Speirs adds talent, depth to UM golf lineup

The Ole Miss men's golf team is headed to middle Tennessee in search of its third straight tournament win of the fall.

The Rebels are the defending champions at the Mason Rudolph Classic, hosted by Vanderbilt this Sunday through Tuesday, and will be looking for the trifecta after winning tournaments the past couple of weeks at Memphis and at Louisiana Tech.

One of the keys to the Rebels' solid golf season so far has been the play of junior transfer Jesse Speirs, who came to Ole Miss this semester after playing at TCU.

Speirs, a native of Bangor, Maine, has been in the Rebel lineup for all four tournaments this fall. His best finish was second place in the Memphis Intercollegiate.

Speirs says he's glad to be continuing his college golf career at Ole Miss. And there was a pull in the direction of Oxford from a Lady Rebel golfer.

"My girlfriend goes to school here," he said of Rachel Ingram, a member of the Ole Miss women's golf team. "I'd been over here to visit her a few times. I really wasn't happy at TCU, and I liked it here. I like the atmosphere and I'd met the guys. I figured if I wasn't happy, this was the place to be."

Ingram is a junior from Jonesborough, Tenn. She and Speirs met six years ago in South Carolina, playing golf, of course.

Speirs is happy at Ole Miss and pleased that he is contributing to the success of a Rebel program trying to get to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.

"It's gone allright," he said of his fall so far. "I didn't play too well in the first tournament, but since then I've worked on a lot of things to get better. So things are going pretty good."

Speirs says he puts in the time to improve, and he wants to continue to get better for the team now and also for his future in the sport.

"I just work as hard as I can on my game and try to get better every day," he said. "I look at short-term and long-term goals. These next two years I want to help Ole Miss as much as I can and get myself to where I can play professionally. If I do my job, it will help the team out, and that's my goal now."

Speirs' two college choices have both been in the South. Heading to a warmer climate was the plan all along since golf in Maine is limited to only about six months of the year because of weather.

"I just wanted to get as far away from the North as I could to be able to play golf and not worry about the weather," said Speirs, who was TCU's top performer in the NCAA Tournament last spring. "Texas was good, and it's basically the same weather as here. There might be a few days you can't play golf here, but up there it's about five or six months."

Ole Miss head coach Ernest Ross said having Speirs on board has been good for the Rebel team.

"Jesse's been a wonderful addition to our team," said Ross, in his second tenure as UM head golf coach. "He's not only helped us with our scores, but he's fit in really well really quickly. The players accepted him totally, and sometimes it can be tough to come in after playing for another team. But he's blended into the mix very well."

Ross says Speirs has the game to continue to be an outstanding college golfer.

"Jesse is extremely long and he's also accurate," Ross said. "He leads the nation right now in fewest double bogeys, which is zero through 12 rounds. That's pretty impressive for a guy who hits it as far as Jesse. Longer hitters usually get into a little bit of trouble. But he's been very accurate off the tee. I think he's one of the best players in the country."

UM assistant coach Jonathan Dismuke agrees with Ross that Speirs is special.

"He's really, really, really good," said Dismuke, a former All-SEC golfer at Auburn, who obviously knows a good player when he sees one - and in this case works with one. "He is upper echelon talent-wise. I wouldn't be surprised if he made All-American the next two years."

Dismuke says Speirs has the whole package when it comes to his game and is a threat anytime he tees it up.

"He's a guy that at any moment can win a golf tournament," he said. "The more guys you have like that in the lineup, the better your team's chances are of winning a tournament."

Speirs says he hopes and believes his future in the sport is bright, and he looks forward to playing competitive golf for a long time. For now, however, he's focused on helping the Rebels.

"I've learned a lot about my game since I've been in college. Since I've been here (at Ole Miss), we've really focused on what I need to improve on," he said. "This is our last tournament of the fall, so after that we'll put all my stats together, see what I need to improve on and work on that in the offseason to be prepared for the spring."

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