Vanderbilt's Will Gordon stays the course to rediscover success

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Vanderbilt's Will Gordon stays the course to rediscover success

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Vanderbilt's Will Gordon stays the course to rediscover success

Will Gordon’s advice for young college golfers? Stick to what’s comfortable.

It’s a formula that is working for Gordon, a junior at Vanderbilt. But just like any lesson, this one had to be learned – and Gordon did so the hard way.

As a freshman, Gordon posted six top-10s in 11 events while sharing medalist honors at the Schenkel Invitational. He was second on the team in scoring average (70.88) and finished the season ranked 16th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

“He had a lot of success as a freshman – All-SEC, All-American, the only freshman on the Palmer Cup team,” Vanderbilt coach Scott Limbaugh said. “A lot happened, and we probably didn’t manage it as good as it needed to be managed.”

Expectations skyrocketed for Gordon. But soon after a strong summer that included a semifinals appearance at the Western Amateur, his golf game fell flat. Gordon’s only top-10 in 11 starts came in the 18-hole stroke-play portion of the East Lake Cup. His scoring average dipped to 72.78 and after a T-65 finish at the NCAA Championship, Gordon didn’t reach the 16th hole in match-play losses to UNLV’s John Oda and Oregon’s Wyndham Clark. He ended the season ranked 116th by Golfweek.

“I wasn’t that far off but my scores just weren’t showing up,” Gordon said. “I was overcomplicating golf, and had too many voices in my head and too many thoughts of how I had to play and do certain things.”

Said Limbaugh: “He got a taste of success, but he forgot how he got to where he was.”

Last summer after missed cuts at the Sunnehanna and Northeast amateurs, Gordon returned home to Davidson, N.C., and took a step back in time. He found comfort in old practice habits, including mirror work, and switched golf balls, returning to the Titleist Pro V1x. He also improved his putting inside of 8 feet, an area that had intensified the gifted ballstriker’s struggles.

All the while, he was rediscovering his confidence.

“I kind of had drifted away from the things I knew made me successful, for whatever reason,” Gordon said. “I got back to those … and then things just started clicking.”

Gordon again made match play at the Western and U.S. Amateur, and then notched two top-10s in four events this fall before winning the East Lake Cup stroke-play medal. (He also won both of his matches at East Lake to help the Commodores to the title.) He leads the team in scoring average (69.85) and is ranked 10th by Golfweek.

“Once you start thinking about the finish line and all the little results and awards and recognitions that come along with it, it robs the joy from the whole deal,” Limbaugh said. “Will’s in a solid place right now. Sometimes you have to go to that other side to appreciate the good times, and he’s appreciating the good times a lot more right now.

“… He’s raising the bar for us right now.”

After a T-3 finish in the Sun Bowl Andeavor All-America Golf Classic, Gordon flew from El Paso, Texas, to Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday night, and then made the short drive north to Davidson. Gordon won’t play a tournament again until the Jones Cup in February, so he’ll spend the holidays with his family, including his host brother from Nigeria, Nathan Ekwu, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward on the Davidson College basketball team.

A good player in his own right, Gordon said he hasn’t played Ekwu 1-on-1 in a couple of years but that he did beat Ekwu once … in 15 tries.

“Now, I usually go rebound for him,” Gordon said.

As evidenced by his golf game, Gordon is quite good at that.

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