Clay Homan: Well it's interesting. We are still very young but we have experience because so many of these guys had to play as freshmen last year. We have five sophomores (2005 Miss. Amateur runner-up Matt Fast, Noah Goldman, Brian Mason, Carlos Sainz Jr., and Logan Young), a junior (Jake Lambert) and a senior (Grex Huxman) and another senior that's redshirting (Josh Oller). But five of our active seven players are sophomores.
And it's night and day different from what we were a year ago. The sophomores are playing with confidence and now they know what to expect. They learned from their freshmen mistakes and are still learning. But it's a world of difference between being a sophomore and a freshman.
Q: In the fall's first three tournaments, your squad finished first, third and fourth and then followed that with a match win over Ole Miss to claim the Magnolia Cup. Plus, Fast and Goldman have captured individual victories. What is your assessment of the fall results so far with the exception of last week's tournament that was plagued by rain?
Homan: Really, we were in contention to win the first one and finished third and then the one we finished fourth at, the top team ran away but we were in contention for second or third. So we've been competitive and shot consistent scores.
Our last tournament (shortened to one round by rain), we never really got going. Golf is a funny game sometimes and we just never got rolling. A 74 is not a bad score but it adds up quick when you have three or four guys shooting 74.
But the thing we've had this fall is the under-par rounds. Carlos shot a 68 this fall and we've had guys shoot a 68, 69 and 70 in different rounds. Those rounds have bailed us out this fall and you have to get those to be in contention for the title in any event.
Q: Coach, I remember when you played at State from 1992-95, and was invited as an individual to compete in the 1995 NCAA regionals. Not to mention you are a two-time amateur champion in the Magnolia State, including the 2005 title. How much of your coaching is related to the way you played for the Bulldog golfers.
Homan: I take a great deal of coaching from my playing experience. I know what mistakes I made and the ones I continued to make on the course after I was out of college. I know what my shortcomings were in the game and that helps me to relate with my players. But since I played in college, golf has come so far in the last 10 or 15 years, especially with equipment. But you still need someone that's been there to show you things. And sharing my experiences is a huge part of my coaching.
Q: With Lambert, Oller and Fast hailing from Mississippi, how much emphasis is on recruiting home-state golfers and what type of talent does this state offer in high school golf?
Homan: We always give Mississippi kids a hard look. If you have any with MSU ties, especially, that has talent, those might give you that extra effort because they are playing for the team, the school, the state and themselves. I know myself being from Mississippi (Fulton), every time I put on that maroon and white I knew who I was playing for and tried to do my best in representing Mississippi State University.
But each year in this state, there are only a handful of kids that can play Division I golf, especially when you compare it to states like Florida, Texas and California. The junior golf in this state is not where it needs to be and we really are recruiting in a small pool. But there are talented kids. Just in the past couple of years. Beck Troutman went to LSU, Will Dottley to North Carolina and Tray Denton went to Arizona, all of them from Mississippi.
So maybe you have four or five guys each year in this state that can play at the next level. Sure we look hard at those but so many other kids in other states play on the national level in high school and play in a lot of different tournaments. That helps those players to be ready to help right away as college freshmen.
Q: Talk about your time as a MSU golfer and how successful that stretch was for Bulldog golf.
Homan: Well, I redshirted my first year and then played from 1993 to 1995. I felt our group was very instrumental to the 1996 and 1997 teams (back-to-back SEC champions). My junior year, we went from being last in the SEC to finishing fifth in the SEC Tournament and that was a major accomplishment at that time. And then my senior year, I was fortunate to have a solid season and be invited to the NCAA regionals. It was great to experience the postseason but I wish the entire team would have made it.
Q: Can this team return to an SEC title?
Homan: Don't get me wrong. Winning the SEC Tournament is great but it's just one tournament in a long schedule. I know fans and alumni might look at the SEC Tournament as the main one and sure it's a goal of ours. But we have our main goal of advancing to the NCAA Regionals and then on to the NCAA Championships. In order to do that, you have to be consistent in all tournaments and have good production in every tournament. The NCAA is based on the entire season and not just one tournament. Hopefully, we will win the SEC Tournament but it's not the ultimate goal.
I think this squad has an excellent chance to make it to the NCAA Regionals. Now we have to be consistent in the spring to give ourselves a chance. But the talent is definitely there. And then next year, those guys will mostly be juniors and we will keep adding to that talent. We expect to be able to compete on the national level in the next year or so.
Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.