When Loyola’s men’s golf team traveled to Valparaiso Sept. 17-18, the Ramblers’ lone first-year, 18-year-old finance major Nate Vance, competed individually — and played better than two of Loyola’s starters.
Vance’s score didn’t contribute to Loyola’s team score, because in collegiate golf each team only has five starters, but he competed individually against the other 74 golfers — finishing tied for 27th place. Vance, who was tied for sixth after the first two rounds, said he was more than satisfied about his debut performance, but he’s trying to avoid double bogeys or triple bogeys — two-over par or three-over par.
“I was really happy with how I played the first day [of the Crusader Collegiate], just being one-over through 36 holes. Then I struggled the next day, but I guess I didn’t really have any expectations,” Vance said. “I’ve been struggling in qualifying from staying away from big numbers, double bogeys, triple bogeys. So I just tried to limit that.”
Despite being the only first-year, Vance said the entire team has been supportive and helpful on and off the course.
“I feel like I can go to any guy on the team and they’d be willing to offer advice or give me a ride to practice,” Vance said. “They’ve all been super helpful.”
Sophomore Devin Johnson said he noticed the talent Vance brings to the team and sees him potentially bolstering the starting lineup. Johnson helped lead Loyola to a tie for third-place team finish at the Crusader and turned in a second-place individual finish at the tournament.
“Bringing Nate on made [qualifying for] the starting lineup a little more competitive,” Johnson said. “Our top three are pretty good so it’ll be tough for him to get into the top three, but that four and five spot are going to be up for grabs.”
Hoops said he agreed with Johnson about Vance’s ability to challenge for a starting spot, and talked about the potential he sees in the first-year golfer. From his initial recruitment of Vance, Hoops said he was capable of vying for a starting spot and is confident in Vance’s talent.
“Nate is a little inexperienced — he still has a lot to learn — but he’s already playing to the same level of his teammates,” Hoops said.
Before Loyola, Vance played golf for Marshalltown High School in Marshalltown, Iowa. He said he never competed in larger, national golf tournaments, but he won the Iowa High School Athletic Association 4A state tournament his senior year. He was tied for the lead after the final hole, forcing a playoff which he won after carding an eagle — two under par — on the first hole.
“He’s able to raise his game when the pressure is really on, which is what I love seeing out of my players,” Hoops said. “When it really matters and you know you have to make a putt or hit a fairway and you can step up and do it it’s an unbelievable confidence booster. He’s shown in just his first few weeks that he’s going to bring that attitude to campus.”
Vance’s first tournament showcased both the positives and negatives of his early college career. He shot a 74 and 71 over the first two rounds to put him at one over par. However, he shot a nine-over 81 in the third round, which he said highlighted the struggle he’s had adjusting to more difficult courses.
“Back in Iowa, when I’d play a high school tournament, you could just kind of smack it around and still shoot 74 or less,” Vance said. “Here, you have to put the ball on the fairway and hit greens to shoot a decent score.”
At the Derek Dolenc Invitational Sept. 24-25, Vance earned a spot in the starting lineup and shot a combined 18-over-par 231 (77-78-76) as Loyola finished 16th out of 17 teams at the tournament.
Loyola’s scheduled to travel to Des Moines, Iowa, for the Zach Johnson Invitational Oct. 1-2.