From walk-on to star: First-year golfer making immediate impact

After placing third at nationals last year, freshmen, both recruits and walk-ons, are helping the Generals retool for another run at a national title

Tanner Smith

Brian Pecce, ’20, initially worried that his golf clubs would rot in his dorm closet from underuse, but instead they got to travel with him to Florida for the golf team’s Fall Preview event.

Because he was attempting to make the W&L golf team as a walk-on player, Pecce was uncertain of his golf future at the beginning of the school year. Instead, Pecce managed to not only make the team’s roster, which now holds 15 players, including five freshmen, but also make the travel roster, consisting of the team’s top five players for the Fall Preview tournament.

“It is pretty stressful being a walk-on,” Pecce said. “My first worry is, am I going to make the team? That was my biggest worry coming into school. I brought my clubs up to my room and I thought ‘how much am I even going to use these? If I don’t make the team, these are just going to sit in my closet all year.’ Then I made the team and was going to Florida and my mindset was completely different. Now I am thinking, ‘what can I do to get on the travel team for the next tournament?’”

Pecce finished the tournament with scores of 75, 76 and 81 for the three days, and was able to impress his coach, Pete Gyscek, in both his tryouts and the Preview tournament.

“Brian did great,” Gyscek said. “He came to school well prepared and that is a good thing. He keeps it straight and he does not have a lot of bend in his shots.  He played fantastic on one of the toughest courses we are going to play all year, Mission Inn in Florida.”

Pecce attributes his success to an element of his game that he worked on all throughout his high school career.

“Something that I have always done that I have kept up is that I don’t really get rattled when I have a bad shot or a bad hole or putt,” Pecce said. “My high school coach and a couple of guys I played with on my high school team always said that my mental game was always really strong and that I always bounce back really well.”

While Pecce has plenty of golf experience, The Preview was a whole new experience for him. He credits upperclassmen, such as co-captain Conley Hurst, ‘17, for helping him remain calm during the tournament.

“Conley always told me to be committed to staying positive on the golf course,” Pecce said. “Every time I saw him on the course I thought about that, staying positive. That made me want to keep my head up and almost put a smile on my face, thinking about being in Florida playing golf instead of being in class.”

Hurst, who finished twentieth out of 92 golfers in the Preview, tops on the W&L team, thinks this year’s team compares well to last year’s team that finished third in the Division III National Championship, partially because of standout freshmen such as Pecce.

“It is not that different because we did not lose any seniors who were on the traveling team and we gained several freshmen who are very good,” Hurst said. “We are not having to fill any spots, but we are actually getting an influx of good players. We will look to be even more competitive this year than we were last year.”