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Q&A with Nevada's Sam Harned, who has gone from walk-on to college champ

Sam Harned
Sam Harned won his first college golf tournament in his first start of his senior season. (NCAA photos)

Sam Harned is living the walk-on's dream. Harned made the Nevada men's golf team as a walk-on via a tryout before earning a scholarship midway through his sophomore season. He has been a starter on each of Nevada's last two teams, both of which made it to NCAA Regionals, with Nevada falling just shy of making nationals last year. Harned, a Rocklin, Calif., native compiled a scoring average of 72.3 as a junior, which is the 10th best in school history. And after qualifying for the prestigious U.S. Amateur Championship over the summer, Harned started his senior season with his first college victory, winning the Badger Invitational after a final-round 64 put him at 12 under in early September.

Harned has followed that with a tie for 24th at 1 over at the Husky Invitational and a tie for fourth at 1 under at the Wolf Pack Shootout. For his stellar play to start this season and his unique path to being a scholarship athlete at Nevada, Harned is Nevada Sports Net's Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month for September, an honor presented in partnership with Champion Chevrolet. Here is a portion of our interview with Harned.

Q&A with Sam Harned

On how he's feeling about his golf game after winning the Badger Invitational

Sam Harned: "That was definitely a special way to start the year. I was not really expecting it. Obliviously I wanted to play well, but I wasn't excepting it the way it happened. I just went out there with a positive mindset and a positive attitude. I was 2 back after the first round and had the first tee time off in the morning, so I didn't have to wait to see what people were going to do so I just wanted to throw out a number. I didn't push it, and it all kind of came together."

On shooting a final-round 64 to win the event

SH: "Pretty much everything seemed to happen. When I look back at it, there were a few putts that went in that probably shouldn't have went in. Maybe it was my time. It was the first round of golf I played around the lead where I didn't really feel any pressure in the last three holes. It was really cool. I was out there and everything was flowing and I didn't have to push very hard. It was a special tournament, and I love that course, too."

On what it was like waiting to see if his score would hold up for the win

SH: "When we finished, the leaders were only on the ninth hole. There was 2.5 hours, so we were sitting on the car ride home just clicking the refresh button the whole time. It was pretty fun just sitting in the car with me, (Sam) Meek and Coach (Mike) Paul just refreshing, like, 'They have three more holes,' and seeing what can happen. It was pretty cool refreshing it and seeing me at the top."

On not getting the trophy on the spot

SH: "They sent me it. I actually got it yesterday. It's pretty cool."

On where he's going to put his trophy

SH: "I don't know yet. Hopefully somewhere nice. It's a nice little glass vase."

On holding a home tournament for the first time since 2011

SH: "It was pretty special. Being able to sleep in our own bed and going to the course in the morning was pretty nice. It was very special. I'm hoping the team will be able to host events in the future. It was just very special. I couldn't thank Montreux enough for letting us host an event out there. Oregon State played a great second round, so props to them. Hopefully this isn't the end to hosting a home event."

On making the team as a walk-on

SH: "I just emailed (coach Jacob) Wilner a bunch of times and probably bugged him. He gave me an opportunity. My tryout was for the qualifying for the Badger (Invitational) three years ago. It was pretty cool just going out there. I didn't feel like I had a place on the team. It was weird looking at guys who were D-I athletes and I wasn't playing. It was a lot of pressure for me to try and make the team. Once I did, it was pretty cool and the last three years I've grown so much. Jacob Wilner and Mike Paul have been such a key success to my game. I've had the greatest teammates in the world the last three years. It's cool watching everybody kind of grow. It's been a special three years."

On playing in the U.S. Amateur Championship

SH: "It was the most special week in the world. It was totally different than anything I've ever played in. You step on the property and know there's a different vibe. It was such a special week. I hope that's not the last time I do it, but if it is I couldn't have been more happy."

On why he's been able to accomplish so much without being recruited

SH: "I just think these last three years of experience playing on the team has really taught me a lot. My first year wasn't my greatest year. I think I averaged a 74, which isn't too bad for a first year in college. It taught me a lot, it taught me to be patient, it taught me not to force things upon myself. Last year, I had a good season and put myself in a position where I was kind of close to the lead in a few events and I didn't do too well in those positions. I think that helped me out a lot in terms of learning. Qualifying for the U.S. Amateur really taught me a lot and showed myself that I can do it and I can keep up with the big guys. I'm just like that small-town kid going out there and having fun."

On his post-college aspirations

SH: "I would love to play professionally. Obviously that's kind of the goal right now. That could change. Right now, I want to play professionally ,and that's pushing me to to have a good year and show myself I can do. I don't know where I want to start professionally whether it's straight to the Korn Ferry Tour or maybe Canada to something like that. I'm watching (Nevada alum) Grant (Booth) play. (Nevada alum) Stephen Osborne turned pro last year, too, so I've been paying attention to him, too. There are a lot of options, so it's just kind of seeing where I want to go with that."

On the key to Nevada golf's recent success (two straight NCAA Regionals)

SH: "We have a very good bond. We're always the team going out there and having fun. We go out to the range laughing and all that. Obviously we're taking it seriously, but we have a very light mindset. I think that's what has helped us out. We have great team camaraderie. We're always hanging out outside of golf. We're just a bunch of kids who can sometimes throw numbers up and we play really well together. We post a lot of good rounds that count in order to have success and push each other far."

On who is going to replace Joey Vrzich as Nevada's backflip king

SH: "I can tell you it's not me. Peyton (Callens) can probably be the only one because he's the smallest one (at 5 feet, 9 inches). My guess would be Peyton. I know me and Meek (who is 6-3) couldn't get halfway around."

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.

Previous Athlete of the Month honorees

August: Kendal Stoval, soccer

July: Lucas Weber, football

June: Nicola Ader, track and field

May: Stephen Osborne, golf

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