By Shawn Fury
Gregor Tait ’21 helped Seton Hall win its first BIG EAST golf tournament in 22 years with one of the greatest individual rounds in University history. But it was a gesture of remarkable sportsmanship that made him a true standout; he conceded a playoff round so that a competitor could advance with him to the NCAA Regionals.
It happened after the final 18 holes of the tournament at Callaway Gardens in Georgia, when Tait, a standout from Martlesham Heath, England, used a blazing start to his round to chase down 36-hole leader Caleb Manuel of the University of Connecticut.
Overcoming breezy, difficult course conditions, Tait enjoyed the best round of the day by four shots, opening with four consecutive birdies and never letting up. “You’re nervous, of course, but I wasn’t nervous to the point where I wouldn’t commit to what I was going to do. I was nervous because I wanted it so bad, but I was also just very calm.”
Manuel wrapped up his 18 holes tied with Tait at 11-under, making them co-champions of the tournament. As the two competitors gathered on the 18th hole, tourney officials told them the winner of a playoff round would automatically qualify for the NCAA Regionals.
Thanks to Seton Hall’s team victory, Tait had already earned his way to Regionals. But if he won the playoff, his opponent couldn’t advance. A concession, Tait discovered, would guarantee Manuel a spot.
Tait didn’t hesitate, deciding to concede the round without any input from his coach Clay White, or from Manuel, who did have to knock a single shot off the tee to officially seal his bid.
“Once I figured out what was happening, then it was an easy decision,” Tait says. “It would have been the wrong thing to play that playoff, because I was already going. I would have just been putting effort in for Caleb to not go to Regionals.”
White adds, “It was awesome for a player to come to me, without me even mentioning it, and to be like, ‘Coach, this is what I want to do.’ And I was 100 percent in agreement. He earned the right to make that decision on his own, and he’s just a good kid and that’s what a good kid would do.”
Word of this display of sportsmanship spread quickly in the golf world, with publications such as the Hartford Courant and the website Power Fades complimenting Tait’s grace.
But receiving personal accolades couldn’t compare to the joy Tait felt at helping the Pirates capture the BIG EAST team championship for the first time in 22 years.
“I promise you, I did not think about the individual leaderboard,” Tait says. “The entire golf tournament, not once. Winning the BIG EAST championship was the singular goal once we got into spring. The scores at the BIG EAST, it was amazing. It was brilliant. It was exactly what we wanted. We had a game plan and we executed it and you can’t really write it up any better than that.” Tait went on to help Seton Hall to its best Regionals result in school history, an eighth-place finish. He shot 1-under to tie for 21st with teammate Andres Acevedo.
The postseason capped an outstanding college career for Tait, who took a somewhat unusual path on his way to success. Unlike many top golfers who started playing almost as soon as they learned to walk, Tait came to the game as a teenager. Once he fell in love with golf he proved a quick study and caught the attention of White, who saw Tait play at the British Boys’ Championship. “I’m always on the lookout for players, and I was really just walking around and saw him swing a couple of times, I think he was hitting some short irons, and I was just like, wow.”
Over his five seasons at Seton Hall, Tait wowed White many more times — he played the most rounds in University history and had the fourth-best career scoring average. Tait has left a legacy at Seton Hall, and a lesson in sportsmanship for the golf world.
Shawn Fury is an author in New York City