Liberty golfer Isaac Simmons reflects on his career after U.S. Open appearance
Liberty golfer Isaac Simmons stepped foot on June 15, 2023 on the course of the Los Angeles Country Club to fulfill one of his greatest aspirations — playing a round in the U.S. Open.
As Simmons took a look around, it was no longer his Flames teammates or college competition standing by his side. Rather, it was the likes of illustrious athletes such as John Rahm and Sergio Garcia. When he made his way back to the clubhouse, Simmons found that his locker was located next to Scottie Scheffler and Adam Scott. The 23-year-old from Huddleston, Virginia, was now taking shots beside Masters Champions, Ryder Cup legends and PGA Tour veterans.
But 19 years prior, he was simply a 4-year-old kid learning how to hold a club. His father, Scott, a former football player and high school football coach, was there alongside him, showing him the ins and outs of a game that he simply played for fun.
“(My dad) got into golf before I was born,” Simmons said. “He would go to play and he would take me with him when I was really young … It’s something I’ve always done, and I can attribute that to my dad.”
The two continued their consistent training and, as the young Simmons spent more time on the course, his gifts in the game grew noticeable. At the age of 8, Simmons began playing in local tournaments, getting his feet wet in the world of competitive golf.
When he was 10 years old, the golfer made the short trip from his home in Virginia to Pinehurst, North Carolina, to play in the renowned U.S. Kids World Championship. Up to that point, he had only ever taken on local competition. Now, he was teeing off with young talent from all over the world.
“That was new for me, and I played really bad,” Simmons said. “But instead of being discouraged, I thought wow, this is crazy that there’s this many people doing this and I’m not as good as I thought. I think that’s when I really started to take hold of it … I wanted to actually pursue this because I saw that there’s so many people that are better than me.”
That memory marked the beginning of what has been a remarkable journey for Simmons in the game, and the ebbs and flows that accompany the relationship between a golfer and the sport he loves.
“For me, golf is like a big chess game. Every time out there is different, and it’s never going to present the same set of circumstances as the last time did,” Simmons said. “I’ve always got a chance.”
Many of those chances came to fruition when the Virginia native made the decision to play his college career for the Liberty Flames. While his original hope was to play for the team he grew up a fan of — the Virginia Tech Hokies — something about his visit to the Mountain drew his heart to Lynchburg instead.
“It just felt right,” Simmons recalled.
ow, in his fifth year representing the Flames on the fairway, Simmons has spent multiple seasons making a name for himself in the college golf community. He’s played a vital role on a team that made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2020 and 2021.
But while the successes and accolades are a fun part of the game to relish in, they’re not what keeps calling Simmons to return to the course time and time again. The 23 year old finds passion in the unpredictability and resiliency it requires to execute his craft.
“You’re making the same swing, but you’re always in different positions; you’re always having different putts; you’re always having different shots, different challenges,” Simmons said. “So that’s what makes you frustrated, but it also is what draws you into the game.”
At times, those frustrations can be a sizeable weight to carry.
“Those exact same emotions bring you back because golf is all on you,” Simmons said. “No one’s going to be there to bail you out … You just kind of keep chiseling at the rock. You keep hitting away at the same thing and eventually it’s going to break through.”
That breakthrough occurred in his senior year, when he finished the season with a 71.82 stroke average and a fourth-place outing at the ASUN Championship, where his 15-under par 54-hole total aided his team in claiming its seventh conference title in program history.
Just a few weeks later, Simmons found himself staring down the opportunity of a lifetime at the U.S. Open Final Qualifying event in Rockville, Maryland. With just four vacant spots available for the U.S. Open, he left it all out there on the course.
Simmons’ 4-under outing surged the Liberty golfer ahead of the competition, tying for first place and punching his ticket to 123rd U.S. Open — just the second Flame to ever qualify for the historic event.
Claiming a spot in the U.S. Open is something that every golfer sets their heart on. Simmons was determined to make the most of his experience — not only pushing to put out a solid performance in golf’s most prestigious field, but also seizing the opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as he could from the talent surrounding him.
While his time came to an end at the LACC after the second round, the knowledge he took in from the world’s best will forever stick with him.
“Having that achievement was a big deal — it was just a crazy experience,” Simmons said. “These guys are really good at golf, but they’re also just normal people. You can tell that they don’t put a lot of pressure on themselves; they’re just really good at what they do.”
The outpour of support the golfer received from his community was overwhelming as well.
“I think when something like that happens, you see that you have so many more people in your corner than you realize,” Simmons said.
One of the most difficult aspects, however, came in the months following his U.S. Open experience. Having been exposed to the most elite players the world has to offer, there was an immediate desire to apply other golfer’s methods to his own game.
“I saw these guys and saw what they did and I’m like, man, there’s a pretty consistent theme here of what I’m seeing. That’s what I need to do,” Simmons said. “I’ve had to be willing to say, you know what, taking that leap might cause some growing pains. It’s not going to be easy … You can’t be afraid of failure.”
As Simmons continues chipping away at his ambitions, the challenges that face him do nothing but motivate the golfer with big dreams. Just one semester remains before the 23 year old steps ahead to the next phase of his career. On the verge of chasing the professional hopes he’s worked for his whole life, it can be trying to simply stay where your feet are.
Simmons, however, desires nothing more than to live in the moment as his days teeing it up for the Flames are finding their end.
“I just want to appreciate this last semester being here with everyone and trying to soak that in,” Simmons said. “It’s kind of a bittersweet thing, but I’m so appreciative that I have the chance to be here and experience it.”
Cory is the sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on X