BUCKHANNON – Nick West is the thinking man’s golfer.
This season the Bethesda, Maryland native led the Bobcats to the program’s highest finish in the five-year history of the Mountain East Conference. Wesleyan finished third in the team standings with West placing as the league’s number seven individual, posting a three-round score of 223. His play was highlighted by an epic 69 in Round Two, a record for the team in league tournament play.
With new head coach J.D. Lamm now at the helm, West was able to help the program continue moving forward as it has in recent years. Wesleyan placed ninth two years ago in the Fall of 2015, and raised their standing to sixth last Fall. To further the optimism, the squad placed fourth at last Spring’s MEC Invitational. This all has culminated in the 2017 Third Place finish.
Lamm wants to shoot for team titles now.
West began golfing at the age of 12, and within three years was a solid player on one of the top programs in the state of Maryland. He was a varsity player as a freshman for Walt Whitman High, and helped led the team to a District title and a state tournament berth in three of his four high school seasons. His high school career reached its peak with a state runner-up finish during West’s sophomore year.
West’s recruitment was through networking. He was friends with former Wesleyan golfer and assistant coach Brittany Borkovich, and it Borkovich who introduced West to then head coach Nick Patella.
“It was a lot different for me personally…it was much smaller than anything I was used to. We had more students in my high school,” West said. “But I really liked the small town feel. It is very homey, and something that I have learned to appreciate.”
West’s play has taken a meteoric rise that is almost unheard of. He improved an amazing 33 places in the MEC Tournament between 2015 and 2016. After arriving with a splash, and placing 13th in the league tourney in 2014, West placed 49th in 2015 as the Bobcats placed ninth as a team. Last Fall, the team jumped up to sixth, and West’s move 49th to 16th was a big part of the equation. This season, his rise to the top ten was also pivotal.
“I credit a lot of improvement over that year to the work I did over the Winter with my short game,” West said. “I put in a lot of work in the building on our portable greens, and was able to execute that when I was back out on the course. I also think I was able to develop a higher level of mental toughness and carry that from hole to hole, round to round.”
West also credits his teammates for the competitive nature and pushing of each other that exists within the team. Along with other talented returnees like James Snavely and Nicholas Casingal, the players often battled close to each other within a few strokes in many tournaments.
“We have a tight-knit group, and there is a lot of support there for each other,” West said. “It does get a little competitive at times, and sometimes we do a little talking, but it is all in the name of trying to make each other better and help the team."
With Lamm, West has a coach that also places a heavy emphasis on the short game. That has been a focus for the team in the preseason.
“That six-inch putt counts just as much as that 300-yard drive,” Lamm said. “That needs to be a mindset with every player, and so many college players have trouble grasping that.”
“In practice we have been playing this game where toss the ball off once they land a shot on the green,” Lamm said. “This gets them in the position to where they have to get up and down in two every hole just to be even par. It really forces them to focus on the value of that chip and the value of that putt.”
A Physics major, West is looking to go to grad school in Mechanical Engineering. After that, he simply wants to see what professional options are there.
“I would like to maybe go back to the D.C. area for a year or two, but I don’t know…it really depends on the job opportunities,” West said. “I have a brother in Colorado, and moving out west sounds appealing also.”
This Fall however, there is the task at hand to move the Bobcats even higher in the Mountain East. With a strong mix of established veterans and heralded recruits, there is a lot of optimism in the Wesleyan golf office.
“Nick and some of the older players have served as mentors for the younger players, and have created a good competitive attitude for the program as a whole,” Lamm said. “He is a good leader for us, and we have relied on that leadership as we moved through the season.”