LUNENBURG — Golf is, at its core, a solitary game.
Standing on the 18th green, looking over a five-foot “character-builder,” your heart pounding and the match on the line, there is no one to hand the ball off to, no one to pinch-hit. Make it or miss it, there is no one to bail you out.
And that’s just the way Emily Nash likes it.
“I love the pressure of knowing that it’s all on you,” said Nash, a rising junior at Lunenburg High School. “I like that you can control what happens. If you don’t play well, there’s nobody else to blame.”
It’s that attitude, combined with natural ability and a tireless work ethic, that have helped the 16-year-old Lunenburg resident become one of the top young golfers in Massachusetts.
Nash has been tearing up the fairways this summer. Recently, Nash won the Massachusetts Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship at South Shore Country Club on the first hole of sudden death after carding rounds of 76 and 80. Two days later, she won a New England PGA Junior Tour event at her home course, Settler’s Crossing in Lunenburg, by eight shots, firing a 3-over-par 73.
While the wins are nice (and the collection of trophies grows), Nash feels like she played her best golf of the season at a tournament she lost by eight strokes.
“Oh, I’d say my best rounds were down at the AJGA at Treyburn in Durham, North Carolina,” she said.
From July 18-20, Nash tested her skills against some of the best junior golfers in the world at the American Junior Golf Association AminoVITAL Junior Championship at Treyburn Country Club (par 72). Nash refused to be intimidated by the course or the competition and shot 72-76-72 for a 4-over-par 220, good for fifth place.
For some perspective, the other girls placing in the top 10 of the tournament were from China (three), North Carolina (three), Hong Kong, Taiwan and Texas. The field included players who have already accepted scholarships to play at Division 1 colleges such as Georgia, Northwestern, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.
There were numerous college coaches in the gallery at the tournament, which was one of the reasons Nash wanted to play the event. During their time in North Carolina, Emily and her father, Bob Nash, had the opportunity to visit a few college campuses in the area. While she has not decided where she wants to continue her education and her golf career, Nash does know she wants it to be someplace she can play year-round.
“I’m really focused on (schools in) North Carolina,” she said. “But we’re also looking at Georgia and Florida.”
Hand-in-hand with her success on the course, Nash has shown a commitment to excelling in the classroom.
This past school year, Nash took mostly honors classes and ended the spring with a 96 out of 100 weighted GPA. She is also on Student Council, helps out with the Best Buddies program and the school’s Hunger Task Force.
It’s a difficult task to balance the demands of keeping her game at an elite level and keeping on top of her schoolwork, but Bob Nash says his daughter has remained committed to being her best in every arena.
Emily Nash’ success on the links hasn’t come by accident. While she fell in love with the sport almost immediately after swinging a club for the first time at age 9, and showed a remarkable affinity for the game, passion and ability only take a player so far. The rest of the investment is old-fashioned hard work. This summer, golf has been a full-time hobby.
“I’ve been playing in tournaments pretty much every week,” said Nash. “And when I haven’t been (competing), I’ve been practicing.”
At just 5-foot-1, Nash doesn’t have the build of a typical female golfer. But her stature has been something she and her coaches have found ways to work around. Especially helpful has been swing coach Lee Khang of Rockland.
“That’s one of the reasons we went to coach Khang. His daughter, Meghan, is on the LPGA Tour and she is about the same size as me,” said Nash. “Tall girls can get away with swinging more with just their arms. Shorter girls can’t do that. So (coach Khang) has been working on my lower-body strength and my core to generate power.”
Nash also works with Connecticut-based coaches Suzy and Bill Whaley. Between tournaments, practice rounds and sessions with coaches, developing an elite talent, such as Nash, requires a great deal of travel, time and money. All of which means the family of a talented young athlete have to be fully committed to the process. Emily has that type of support and commitment from her parents, Bob and Kerry, and her young brother Robbie.
“My family is great. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without them,” she said.
It’s no surprise to anyone that Nash will be the No. 1 player on the Lunenburg High boys’ golf team this fall, a position she has held since she started playing for the Blue Knights as an eighth-grader.
One thing that has changed for Nash over the past few years is her role with the team. Long gone is the painfully shy 13-year-old who barely spoke a word to anyone while she played. In her place has emerged a confident young woman, who encourages and helps her teammates with her words and her play, as a true leader.
But before the Blue Knights tee off for the start of their season, Nash had some final AJGA events in which to compete. The pressure will be high and the competition will be stiff.
Just the way Emily Nash likes it.