As the new head coach of a Division II golf program, Mill Valley’s Gary Nelson II doesn’t want to be a dream-breaker.
He’d love to see as many Marin County prep standouts, both boys and girls, get Division I scholarships and go on to lucrative pro careers.
But at the same time, the Dominican University coach wants all of Marin’s aspiring golf superstars to know his program can make dreams come true as well.
“We’ll look at Marin first,” Nelson said of his recruiting philosophy.
“I don’t think it’s going to be difficult at all (to recruit talented golfers to Dominican). We have the best weather in Marin County here. The school academically is a phenomenal. It’s very good at getting students jobs after they graduate.”
And who better to recruit homegrown talent than a homegrown coach? Nelson grew up playing the Mill Valley Golf Course, has been a longtime member at the Meadow Club and played on two Marin County Athletic League championship teams at in 2002 and ’03.
“I started very young,” the 2008 USF graduate said of his golf career. “What attracted me to golf was the golf courses. I really got into golf course design at a young age.”
That interest was absorbed from his father, Dr. Gary Nelson, who was very involved in the Alister MacKenzie Society. The senior Nelson helped organize competitions between clubs at MacKenzie-designed courses, which led to father-sons trips around the world.
Now, the son is scripting the golf trips. His Dominican men’s team visits Phoenix for a tournament in early October, while the Dominican women’s squad makes the same trek to the Grand Canyon University event three weeks later.
The men’s roster this fall includes Kentfield’s Jordan Siskin and players from as far away as Honolulu and Thousand Oaks. Five freshmen, including three walk-ons, are among the women on Nelson’s roster.
The teams will play their home matches at Peacock Gap, which Nelson considers a great start to a program making the big jump from the NAIA level to NCAA Division II.
“It’s a wonderful facility,” he gushed. “They’ve just done a restoration. They’ve also spent a lot of time working on the practice facility. It’s a wonderful place to practice and to call home.”
Having just been hired this week, Nelson didn’t have a hand in recruiting any of the players. It’s quite possible the rosters will be tweaked a bit before the collegiate “competitive” season tees off in the spring.
The challenge, Nelson fully recognizes, is a huge one, but one in which he expects – and already has received – a lot of help.
“Marin County is a really devoted and prominent golf community. That’s always a big help,” he assured. “Everyone in Marin has been positive and has had open arms to the Dominican golf program.
“We’re right in our infancy (as a Division II program). There’s a lot of room for improvement. The team hasn’t performed at a high level in recent years. The way I look at it: There’s only one way to go, and that’s up.”