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  • Alistair Tait

Educate to accumulate

England Golf’s decision to run overseas squads to support players who choose to study in American colleges is welcome news and long overdue.

College golf isn’t for everyone, but for those who have the academic nous it’s the best route to the professional game for one very important reason: that degree, often secured on a golf scholarship to offset expensive fees, is something to fall back on should professional golf not work out.

The mini tours are full of players who shunned a chance at a free education to pursue their dream of playing on the European Tour only to crash and burn and have nothing to fall back on. True, there are players on those circuits who have been through the college system. However, I’ve always maintained having a degree gives players an advantage over those who don’t. Many employers are more likely to go for someone with a college degree than someone who doesn’t have one.

England Golf is supporting nine women and four men, 13 players who will be eligible for selection to England teams.

The women, with U.S. universities in brackets, are Jess Baker (Central Florida), Rosie Belsham (Baylor), Annabell Fuller (Florida), Ellie Gower (Colorado Boulder), Charlotte Heath (Florida State), Caley McGinty (Kent State), Mimi Rhodes (Wake Forest), Hannah Screen (Oklahoma) and Amelia Williamson (Florida State).

Assistant Women’s Performance Manager Jennifer Henderson said:

“With many young female golfers from the England Golf talent pathway exploring the opportunity of US college scholarships, I’m delighted that we are once again able to support an overseas women’s squad.

Dan Bradbury (Lincoln Memorial), Barclay Brown (Stanford), Angus Flanagan (Minnesota) and Joe Pagdin (Florida) are the four men.

“The competitive environment the NCAA provides, often coupled with a climate conducive to year-round practice and play, makes US college golf an attractive option for aspiring international amateur players,” said Men’s Performance Manager Stephen Burnett.

The college system is the perfect route to a professional career, especially for women for one very important reason: there aren’t too many pathways for women in the British Isles/Europe. Yes they can now tee it up on some mini tours, but for so long it was the Ladies European Tour or bust. Men have had a plethora of mini tours to choose from to hone their games in preparation for the European Tour.

Meghan MacLaren (pictured) and Bronte Law are just two high profile English players to come through the college system. They had successful college stints at Florida International and UCLA respectively. True, others like Charley Hull and Georgia Hall have made seamless transitions to the upper echelons of the professional game without going though the college system, but not every up-and-coming player has their talent. Better to test yourself in the highest standard of amateur golf there is before heading to the Qualifying School. And the college golf system is that by a long shot.

Besides, why wouldn’t any young person not want to spend four years not only competing at the highest level, but enjoying all the benefits that come with university life? And for free. That degree is the culmination of what can be a fantastic four years of learning, socialising, meeting new friends for life and growing as a person.

Ah, it brings back so many fond memories.

#JustSaying: “I look back on my time in college golf (Houston Baptist University) as some of the happiest years of my life.” Colin Montgomerie

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