MSU men’s golf previews NCAA Louisville Regional

The top five teams will advance to NCAA Championship play, as well as the best individual competitor.

Posted: May 9, 2019 4:48 PM
Updated: May 9, 2019 10:40 PM

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Mississippi State men’s golf coach Dusty Smith met with the media Thursday to preview the upcoming NCAA Louisville Regional. Smith was accompanied by a pair of student-athletes, senior Austin Rose and junior Garrett Johnson.

The Golf Dawgs are set for their second consecutive regional appearance, as Smith has now led the team to regional play in both seasons at the helm. Play begins Monday, May 13, with 18 holes from the University of Louisville Golf Club. The field will play the second round Tuesday, and the decisive final round on Wednesday.

University of Michigan Athletics

The top five teams will advance to NCAA Championship play, as well as the best individual competitor. Live results will be available via Golfstat.com.

Head coach Dusty Smith

What can you take away from your performance at the SEC Tournament?

DS: “We've got to learn from that. Typically, when you have conditions like that, your weaknesses are going to be exposed. We were able to see what we needed to work on, where we need to improve and take it from there.”

What are the challenges of this regional going to be?

DS: “Honestly, the biggest challenge is not getting ahead of ourselves. We have experience on that golf course. We played it earlier in the fall. We were pretty successful out there. We finished fifth in a pretty big field out there, beat some quality teams.”

“The biggest thing is just when you get to regionals, when you get to postseason, everything starts over. It starts from scratch. Understanding that you have 13 teams there, the top five teams advance, but you can't really focus on that. You have to focus on preparing well. You have to focus on having a great practice round. Then, you have to take on shot at a time. If we have that mentality and we truly do stay where our feet are, then we'll be successful.”

What has Ford Clegg done to stay mentally composed and stand up to the difficult fields he has seen this year?

DS: “He had a solid game but kind of needed to learn how to play the game. I think, number one, when you have guys like Garrett Johnson and Austin Rose, who have been in this program awhile ... Garrett plays the game very well, basically like I teach all the time, just hitting a lot of fairways, giving yourself opportunities.”

“For Ford it was almost like learning [that] you don't have to do too much. You don't have to be more than who you are, you don't have to hit these super hero shots. His game is very solid. He's a great putter, so we know if he gets the ball on the green. He's going to have a great chance to capitalize from there. So, it's him just kind of understanding what his strengths are and going from there. Other than that, his golf IQ is very high, and he doesn't seem to get too flustered during a tournament. I think he had a seven tournament stretch where his worst finish was tied for 19th. He's just consistent, and he's just owned that so far.”

What’s the maturation curve for not trying to “do too much?”

DS: “I think it's different for everybody. It's funny, some guys will graduate and then call me six months later and be like, "Coach, I finally understand what you were talking about." Other guys get in here right away and they're like, "Hey, that's a great point. That is how I should play golf." I think that's kind of how it worked for Garrett a little bit. When I first got here, he kind of did some things that it was almost like he was trying to do too much, but he was a quick learner. He listened very well. Now, he kind of owns his game and goes about it and same for (Austin Rose). We've had several conversations about different ways to play to his strengths. He's done a great job of doing that, and that's why he's in the lineup late in the year. It all just depends. Some guys get it early on, some guys get it later.”

What do you know about the field at this regional?

DS: “It's going to be a good field. I mean, Oklahoma State's there. They're the best team in the country, defending national champions. Auburn just won the SEC stroke play portion of our championship by, I think, maybe double digits. They're going to be really good. But to be honest with you, I haven't really looked at the field too much because, too me, it doesn't matter what the field is. If we take care of our business, if we control what we can control, and the guys buy into it we're going to be where we need to be. We just need to focus on ourselves and take it from there.”

The players talked about getting contributions from freshmen, veterans and across the board… How good is it to have that kind of balance?

DS: “It's great. That's what we preach in this program, just being able to trust your teammates. You have a job to do. Do your job to the best of your ability, and I think we've built something here where every single person ... It's important to know your role in the lineup. Not everybody is Peng Pichaikool. That kid can go really low. He's very aggressive, and he's going to play that way. That doesn't mean everybody in our lineup needs to play that way. [It's] understanding your role. We have a redshirt freshman, Benjamin Nelson, who's going to be in the five hole this week. His job's just to go out there, keep the ball in front of him. I told him we do not expect you to go out there and shoot 68. Your job is to just kind of own your game, hit a lot of quality shots, give yourself a lot of opportunities. If one of your four teammates ahead of you has a bad round, you're going to be right behind him and say, "Coach, here's my ..." Whatever that score's going to be, it's going to be a solid score for the team.”

Senior Austin Rose

What are the challenges of this regional going to be?

AR: “I think the golf course will probably play a little different. I know everywhere is getting some rain this week, so compared to when we played it previously, it may be a little bit different conditions, but I think all-in-all we have a pretty good game plan and pretty good knowledge of the golf course.”

You have a lot of young guys on this team. What has it been like being the older guys on this squad?

AR: “I feel like I'm about seven years older than everybody on the team, but it's been good. It's kind of taking the young guys under your wing and showing them the way. I know it's been a great year for Ford (Clegg) and Peng () too. He (Peng) had a great fall. He had a couple rough tournaments coming down, but we all know he's going to be the horse for us. He's going to get it going. He played great at Louisville in the fall, and we know he'll do the same thing in the regional.”

What is it like to see Ford Clegg performing so well as a freshman?

AR: “He gets it done like nobody I've ever seen. He kind of just gets it around the greens, gets it in the fairway. Then, he gets on the greens and you think it's an error or a mistake if he doesn't make the putts. It's fun watching him play, just because it's so different, but he's been awesome this year.”

What are the adjustments that you have made to put yourself in the lineup late this season?

AR: “I think the biggest thing with me has always been finding a consistent miss, as to say the best golfers have the best misses. I've had some big misses too, in my career, honestly, but I think the best thing for me has just kind of been committing myself to hitting certain shots. I hit it a fairly long way. I know I can just get it out there, and my game will kind of just take care of itself from there. I think that's been the biggest thing late in the year. I've hit the pretty well and I've had consistent misses, but, most importantly, I've put it in the fairway and I know where I can go from there.”

Junior Garrett Johnson

What are the challenges of this regional going to be?

GJ: “We have experience there. We played really well there. We know the golf course. Maybe, there are some teams that haven't been there, played there before. We have four rounds under our belt there and four guys that are going on this trip that went last trip, so we're really excited.”

You have a lot of young guys on this team. What has it been like being the older guys on this squad?

GJ: “We have other guys that are making good strides. They're working really hard. In the coming years, they're going to be big for this program as well, but like [Austin] said, Ford Peng, all of those guys are all great.”

What is it like to see Ford Clegg performing so well as a freshman?

GJ: “It's great to see. I'm from Birmingham. I knew him before he came here. It is really good to see. He's a hard worker, he really is, and he owns his game. It's different than others, his swing's different, but he gets it done and that's great to see.”

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