University of Arizona senior golfers Alex McMahon and Brenden Redfern, along with Wildcat coach Jim Anderson, did me a favor in early December, meeting for a round of golf at Sewailo Golf Club in Tucson.
It was impressive – to say the least – and it didn’t take long to see what makes these two players NCAA Division I talents.
“They both performed pretty well today,” said head coach Jim Anderson. “I know it was fun for you and me to watch.”
Shot after shot arced high into the Southern Arizona sky, with lasers fired right at the pin, as the Cat golfers both were under par from the tips at Tucson’s newest resort course.
Different rounds – similar result
Redfern, who came to the U of A from Westlake High School in Austin, Texas and McMahon, an Ironwood Ridge product from Tucson, shot 2-under and 1-under-par respectively on the day.
But the way they got there couldn’t have been more different.
Redfern’s putter started out hot, with two birdies in the first three holes, while McMahon lipped out birdie after birdie through the first 13 holes. We counted six lip outs, including a wicked horseshoe on 13, on his way to 14 straight pars to start his round.
It was the iron play of both that set them apart from your average golfer.
Both hit 14 of 18 greens on the day and were firing shots right at the hole into some very tucked pin positions, with Redfern having two tap-in birdies on holes nine and 10 on his way to six birdies on the day.
“The good shots were good, but I had a couple of errant tee shots,” he said, in typical self-deprecating style.
“Lately with me, if I’m striking the ball well, I’m going to play pretty well. Overall the ball striking was good … other than those errant tee shots.”
Perhaps his best shot came on the short par-4 16th. After hitting his drive pin high, but some 80 yards into the desert on the right side of the hole, the senior caught a perfect sand wedge from the sandy hard pan, spinning it back to within two inches of the hole for yet another tap-in birdie.
“I just played it back in my stance, wacked it with some spin and it worked out well.”
McMahon was standing on the green and got a close-up look at the shot.
“It hit on the green, took one big hop and spun back about a millimeter from the hole,” he said. “I’ve just come to expect that from Brenden … it’s an everyday thing.”
Meanwhile McMahon showed patience beyond his years, finally getting his first two birdies on 15 and 16 to get it under par.
“Patience is something I’ve gotten better at over my college career,” he said. “I guess it could be a little bit boring and frustrating if you’re going to worry about it.”
“But I’ve come to love boring golf. I’ve found that boring is effective, especially at the college level. Overall I was happy and encouraged by a lot of things today. ”
Still the consummate competitor lamented over a missed putt on 18 that would have tied Redfern at 2-under-par.
“I needed that putt to tie him, so he got me today. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Of the 13 players on the Wildcat’s roster, only five play as part of the team in tournaments throughout the fall and spring seasons.
In their four years at the U of A, the two seniors have made a habit of qualifying to represent the Cats at tournaments.
“I would say they’ve probably played in more than 80 percent of the tournaments in their time here,” Coach Anderson, who is in his third year at the helm, said. “I’ve been so impressed with this group of seniors because of the example they set.”
“Going through a coaching change is never easy, but these guys have been all in on the things that I or my assistant coaches have asked of them. They’ve blindly said ‘yes’ to things that they may not have understood at first.”
“It’s been very rewarding for me personally to see these two, and for that matter our other seniors, mature and embrace the team concept. They’ve been leaders on the course and in the classroom.”
The coach has high expectations for the seniors and the Cats this spring.
“I know with these two in the lineup, and the experience they bring, I’m confident that this spring is going to be a banner semester for this team.”
Playing alongside a couple of Division I golfers was evidently motivational for both me and the coach.
Coach Anderson, a former collegiate golfer himself, played well and threw in three birdies of his own on the day.
After a rocky start, I even managed to make three birdies in four holes on the front and added one more on the back.
After my third on the front nine, I turned to both players and told them, “I don’t know who this guy is, but you two are obviously inspiring me.”
It was so true … watching their smooth, flowing swings around the golf course had me hitting the ball better than I have in a while.
“Play with golfers better than you and you play better” … so the saying goes.
After my round with these two top collegiate golfers – I’m a believer.