More than four years have passed since Mason Nome verbally committed to the University of Texas. Following in the footsteps of friend Cole Hammer, another highly touted youngster from the Houston area and a grade ahead of Nome, Nome picked the Longhorns at just 13 years old.
“He cannot wait to be part of the future of Texas golf,” Nome’s father, Craig, told Golfweek in 2014.
The wait is nearly over. Nome, 18, will make his commitment official and sign with Texas during the early signing period, which begins Nov. 14.
“Four years have gone by so fast,” Nome said. “It’s been a bit of a blur.”
But that wait, while seemingly quick, wasn’t easy. At times it was downright frustrating, as the teenager battled swing troubles that ultimately led to a complete retooling of his golf swing.
“He’s come a long way,” said Jason Alexander, longtime head pro at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Fazio Championship Course, where Nome practices.
Nome was entirely self-taught as he developed into one of the class of 2019’s top prospects. He won his age division of the Junior World Championships in 2013 and reached No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings for his class. He earned his way into AJGA invitationals and the prestigious Junior Invitational at Sage Valley.
Alexander remembers the first time he saw Nome hit a golf ball on the range. Nome was just 12 years old, barely taller than 5 feet and skinny as a rail.
“He looked like he was 8 years old, but his ball just exploded,” Alexander said. “I was like, ‘Who is this kid?’ He had this long Bubba Watson-like swing, huge leg action and he got every ounce out of that swing; he hit it about 300 yards.
“I’d never seen something pop out of a rocket from something so little.”
Alexander then asked Craig Nome with whom his son worked on his game.
“He’s self-taught,” Craig Nome responded.
Alexander then offered a word of advice: “Don’t mess with this, ever.”
But after finishing fourth at the AJGA Junior Players in September 2016, Nome experienced a growth spurt. He grew more than 6 inches in about a year, and his new 6-foot-plus frame wasn’t kind to his unique swing. He lost his timing and soon lost his ability to consistently fire good scores.
By the end of 2017, Nome knew it was time for a change. Two of college golf’s best players, Oklahoma State’s Matt Wolff and Ole Miss’ Braden Thornberry, have embraced quirky swings, but Nome wasn’t performing anywhere near that level. His ballstriking was becoming wildly inconsistent. His lack of timing was leading to low-left and high-right misses.
“I needed to strip my swing down,” Nome said.
Nome got worse before he got better. He didn’t play much last winter. His rankings slipped. He didn’t make it back to Sage Valley this year.
“You could see the frustration on his face,” Alexander said.
Nome, mature beyond his years, knew all along that it could be a long and arduous process. A key in Nome’s swing transformation was instructor Cameron McCormick, who helped Nome revamp his footwork and legwork while improving his rhythm and timing.
McCormick also gave Nome a strong foundation on which to groove his new swing on his own at home.
Nome worked tirelessly on the range at Carlton Woods, learning from his TrackMan numbers and watching videos of his swing. By the beginning of this summer, Nome’s new swing had taken hold. His backswing no longer goes way past parallel. His left heel stays on the ground. His ball speed and clubhead speed have remained unaffected.
“But he still has that fire and athleticism in his swing,” Alexander said. “It’s something to see.”
Nome is consistently shooting in the mid- to high-60s in casual rounds around Carlton Woods’ two courses. He shot 29 twice for nine holes before leaving to do homework each time. In tournament action, Nome is fresh off a T-2 finish alongside partner and future Texas teammate Travis Vick at the Greenwood Cup, a four-ball event.
Nome’s schedule figures to include mostly amateur events, though he’s targeting the Jones Cup Junior and the AJGA Simplify Boys Championship in February at Carlton Woods.
“He stuck through the bad parts, and to come out the other side with a better swing and better ball flight, I think he’s just going to be hell on wheels moving forward,” Alexander said. “… And for Texas to stick with him when last year his tournament scores weren’t so good, they’re going to be happy they did.” Gwk