Harry Hall is a sophomore at UNLV who hails from Hayle, England. In this player blog, Hall reflects on his time as a Rebel, traveling the world, competing in the Jones Cup and the relationships being a Rebel have helped him forge.
Coming to UNLV – January 2016
I knew I was in for a big culture shock as I flew into Vegas for the second time as a UNLV rebel after my official visit in the October 2014. Coach Rowe, also from Cornwall, greeted me at the airport and from that moment I said goodbye to my normal life. As soon as he dropped me off at campus, there was work to be done, schedules and meetings had to be met to prepare me for the academic term ahead. Not long after, we drove to Shadow Creek to have a game in the 42-degree heat which was my first round in America. Since then, I have travelled on all four tournaments to Chicago, Florida, Alabama and New Mexico.
I started getting in contact with American colleges after the 2013 British Boys at Hoylake after a couple of Universities seemed to like my style of golf. Soon after my sixteenth birthday, I was then exchanging emails with several Universities but it wasn’t until august of 2014 that UNLV was an option thanks to Coach Rowe moving to the University from Stanford. This also had a lot to do with my recent selection for the England U18 team for the European Boys. To create the best options if you intend to play collegiate golf, it will help to start investigating as early as possible whilst competing in national competitions as a junior.
Playing in the collegiate events with UNLV has given me the opportunities to compete amongst the best Amateurs in the world including John Ram (World #1) and Maverick McNealy (World #2) who were both at Olympia Fields and Isleworth. My favourite tournament was the Tavistock Invitational which was at Isleworth, Florida because of the history and it being the previous home of Tiger Woods. Without being at UNLV and playing collegiate golf, the only way you would get to play on these astonishing courses would be on the PGA tour which is where I wish to be one day and feel like I have all the opportunities to make that reality thanks to the American collegiate circuit.
As I was in the process of attending University in America, I always thought about the golf side of the program and always forgot I was about to enrol in University. The academic side is not easy. I am in the library far too much for my liking but it is a great way to relax from golf and keep your mind off the game which is needed some times. This January, which will be my second term at UNLV, I will be studying Maths, English, Psychology and Biology which are all minor classes which are needed in your first two years before you Major in your chosen specific subject, mine being Biological Kinesiology. I have never considered myself to be an academic but I have still managed to better the required grade point average for Head Coach Knight.
By being amongst a great standard of golf and high level of academic’s, really does help you in all areas and makes you an all rounded person. There are some great older role models on the team that have help me settle in to the American College life. I thought that being away from home was going to be difficult but due to the busy schedule of tournaments and consistent routine when back on campus, there was not much time to think in the first few months which made it feel like another golf trip away to the Carris or British Boys only this one was longer, and more fun!
More Reflections of Being a Rebel – February 2017
I am currently on a plane heading from Charlotte to Jacksonville to compete in the Jones Cup for the second consecutive year representing England. In the last one and a half years, I would guess that I have traveled on more than 60 flights and am not far short from traveling around the whole of America. After the Jones Cup this week, I will be returning to Hawaii for the second time to compete for UNLV in the first event of the Spring season.
This is a big year ahead for the team and myself. The Walker cup is in September which is something I would love to take part in this year. My fellow teammate, John Oda, got selected for the USA Walker Cup practice session and if he carries on playing like he is I am sure he will feature in the event at LA Country Club, not far from Las Vegas. Shintaro Ban, another team mate, is also playing great and is traveling up the world rankings. How amazing would it be to play against those two for the Walker Cup in opposing teams? It would be a first to see three players from the same university competing in the walker cup. As of right now I am not in the Walker Cup squad but there’s 6 months between now and selection.
My college golf is progressing nicely. I have kept injury free and have just qualified in second place behind Shin to travel to Hawaii, the top two players in qualifying automatically go, the next three who travel are chosen by head coach Dwaine Knight. I have yet to miss a tournament since I came to UNLV.
After being at UNLV for almost two years now, I am building relationships with many different people that I could not have dreamed of if I stayed in the UK. Not long ago I was at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open PGA Tour tournament in Las Vegas when Ryan Moore, on the 9th tee box, shook my hand in the crowd whilst competing in the event on the Sunday. “You must be Harry, nice to meet you,” he said. It may have helped after speaking to his agent, also his brother, the day before for the whole of the back nine. This weekend just gone, thanks to John, I got to putt and listen to wise words from PGA Tour player Kevin Na on the putting green at Southern Highlands.
