Bryce Molder (center) celebrates the U.S. victory at the World Amateur Championship with teammates (l to r) Jeff Quinney, David Eger, captain Judy Bell and Ben Curtis. Photo courtesy of Golfweek.
By Jack Williams
Bryce Molder of Georgia Tech is golf’s newest cover boy-just a couple of hundred flash bulbs behind Tiger Woods, but well ahead of everyone else.
It all came about when Molder went to Germany at summer’s end and swept medalist honors for the United States team that won the World Amateur Championship. With that heroic performance and several others of note, Molder wound up on the cover of two popular golf magazines-Golfweek and Golf World.
Those magazines predict Molder, a Tech senior from Conway, Ark., will be the No. 1 college player in the land in the school year that lies ahead. He and his Yellow Jacket teammates are coming off a year in which they missed by one putt winning the NCAA Championship. Oklahoma State edged Tech by a stroke in a sudden death playoff.
Molder gets the next chance to solidify his lofty standing next Sunday through Tuesday (Sept. 24-26) when the Jackets face most of the nation’s top college teams in the prestigious Ping Golfweek Preview on the Duke University course at Durham, N.C.
“It’s an early test to see where we stand as a team,” Molder said. “I’m excited about this Tech team. I firmly believe when we all play our very best, no other college team can keep up with us.”
If that sounds like a boastful statement, forget it. Molder is, without question, one of the most modest athletes you will find in any sport.
In fact, those magazine covers and the international attention do not faze him in the least. “I’m kind of awed by all that, but not really,” Molder said. “I’m not saying I’m used to that kind of thing. I just don’t see it as a big deal.”
Molder did see his team’s performance in Germany as a BIG DEAL. The United States won by 16 strokes over the team that represented both Great Britain and Ireland. Australia was third in a 59-team field. Molder was the No. 1 man in the competition, finishing 15-under-par in the 72-hole event.
“It was a great victory for the United States and the best tournament I’ve had in golf,” Molder said. “Never before have I played that well in major competition.”
Molder was teamed up with three other highly-touted players on the United States squad-U.S. Amateur Champion Jeff Quinney, from Arizona State; 48-year-old David Eger; and Ben Curtis of Kent State.
How was Molder selected?
“I think David Eger had seen me play and recommended me,” he said. “All I know is they called my Tech coach (Bruce Heppler), and he gave me a strong recommendation.”
What Heppler told the committee was, “If I was going anywhere in the world to play in a golf tournament, I would want Bryce Molder on my team.”
Molder says he and his United States teammates developed a real closeness at the competition. “Anytime you are on a team that is working toward one goal, you get very close to each other,” he said. “We certainly did. But it was mostly all business for us. We flew in just in time for the competition and didn’t get to see many other places of interest in Germany.”
The tournament was played on two courses at Bad Saarow, near Berlin. “The Arnold course, designed by Arnold Palmer, is an easy course,” Molder said. “Faldo is a links course with few trees and deep bunkers, like at the British Open, and it is very difficult.”
Prior to going to Germany, Molder had fared well in the U.S. Amateur at Baltusrol in New Jersey, making it to the quarterfinals for the second time in three years. He beat two University of Georgia players, David Miller and Bryant Odom, on the same day and called it “the highlight of my time there.” Molder finally lost to Northwestern’s big star, Luke Donald, 1-up, after leading through 14 holes.
“The best I played at the Amateur was against David Miller,” Molder said. “I really had it together that day.”
Also, during the highly successful summer, Molder finished third in the Players’ Amateur Tournament at Bel Fair, near Hilton Head, S.C.
The rest of the summer was devoted to Georgia Tech classes (he received credit for nine hours in summer school before heading for Germany) and several fishing expeditions with his dad.
Now, it’s back to the golf course with his Georgia Tech buddies, all of them still hurting from that heartbreaking second-place finish in the NCAA Tournament.
“As I look back at the NCAA, I have a lot of different thoughts,” Molder said. “But only one word can sum up the 500 different emotions I felt that day-BAD. It was that experience that drives me, and hopefully the rest of the team, to get back there again. That’s our goal.”
Tech will have to do it without one of its top stars of recent years, Matt Kuchar, who graduated. “A lot of people don’t think we can do all that well without ‘Kuch’ and another of last year’s seniors, Carlton Forrester,” Molder said. “But I have confidence. We have good young players in guys like Matt Weibring, Troy Matteson, and Kris Mikkelsen. If each of us can improve just a little, we can be right there. All these guys think they are good, not in an arrogant way-just a lot of confidence.”
And then there’s Bryce Molder. Everyone who plays the game KNOWS he is good-plenty good, indeed!