Freshmen golfers bond over similarities, adjust to college life



Billy Gerken

Courtesy of Villanova University

Freshmen golfers Connor Daly and Connor Downey may share the same name, same team and same dorm room, but you’ll be interested to know just how different they are. 

Last Wednesday, I had the chance to sit down and talk to Downey and Daly about what life is like on the golf team and as student athletes.  

For most first year students, the adjustment to college life is tough, especially in regard to time management. However, students like myself do not know how lucky we have it as I found out when asking about the weekly schedules of both Daly and Downey. 

They start with a 6 a.m. workout almost every morning, head right into a packed day of classes, follow that with an afternoon practice and finish off the day with a load of homework. Both golfers noted their definite sleep deprivation, but they reassured me that it is necessary for success. 

This comes as no surprise as both Downey and Daly are special talents. As two of the most highly touted recruits the University’s golf team has landed in the last few years, both freshmen are expected to play huge roles in the future success of the program going forward.  

Daly, a Westchester, N.Y. resident, attended Bronxville High School, where he played five years of varsity golf—starting in junior high. Under the guidance of head coach Chris Lockwood, he won the 2016 NYSPHSAA Golf Championship. 

Downey, a Franklin, Tenn. resident, went to Montgomery Bell Academy, where he played four years of varsity golf under coach Sean Jackson and won the Regional Championship in 2014.

Even though the two golfers come from nearly opposite sides of the East Coast, I noticed a strong connection between them during the interview. 

“We had met briefly through a couple of tournaments, but we never really got to know each other until our campus visit last winter,” Daly said.  After this meeting, Daly and Downey fed off of each other during the recruitment process. 

“Both of us knew that ‘Nova was the ideal school to play at and that we could do something special together,” Downey said. “So once I saw that Connor [Daly] had committed, I followed almost immediately after.” 

When asked about the coaching staff and their role in deciding on a school and what it is like to play under them, both golfers gave high praise to head coach James Wilkes and assistant coach Brian Heffernan. 

 “Both coaches are willing to do whatever it takes to make you a better player, better student and better person,” Daly said.

Downey echoed that statement and noted how golf “has to be intense but also has to be fun.” According to Downey, the coaching staff does a good job keeping it “light-hearted.”

In terms of playing with the other seven golfers on the roster, Downey and Daly made it clear that this is a close-knit group of athletes. 

“Because of how small the team is, we get to know each and every one of the guys really well,” Daly noted. “We’ve already developed a strong sense of camaraderie.”

Downey highlighted the fact that playing for such a small team promotes “focus” from the entire roster. “Every guy has the chance to qualify for a tournament, no matter if you are at the top or the bottom of the roster,” he said. “This pushes you to have your ‘A game’ as much as possible.”  

Daly, a New York native, noted that the adjustment to college work has been tough, but acknowledged some similarity to home.

“It’s not much different from where I’m from,” Daly said of his first few months at Villanova. “I am used to this kind of weather and playing conditions, so I haven’t seen much change in my game.”

Downey, on the other hand, had a lot to say about this major change. 

“Coming from Tennessee, one of the first things I noticed was how different the lingo is up here,” Downey admitted. He immediately followed that up by saying how he “still doesn’t know what a Wawa is.” But perhaps the biggest shock for him playing in the Northeast has been the grass. “The grass up here is so thick compared to back home,” he said. “It can eat you up if you’re not careful.”

When asked about what upcoming tournament the two are the most excited for, Downey and Daly both enthusiastically answered US Intercollegiate, which took place at Georgia Tech from Oct. 21 through Oct. 23.

“We’re going to see some real talent when we’re out there,” Daly said. “It’s going to be a fun test for our squad playing against teams like Texas and Stanford.” 

I closed the interview by asking Downey and Daly about both personal and team goals for the season. Both were adamant about improving all aspects of their game so they can compete on the college level. Downey also noted how he wants to work on his “maturity.”

In terms of goals for the team, Daly and Downey recognized the talent on the roster. “We have a real good shot at going deep in the Big East this year,” Daly said.

Downey emphasized this when predicting the team has the potential to “finish top three in the Big East tournament with a legitimate chance at winning the whole thing.”

As two of the University golf team’s next major contributors, both Daly and Downey are motivated and ready to take the next step toward being contenders in the Big East.