There was a specific point during the live drawing of four-player pools that Braedon Wear did not want to hear his name called out at last week’s Tennessee Golf Association Match Play championship at the Lookout Mountain Club.
That’s because the three golfers who had already been drawn for that group were formidable opponents to Wear — a former Alcoa standout and incoming freshman at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. He turned to his friends and his dad.
“I said, ‘Please don’t let this be me — anybody but me,’” Wear said. “And then he draws me out.”
That meant in order to advance out of pool play into the round of 16 Wear had to beat a trio of fellow collegiate athletes, including his soon-to-be teammate at UTC, senior Oliver Simonsen.
Wear did just that less than 10 miles away from his future school. He outlasted most of the other 64 golfers to advance to the semifinals, where he narrowly fell to the eventual winner and defending champion, Connor McKay.
“I got a tough draw, so I knew I was going to have to play well to get through,” Wear said. “Knowing myself, I knew I could go as far as I did, if not farther. The hardest part for me was getting out of the pool play.”
Wear was first tasked with beating David Dingess — a former wide receiver for Furman — and Middle Tennessee State golfer Michael Bernard. Those wins pitted Wear against Simonsen for a spot in the final 16.
The 2018 Tennessee Match Play champion, Simonsen set UTC records for 36 holes (-12, 132) and 54 holes (-21, 195) while capturing his first collegiate win at the 2018 Memphis Intercollegiate.
Wear said Simonsen is a senior leader for the Mocs.
“Obviously, I wasn’t the favorite to win, but I felt like I had a good chance if I just played well because anything can happen in golf,” Wear said. “He’s a really good player but, I knew if I trusted myself, I had a chance.”
Wear knocked off Simonsen 4 and 3 before winning his next two matches on his way to face McKay in the semifinals.
McKay is a Knoxville native and former Lipscomb golfer who recently transferred to MTSU. He won the match play tournament last year at Oak Ridge Country Club.
Wear, who failed to advance out of the round of 32 in the 2019 tournament, didn’t make repeating as champion easy for McKay.
“That match was a roller coaster — it was back and forth all day,” Wear said. “I played some of the best golf I’ve played in a long time.”
Wear took a 3-up lead after 11 holes before McKay battled back. A birdie gave Wear a 1-up edge heading into the 18th hole, but it was there Wear suffered an unlucky break.
After pulling his ball left on the green, he missed the bogey putt and conceded the hole, taking the match into extra holes.
McKay beat Wear on the first playoff hole to advance to the championship, which he won for the second straight year.
Wear said the loss stung, but he walked away from the tournament encouraged by his performance.
“I obviously don’t like losing — nobody does,” Wear said. “I took a couple things from this final match, and I definitely think I’ll be more prepared next time. … It’s just a couple mistakes I can learn from.”
Given Wear has yet to kick off his collegiate career, there’s plenty of time for that.
If given the chance to play this fall, Wear said the Mocs have the potential to win the Southern Conference and advance to the NCAA tournament — a competition he watches every year on TV.
Now, he’s eager to be a part of it.
“That’s always been a goal,” Wear said. “There are obviously some things I can do better, but I feel like my game is astronomically better than when I started the year.”