Tuesday, October 20, 2009

American Training

Over the weekend, we debated the merits of playing golf at an American university. Many of the top Belgian junior golfers are now away playing full-time across the Atlantic. Four alone attend Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

Are they benefiting from the full-time training? The reviews back in Belgium are mixed. Sam’s coach Jean-Christian Lassagne says American golf coaches expect top results – and put an inordinate amount of pressure on students to achieve. “They say, ‘hey you hit the ball well, so you should score well,” he says. “But it is not always so simple.”

Sam’s sport psychologist, Emilee, who spent a year at Stetson University in Florida, said she missed having her Belgian-based teacher with her. “Many of us make the mistake in believing that the American coach can help us with our swing and other technical issues,” she recalls. “They cannot. You need to keep your old teacher.”
Bottom line: many Europeans seem to doubt whether four years spent in America playing golf at the university pays off in better players.

At the same time, the prospects that stay back in Europe treat water. After they become 18, and start attending continental universities, the Belgian golf federations stop subsidizing their training. The best prospects turn pro. But they struggle to make their mark. So the jury remains out.

For Sam, a native English speaker, the debate remains unresolved. Golf-wise, it would be best for him to attend an American university. But he wants to study as much as play, and he is targeting institutions with a good mixture of golf and academics. This weekend, he met with psychologist Emilee and his coach Lassagne to review the past season and prepare for the next one. He also finished a long paper on the Cold War for his history class and took the SATs.

If he scores well, he will consider applying to American universities. If he does not, he probably will end up attending a UK institution – where the golf may not be quite as good as in the U.S., but where he will be able, at minimum cost, to get a top-flight education.

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