It is hard to notice my progress when school and golf is so full on. I went home last summer after having a great spring in 2016 in the US not really noticing my game was suddenly on a different level. I came home and saw everybody at South West Week, where I won the South West Under 21 Championships. The following week I traveled up to Royal Porthcawl, where I came 3rd in Qualifying for the British Am (Top English Man) and lost to the winner Scott Gregory in the round of the last 16. Scott will feature in this year’s Masters, US Open and US PGA Championship. I topped this summer off with being selected for the Men’s Home Internationals where I got 4.5 points of 6.
College hit me hard the following month in the September. After having several months off, it brought me back to the reality of school work whilst traveling which is hard to get used too, especially after just playing golf all summer. After two solid and two poor tournaments, the Fall season was over in early October which left the team to excel in school which is an area that I had never really applied that much focus, too. My attention soon diverted to turning up to class earlier and applying 100% into every piece of coursework and exam that was left for the rest of the semester. Realizing if I could put 100% into something that was not my number one priority, I could apply even more focus to something that was: my golf. I finished the semester on a 3.66 GPA out of 4, which meant I averaged above 90% in my exams and was put on the Dean’s list, which is an academic honor that an athlete can only achieve when getting above a 3.5 GPA. During the end of the semester, I had won pre-qualifying in the Shriners with my best round ever, a 63 (-9), and went on finish with a 68 (-4) the following Monday. A 65 made the event so I missed out but it was still a great experience.
There are two playing routes that a European Golfer can go down and here are my beliefs:
1) Staying back in the UK playing golf, ideally being in your National Squad where you can have access to more opportunities to warm weather training which overall is a month out of the whole winter, compete in Australia or South Africa in the whole of January and play abroad in the Portuguese and the Spanish Amateur events in February. You would the start the season in April properly which will last until September, then the season will be over for another year. This season is from April to September unless you are in the National Squad 1st team which is from January to September. All bearing in mind you have the money to finance these trips.
2) Going to America, preferably to Division 1 school in the top 100 after visiting and making sure that you like the coach, facilities, area and team. You would start the fall (September-December) with a busy golf schedule right after the summer which will finish at the end of October. Every college will play 4 or 5 tournaments, these tournaments are A and B strength fields in the WAGR rankings, only at a good D1 school, like UNLV. You would then have 2 months off where you can practice, physically improve, and focus on school before going home for a month until you start qualifying again for tournaments at the end of January. The college season then starts in the middle of February or before depending on your schedule of if you get picked for any other events, like the Jones Cup.
The tournaments will continue every 2 weeks until the start of June when I will come home for 3 months and compete in Europe…. without any school work to do. The season is from January to November. The events in the USA are completely free, funded by your college. You would need to pay for the summer events, which is June to August.
I think if I stayed in the UK to compete, I would be physically fitter and technically better which is natural if the weather conditions are not good leaving you to focus your time working on your swing and body. These are the only two things you can really do in the winter when there are no tournaments and the weather is poor. The US college circuit and the people/ facilities at UNLV have changed all the other aspects of my game for the better. I have learned that there is a lot more to golf. I have improved technically on the putting green, after working with Coach Knight on my posture and routine, I have become more aware of my numbers on the Trackman with Coach Rowe on the range. I have played at altitude and on different types of grasses. This has improved my knowledge about the game but all this, the golf, is the easy part.
Playing golf is easy. You’ll learn there is more than just golf. Not only does being in College develop your game but who you are as a person because of the challenges off the course that you must overcome, too. Being away from home, finding a place to live after your first year, who you are going to live with, the different cultures and personalities in your team, a car for transport, insurance for the car, registering that car at the DMV, getting a driving license, sorting out your visa’s, workouts at 5:30 three times a week, turning up on time, having to shave every day (Coach Knight = No Beards). All these challenges that happen off the golf course are the hardest part about college and that’s all on top of handing in assignments on time even if you do miss class because you are away playing tournaments. You will feel knocked down, and when you think you are on top of everything, a new thing always comes up.
Being busy at college is the norm and I wouldn’t change it. Being at UNLV has made me mentally stronger, I have adapted a golf game for the PGA Tour and the Open Championship. Socially I am more comfortable, I have traveled the world. I am more intelligent and have developed relationships with people that could potentially help me in the future. Most of these things would be very hard to accomplish if I had stayed in my comfort zone in the UK.