Putter of Steel, Nerves of Steel


Southern Miss men’s golf team celebrates after winning their first tournament of the year in September. | Courtesy of Southern Miss Athletics

On a sweltering Tuesday afternoon at the Squire Creek Country and Golf Club in Choudrant, Louisiana, the situation at hand could not have been simpler. The ball lay still on the long, smooth green and the prize was merely feet away. However, this sport leaves no margin for error.

Thongpipat Rattanayanon, with a one-stroke lead in hand, slowly approached the ball to determine his course of action. His restless eyes glazed on the green’s trajectory as his numb hands grab the putter. The difference between winning and possibly losing depended on him. He softly inched the club opposite of the ball, and, like a coiled spring, he sprung his putter to slice through the ball. The ball gently rolled towards the hole with the tournament on the line.


“Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character,” Arnold Palmer, the great golfer once said, and Rattanayanon’s shot was proof of that statement.

The ultimate teammate is something that coaches across all sports urgently seek to add to their rosters, and Southern Miss Men’s Golf head coach Eddie Brescher found one and then some with Rattanayanon.

The Thailand native made the journey to America after a successful career in the high school-equivalent ranks, including playing in the professional Asian Tours Thailand Open in 2017 as a 16-year-old and capturing two victories on the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour.

Rattanayanon, nicknamed Pat, easily made the transition to Hattiesburg and became an instant factor on the golf team.

“I’ll say this about Pat: he has not given us one issue on the coaching side of things since he’s been in Hattiesburg for the last three years. He’s never been late for anything, and he’s never had an issue with a teammate,” Brescher said. “Having that as a coach, I trust him to go out and perform at an elite level even when he doesn’t have his ‘A’ game.”

The ultimate form of respect between a player and a coach is when a coach totally and fully trusts his player. This is certainly the case with Rattanayanon and Brescher. According to Rattanayanon, he gave a poor performance at the practice round leading up to the Jim Rivers Intercollegiate.

Rattanayanon said the ball was “all over the place,” yet Brescher had no doubt that his guy could get it done. He said that Rattanayanon’s “alignment was off” and needed some guidance.

“That’s routine maintenance in golf. You kind of get off line, so you need another set of eyes to help you get back on track. I don’t really have to say a whole lot to him,” Brescher said. “He’s an all-conference player and a proven winner. I have that trust in him. That trust didn’t happen overnight, but we’re to the point now where I can get him to the tournament and provide him all the resources to be successful.”

Rattanayanon delivered a solid first round before delivering a masterful performance on day two by going six strokes under par. On the night before the third and final day of the tournament, Rattanayanon slept less than preferred.

“My roommate, Ryan Dupuy, told me that he heard me flipping over all night,” Rattanayanon said. “All I could say was ‘I’m sorry man. I’m just so nervous.'”


“Nobody asked how you looked, just what you shot.” – Sam Snead

Rattanayanon arrived at the final hole of the tournament with a lead intact. He knew it, too, as he had been the team’s scorekeeper for the duration of the match. His nervousness may have gotten the better of him on his tee shot, as he hit the ball far to the right and near the bunker. At that moment, Rattanayanon needed a little bit of coaching to make sure he accomplished his goal.

“To know what’s going through in that moment, it’s very important for me, as a coach, to step in a give him some comfort in that moment,” Brescher said.

The coaching paid off, as Rattanayanon said he figured it out to get it back on the green. His excellent shot set him up with a makeable, albeit challenging, putt to make. Five feet away from glory, Rattanayanon’s nerves began to get the better of him again. He could feel his hands go numb as sweat soaked his palms. He did his best to dry his hands and drink water as he said before lining up for the winning putt. In the first tournament of the year for the Golden Eagles, Rattanayanon had a chance to be a hero. And he succeeded.

“It’s the first win for me in four years here, so it means a lot. It’s so tough to win a golf tournament [since] there are like 120 guys in the field. It’s just so tough to win,” Rattanayanon said.

The Jim Rivers Collegiate victory was a fantastic start for Golden Eagle men’s golf, and it gave the season a stellar start.