USCB golf teams attract international talent

USCB golf teams attract international talent

Fairway to the world

Story by Justin Jarrett

Cory Cottrell - USCB Head Golf Coach
Cory Cottrell is the head golf coach at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. This year USCB moved up from the NAIA collegiate division to NCAA Division II. Cottrell predicts continued success with more challenging competition. International recruiting is an important part of his program’s strategy.
USCB Golf Freshman Ellis Bright
Freshman Ellis Bright discovered USCB with the help of a recruiting agency in his hometown of Trowbridge, England. He fell in love with the team’s home course at Oldfield.

When the first group of student golfers arrived at the University of South Carolina Beaufort in 2008, many came with their passports in hand. Today USCB men’s and women’s teams are still a United Nations of golf.

The Sand Sharks’ initial men’s roster included players from Bermuda and the Bahamas, as well as a trio of Englishmen. The first women’s team included golfers from Canada, Germany, Bolivia and Argentina, illustrating the incredible draw of the Lowcountry’s legendary golf scene.

International players have played a key role in the program’s success ever since, but never more than now. With USCB’s move from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to NCAA Division II and the Peach Belt Conference, the program has become an even more attractive destination for international recruits who were already drawn to the world-class golf courses and the mild climate that allows play virtually year-round.

“When you start talking to a bunch of Northern Europeans, some Scandinavians, the English,” says USCB coach Cory Cottrell, who excelled on the university’s golf team as a student, “they see great golf and great weather, and they say, ‘Sign me up.” So it’s a very, very easy sell, and it’s something that’s a major draw. It’s using our area to our advantage.”

And Cottrell is taking full advantage. International players are generally more familiar and comfortable with team golf settings than their U.S. peers, he says, and they often are more committed to their craft. 

“They understand what comes with team golf,” Cottrell says. “They’ve done it since they were much younger. It’s something that the United States is decades behind other countries in these national development programs.”

The draw from abroad

It was assumed from the moment USCB announced it would field golf programs that the Sand Sharks would have success in recruiting top players, and thus be on the leaderboard. Both the men’s and women’s teams quickly developed into perennial top-25 programs and are consistently in the hunt for Sun Conference and NAIA titles. 

What might not have been as apparent was the appeal the new program would have for international recruits. Golf is truly a global game, and the top junior players in the world almost unanimously aim to play collegiately in the U.S. as they transition to amateur events en route to potential professional careers.

“For young players, whether it be men or women, the best amateur developmental tour on the planet right now is collegiate golf,” Cottrell says. “Collegiate golf is where it’s at. It’s bringing players from all over the world, truly, putting them up against each other.”

Freshman Ellis Bright found USCB through a recruiting agency back home in England and visited the Lowcountry from southwest England while pondering where to play college golf. He was blown away by the Sand Sharks’ home course in Oldfield as well as the team chemistry, sprinkled with tons of international flavor.

“The chemistry is great,” says Bright, who is studying business and hopes to stay in the U.S. after he graduates, whether it’s to play professional golf or otherwise. “A lot of banter, we push each other, and we have a great relationship with the women’s team, as well. They’re all super fun. Everyone’s super driven. It’s just a super positive environment for success.”

Jennifer Larsson, a junior from Tyreso, Sweden - USCB
Jennifer Larsson, a junior from Tyreso, Sweden, was drawn to the Lowcountry’s weather, beaches and golf courses.

A different world

USCB’s current roster reads like a global roll call, with nine of the 11 players on the men’s team coming from abroad, including golfers from England, Slovenia, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Norway and Australia, plus a pair of Canadians. Three of the seven women on the roster hail from Sweden, Germany and St. Martin.

“I’m working on a little bit of each language, and by working on, I mean to say ‘hi,’ or ‘goodbye’ in that language. After that, it’s pretty brutal on my part,” Cottrell laughs. “I’m probably the least cultured out of the whole lot here. It’s something that I recognize that I continue to work on.”

But he’s not the only one struggling with new vocabulary. Bright admits his first year in the Lowcountry has come with some adjustments.

“It’s a bit of a language barrier coming over here and learning new words and things, and there’s definitely a few words I’m not keen on,” Bright says. “People saying ‘y’all’ and stuff is tough to get used to, but it’s cool. I enjoy it.”

Jennifer Larsson, a junior and interdisciplinary studies major from Sweden, is a member of the women’s team. She transferred to USCB this year after spending her first two years at Augustana College in Illinois. The draws, of course, were the weather, the beach and the golf courses.

“I like feeling like I’m living the American life and experiencing the culture here,” Larsson says. “You see it in the movies, and you read about in the books, but actually living it — it’s amazing. So different, very different.”

Jennifer Larsson, a junior from Tyreso, Sweden

By the Numbers

12: Number of international players on the USCB men’s and women’s golf rosters for the spring season, including golfers from nine countries outside the U.S.

82: Percentage of international players on the USCB men’s golf roster this spring. Only two of the 11 Sand Shark men are from the U.S.

1 and 2: Both golf teams are leading academic performers at USCB, with the highest GPA among Sand Shark teams: Women are No. 1 with a 3.86 GPA, and men are No. 2 with a 3.67 GPA.

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