Thursday, May 26, 2011


James Byrne, the highest world-ranked amateur golfer in Scotland, is coming up to the end of four years as a student at Arizona State University, during which time he has played high-level competitive golf on the US college circuit from September to May every year.
Next week (May 31 to June 5) the Banchory player will be a key member in the Arizona State team bidding to end the US college golf season in a blaze of glory by winning the NCAA Division 1 championship at Karsten Creek, Stillwater in Oklahoma.
Modern technology means it is not difficult to interview somebody thousands of miles away in Arizona ... I E-mailed James the questions and he very sportingly send back the following answers without delay: 

Q: Would you be the player you are now if you had not have four years of high-level competition in America?A: It's difficult to say. When I made the decision to attend college in the US, the support behind Scottish golfers didn't seem to be nearly as strong as it is now. At Arizona State I've been spoiled with four years of good weather, which of course was my incentive to go there in the first place. I knew I'd have a huge advantage over my peers by being able to practise year-round and initially that was probably the case.
But the SGU have made great improvements to the training programs in recent years, taking the squads to warm climates for weeks and months at a time, so there have been great opportunities at home as well.
From what I've heard, the trips to South Africa and Abu Dhabi this past winter were massive successes and the guys seem to be playing well as a result. To answer the question though, I couldn't possibly tell if I would be a better player or not, but what I do know is that by coming to ASU I have matured as a golfer and as a person, and the experience in general has been very rewarding.
It hasn't all been about golf. I now have a degree in Business Marketing (graduated last week!) and I have made countless friendships, many of which will last a lifetime.
Q Would you advise other Scottish/British teenagers to go to the US if offered golf scholarships or is it not as straight forward as that, i.e. other things to be taken into consideration like location, whether college has Division 1 status, etc?A I would absolutely advise it, but I would also consider options available at home. If the player is good enough, they might have the chance to get involved with the national training programs which as I mentioned, are excellent.The factors that need to be considered are fairly obvious. My number 1 deciding factor was always going to be weather, so I chose the school with the best weather and facilities. Other kids might be attracted to a program with a hall-of-fame coach or somewhere with a strong reputation for academics.
It all depends on preferences and only the individual knows where he/she really wants to go.
Most people have heard the horror stories of good players catching the first flight home from the US, as the "coach" was actually a PE teacher and Minnesota was a lot further north than they expected.
Stories like that seem to be fairly common, unfortunately, and put an unfair damper on the image of college golf. As long as the player knows about the place they are going and has had dialogue with the coach, they are more likely to settle in well and not get homesick straight away.
It doesn't make much sense to sign up to spend four years of your life at a place you know nothing about.
Q: Lastly, apart from playing in all the big amateur tournaments when you come home and clinching a place in the GB and I Walker Cup team for Balgownie in September, what are your plans beyond that? Tour School in Europe - or do you see your future as a pro in the States?A: At the moment, I plan to return home and go through Tour School in Europe. I did think about staying in the States, following Martin Laird's lead, but I consider that to be a venture that lies further down the road. The majority of successful European players have established themselves first in Europe, so I would like to follow that trend.




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