Q&A with Greg Carlin
Virginia men’s golfer Greg Carlin wraps up his Cavalier career in style this week, competing for UVa at the NCAA Championships. It is his first appearance at the event. The Cavaliers qualified after a dramatic finish at the NCAA East Regional earned them the final spot in the field. The NCAAs mark the 30th tournament during Carlin’s four-year career. He has been a runner-up twice, both times during his senior season. This year he lowered his stroke average to a career-best 73.28, more than two shots better than his junior campaign. Carlin earned his undergraduate degree in history from Virginia last week and is excited to be focused on this week’s Championships that runs through Friday.
Question: How much fun are you having right now?
Carlin: It’s pretty nice right now. I don’t have much on my mind because I’ve graduated and we’re going to the national championships. It’s the best way my senior year could have ended. I’m enjoying it and going to make the best of it because it is not going to last much longer.
Question: How excited are you to get a chance to finally compete at the NCAAs?
Carlin: It’s huge. To tell you the truth, I thought this team was capable of making it to regionals but we haven’t been consistent enough all year. I didn’t really expect us to make it through to nationals. I don’t think anyone else really did. I knew we had the talent, but it was a matter of putting it all together with how young we are. I’m just glad we did it at the right time. It just happened at the exact right moment, but that’s what you need to do at this time of year.
There were five or six teams in the top 25 that did not make it through the regional and we did. It just shows how tough college golf is. We were ranked outside of the top 50 all year and we go to the regional and beat all of these teams that are suppose to be better than us. We knew all year how good we were, we just didn’t put it together all the time. We did not have enough consistent tournaments to be ranked high enough to be considered one of the better teams. After these last few tournaments that we’ve played, I think people are realizing that we are legit and we belong there.
Question: There is a lot of pressure on every shot during a big tournament. Over three or four days, advancing could come down to just a few strokes.
Carlin: That’s the thing about golf. The difference between the 10th place team and the 11th place team is nothing. We happened to get in by two shots. Over the course of three days, that works out to what, a fourth of a shot a man per day? You realize that every single time you take the club back on the course you need to be completely focused. That could be the shot that gets you in, that could be the shot that wins the tournament for you.
Question: What were your feelings going into the final round of the regional, nine shots out of 10th place and the final berth to the NCAAs?
Carlin: We were talking about it in the bus on the way to the course. We all said we could do this. The course was scoreable, but at the same time, our team had not really put together a great round to that point of the tournament. We knew we could do it, but did we believe it was going to happen? I don’t know. I guess you have to if you make it happen. We actually thought we had to shoot lower than we would up shooting. Those other teams came back to us a little bit. We thought we would have to get 10 under and we wound up shooting eight under and that got us in by two. We knew we had to get off to a good start, and we did that. Personally, I just felt like if we don’t go out and play well, then this is my last round of college golf. It almost took some pressure off of me on the first tee. I was just going to go out and give it my best because it was going to be my last round if we didn’t do something special.
Question: The final two holes were a rough patch for you. You stood at 4-under after 16 holes, but had some problems coming in. How concerned were you that giving those shots back might move the team below 10th place?
Carlin: On the back nine, I knew we were above the cut number that we were in but I knew the last couple of holes were hard and that we would probably give a couple of shots back. I also knew that NC State was playing on the other nine and we didn’t know how they were doing. I was just trying to make as many birdies as I could. I had some trouble on 17 and made a triple bogey. My heart was in my throat after that. I felt as if I had not gotten us back over the cut number, then I had put us really close. So it made me really focused for the 18th hole, which is a hard hole. I hit a good tee shot and then Sarge (head coach Bowen Sargent) came up to me in the fairway and said we still have a couple of shots to play with.
I wasn’t really nervous. I got a couple of bad breaks. I didn’t feel like I screwed up because of nerves, I just happened to have a couple of bad finishing holes. You never want to finish a round like that. When I realized we were still going to make it, I’ve never been happier to finish triple-bogey, bogey. It didn’t even faze me.
Question: The team drove all night to get back to Charlottesville so you could go through Final Exercises. What was that experience like?
Carlin: I didn’t really have any energy, but it was fun. I was kind of in a daze all day. It was almost a letdown after all the emotion we went through on Saturday. I was out there Walking the Lawn, and that was great, but I was just emotionally drained. There were so many ups and downs that Saturday, I’ve never felt like that on a golf course before. I’ve never been on such an emotional high before on a golf course.
Question: This has been your best season with a pair of runner-up finishes. What did you work on the most to improve and play on a consistent level?
Carlin: I think it was more on the golf course. I had an extra level of focus this year that I had not had in the past. I realized this was my time to do well. It was my last year here and I didn’t have another chance to play well in college golf. I knew we had a young team and if we were going to achieve our goals to make it to the NCAAs I would have to have a good year. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it. If this team were going to do well, I would have to play well. I think that pushed me a little extra. Being the oldest player, I knew they were going to be looking up to me. If I didn’t post a good score, then maybe no one else would. It was going to have to be me who led the team. Then, after a little bit, people started following suit. I didn’t have a great fall, but I had a decent fall. It ended up that people started bailing me out after that. It worked out nicely. I started out playing well and then other people started playing better as they got more experience like (Steven) Rojas and Will (Collins). He really came on this spring.
Question: Will you take a moment on the first tee at the NCAAs to soak it in for a second?
Carlin: Oh yeah. As a senior, especially, this is what it is all about. This is my last lap. I’m going to stand on that first tee and think about all the times we came out to practice in January and February and over these four years it has paid off in some sense. I’m glad it has. I’m definitely going to stand on that first tee and have some chills run down my spine when I realize how sweet of a tournament it is that we are at.
Question: What’s next for Greg Carlin?
Carlin: After nationals I am going to go home and caddie for Amory (Davis) at the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier. I’m going to try and get him through. It is at a course near where I grew up and I know it very well. Then I am going to play some amateur events and take a last run at the U.S. Amateur. Then I’ll turn pro in the fall and see what happens.