When 23-year-old Justin Connelly joined the GC golf team this year, he brought more than his passion for golf with him. As the most recent Georgia State Amateur Championship winner, he enriched the team with his guidance and positive attitude.
“He is a natural born leader,” said head coach Patrick Garrett. “People tend to listen to him and follow him because of his personality. He is always positive no matter how we play or what is going on.”
Connelly’s brother, Nathan Connelly, is a GC sophomore and plays on the tennis team, which is a major factor in why Justin chose GC. Justin is currently living with Nathan.
“I don’t have a place to stay here yet, so I went to Walmart and bought a cot and decorated my corner of the living room in his apartment,” Justin said. “That is one of my funniest memories here so far.”
Connelly graduated with a degree in clinical psychology from Mercer, where he played Division 1 golf before coming to GC, which is a Division 2 school.
While the practices and rigor were a considerable change of pace, the connection between the players made the greatest impact.
“At Mercer, every minute of every day was structured, which was good for a lot of us,” Connelly said. “At GC we have a lot more freedom, and we have to go do what needs to get done on our own. We have an amazing academics program, and it separates the guys who want to be there from the guys who don’t, which also brings everyone closer.”
The team spends an immense amount of time practicing, but they also enjoy eating and playing basketball together. As a result of this, the players are friends as well as teammates. Connelly said he has quickly become close with the guys on the team.
“We have a saying on the team called ‘paradise,’ and we use it everywhere,” said senior Thomas Hodges. “If you’re in your own paradise, you’re going to have a good time. You’re going to play good golf, and you’re going to enjoy it.”
This is Connelly’s last year of eligibility as a collegiate golfer, and the future of his golf career is unknown. After winning the state amateurs, Connelly said he was confident in continuing his golfing in the professional field. However, Connelly also hopes to study nursing and one day work with kids who have cancer in a pediatric oncology unit.
“I have a set number in my mind that I would like to shoot on average to try to turn pro, and if not I would like to follow nursing and continue that here,” Connelly said. “My dad is in the nursing field, and my mom is a special needs teacher. I have been raised so that at the end of the day, it is all about helping people.”