Nash brings U top golf game from down under

Amy Danielson

The decision Minnesota men’s golfer Simon Nash made to leave his native Australia and play for the Gophers was an easy one.

One of four international players on the 12-man roster, Nash first came to the United States last October on a recruiting visit to the University.

“(Former Gophers golfers and Australians) Ben Meyers and (1998 NCAA champion) James McLean got me interested in leaving home and playing for the Gophers,” the junior said. “I wanted to come here and they gave me the push to do it.

“The opportunity to come to America and play collegiate golf is not possible anywhere else in the world. This is a great experience.”

Nash joined Minnesota’s squad last January. After competing in eight tournaments during the spring season, Nash was the team’s top finisher at the Big Ten Championships.

In addition, Nash was the only Gopher to make the cut at the NCAA Championships.

Following the season, Nash was selected as an honorable mention All-American.

The Brisbane, Australia, native opened the 2001-02 campaign as the team’s top individual in its first two events, pacing No. 20 Minnesota’s second-place finish at the Wolverine Invitational and third-place finish at the Adams Cup in Rhode Island.

Although his team placed high in both tournaments, not winning them was a disappointment for Nash.

As a top performer on the team, Nash knows what each player is capable of and expects better finishes for both his team and himself in the nine tournaments before the Big Ten Championships.

Nash said the talent on this team should lead to a top placing at the NCAA tournament.

“Simon is one of the top three players in our program,” first-year coach Brad James said. “I am expecting him to be a leader.”

Nash agrees: “I am hoping to improve on last season. I want to win each tournament individually and help the team win.”

James, a fellow Australian, began scouting Nash when he was 13 years old. As an assistant to then-coach John Means, James made an annual trip to Australia to scout players.

“I kept watching his scores and they kept getting better,” James said. “Simon’s game has improved dramatically in the past three years. It has reached a new level.”

In Australia, high school spans five years. Nash said most aspiring golfers must choose to study or play golf, if they hope to make it professionally. Nash took two years off to practice his game and came to Minnesota as a 22-year-old freshman.

Nash played in some Australian tournaments before joining the Gophers. Competing in those tournaments after his 21st birthday forced Nash to lose one year of eligibility according to NCAA rules.

Now that McLean and Meyers have graduated, Nash must step in and fill the void left by his countrymen.

“Individually, I want to win every tournament,” he said. “Team-wise, we have the talent to win a championship.”

 

Adam Fink welcomes comments at [email protected]