Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Welden qualified for the Crusader Collegiate. The story has been updated to reflect the correction.
This year, Nick Welden can usually be found on a Chicago golf course practicing with the Loyola men’s golf team, nearly 1,100 miles from where he was playing just two years ago — San Jose, Texas.
Welden is from Birmingham, Alabama and originally attended St. Mary’s University, located just outside San Jose, for his first year of college. After the fall semester, he decided to transfer to Loyola, because he said he valued finding a college that would provide him a Jesuit education and a new life experience outside of the South.
Welden said he decided on Loyola due to the city resources and life experience the school offers.
“You have … the campus by the lake [and] the downtown campus. It’s just a very different vibe than what we have in Alabama, and that’s what I was looking for,” Welden said. “You have the L, you have the transit. It’s the complete opposite from where I’m from.”
Last season was Welden’s first at Loyola. He appeared in all 27 rounds and his 77.6 stroke average was fourth-lowest on the roster of eight golfers.
In the classroom, Welden is an honors student who said he had a difficult time with the workload of being a biochemistry major and a Division I golfer. So, he said he decided it’d be best to switch to a finance major with a Spanish minor.
Welden said he consistently kept reaching out to Loyola’s head coach Erik Hoops while at St. Mary’s. At first, Hoops said he wasn’t sure what to make of Welden and his talents.
“I didn’t know much about about him from a golf perspective, basically,” Hoops said. “So when he told me he wanted to transfer and told me he wanted to join the team, I said ‘I don’t know if the team’s going to quite work out for you just because I don’t have enough research, I don’t have enough scores, I don’t really know much about you.’”
Welden said he knew Loyola was the right school for him academically and had a gut feeling about transfering.
Hoops said he created a proposition for Welden and wanted to make the decision process about both athletics and academics.
“I said if you want to transfer here, you can and just be a regular student for the spring, or you can wait out until the end of the year and see how everything works out with your summer tournament schedule and maybe can join us in the upcoming fall,” Hoops said. “He [ended] up deciding he just [wanted] to come to Loyola because he understood the academics side of Loyola and just really wanted to come for the school perspective.”
Welden said he decided to transfer to Loyola with no guarantees of becoming an athlete, his interests in the honors program and biochemistry led him to making this decision.
“When you’re in college, you try to balance a social life, an athletic life and an academic life if you’re a student athlete,” Welden said. “At that point, with those kind of academics, I was really limited to an academic and an athletic life … it was honestly a little bit of a slap in the face. Kind of a wake-up call that you just had to be locked in from the start of the day.”
Once that summer started, Hoops said he was impressed and thought Welden’s decision to attend Loyola for academics was “very important.” Hoops said all Welden had to accomplish was showcase strong tournament play against Division I talent.
“Once he left for the summer, he sent me his summer tournament schedule with all these tournaments he was playing in over the summer and started playing really good,” Hoops said. “He started playing up against other Division I talent and was beating them, and after I saw just a couple tournaments I was like ‘You know, this kid’s going to help us because he’s beating Division I level players across the country’ and he was a good kid, I felt like he’d fit in with our team culture really well.”
Welden’s teammates, including junior Justin LaFrance, said he puts up consistent numbers and rarely makes mental mistakes on the course.
“Everyone on the team looks up to [Welden],” LaFrance said. “We all know he does his best to lead by example and he’s a great addition to our already good team.”
Looking ahead to this upcoming season, Welden said he and the team have high expectations for themselves this season.
“We know the conference is getting stronger, so we’ve got to work real hard this year,” Welden said. “But I think we’ve got a real good chance to win some tournaments and make a run at conference.”
Welden and the Ramblers are set to compete in the Derek Dolenc Invitational against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Sept. 24-25 in Madison, Illinois.