] leaves it up to us to help everyone with what we know. We’re here for a reason and he trusts us,” Nagai said.
Looking to build off the tournament, White believes that Nagai is primed to make a run in his senior campaign.
“I really truly think he is ready to come out. I think Chris [Yeom] has been a motivation for him because Chris had a really great year last year. They’re pushing each other which is great,” White said. “I’m excited for the spring.”
Nick Santoriello can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NickSantoriello.