A whirlwind summer swirling with a variety of voices ended last weekend when Nate Stevens convened with his family at their home in Northfield.
After juggling a busy schedule of golfing and college recruitment all summer, the Northfield High School junior sat down Saturday night to hash out his college golf plans. Sunday morning, he called the coaches at the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois and Notre Dame to inform them of his decision.
Monday morning, he publicized his choice to attend Notre Dame and play Division I golf as part of the 2022 recruiting class.
“It was a huge sense of relief and gratitude,” Stevens said. “To have the options I had and to know I couldn’t really make a wrong decision, the amount of gratitude I was feeling throughout this process — if you would have told me last year that I would have some of these offers, I wouldn’t have believed you. I played some really good golf this summer, and I’ve worked my butt off to get to this position. It was just amazing, and a huge sense of relief.”
So far in high school, Stevens has helped the Northfield program qualify for its first state tournament as a team since 1973 by winning the individual section title when he was an eighth-grader in 2018 and finished ninth at state as a freshman in 2019. While, he missed an opportunity at a high school season this spring, Stevens spent the summer racking up tournament wins and quality finishes in high-level tournaments.
Early on in his recruiting process, Stevens made the decision to ax every Southern school from his list. Despite most of the country’s heavyweight college golf programs being located in the South, Stevens wasn’t interested in adapting from his yearly routine.
He said he’s comfortable using the Midwest winter as a forced recess from golf. While he won’t enjoy the same full break as he does now, when he joins the basketball team in the winter, Stevens said the ability to not feel the need to play full rounds of golf every day of the year just because it’s available made staying closer to home an appealing choice.
“At Notre Dame, they go on practice trips basically every weekend in the winter, and that’s good enough for me,” Stevens said. “I don’t need to be playing every single day in the winter, just because I feel like that would be a great way to get burned out.
“I think at Notre Dame it’s the right fit where I’m not still in state and super close to my parents,” Stevens added, “which I think every 16-year-old kid wants to get away from their parents, and I’m no fluke from that. I think it’s the perfect distance away from home while still sticking to my Midwestern roots.”
What allowed Notre Dame to stick out, Stevens said, is the breadth of quality the school and golf program offers.
In the classroom, a chance to earn a degree at Notre Dame was also too great an opportunity to let slip away.
“In the classroom the academics at Notre Dame are superior to a bunch of schools in that area,” Stevens said. “That means a lot to me and my family.”
On the course, the Fighting Irish are coming off what was arguably their most successful season in program history, even if it was cut short by COVID-19. Notre Dame won four of the five tournaments it played in the fall and garnered a top-10 national ranking under now fourth-year coach John Handrigan.
Building off that success, Notre Dame is collecting high-profile recruiting classes in 2020, 2021 and 2022, that latest of which includes Stevens, Texas’ Matthew Spaulding and Pennsylvania’s Calen Sanderson.
“When I get there, hopefully we’ll be contending for national championships,” Stevens said. “The goal at Notre Dame is to just be a winner.”