My experience as a golfer and student in Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA at Eastern Michigan University from August 2011 - December 2011
By Rushda Mallick
Arriving in Michigan, USA, was a rather familiar experience. Being brought up in a household that was always busy and someone always present to talk to, I found it easy to shuffle around getting my luggage in order and making conversation with strangers and learning as I headed towards where I would be starting my new life as a student and golfer at the Eastern Michigan University (EMU). The weather on arrival was hot and humid, much like Durban, but I was patient knowing that it would soon grow cold and then the snow would arrive and I was looking forward to the heavy clothing, the ice-skating and of course the experience of golfing in weather I had yet to experience.
I became aware early of the challenges that golf displayed in the USA, compared to challenges back home in SA. I will admit that I have not practiced as hard as I do now, given the fact that I have to compete within my own team on a regular basis to represent EMU. There are eight young talented women on the EMU golf team of which five are chosen for each tournament. How are the five selected? The University has two rounds of golf at Eagle Crest Golf Club (EMU home club) which is known as the qualifying rounds, the 5 best scores are chosen and these girls are selected to represent the University for the tournament. During my first semester I qualified for a total of four tournaments out of a total of five. During the first tournament, which I missed due to the NCAA rules which excluded me from playing as a new member of the team on a first round basis, I had the opportunity to walk with the players and gain some knowledge on how college golf in the USA works. This was somewhat more serious than I was use to, as no unnecessary talking took place between the players, and all I heard was the rustle of leaves as the wind swept by.
My first season at EMU here was a great eye opener with regards to golf and was one of the team’s most successful semesters in a long time. My first tournament was Nittany Lion Invitational in Pennsylvania which took place from the 30th September to the 1st October. EMU Eagles took home first prize out of fifteen colleges. I was thrilled with the success of my team and pleased that I placed 11th out of a total of 85 players.
My next tournament, Mac Preview, was shortly after on the 10th and 11th October in Indianapolis. Our team came third out of fourteen colleges, one shot behind the joint winners. I placed tied 18th individually out of 89 players.
My third tournament, Hoosier Fall Invitational also in Indianapolis, 17th and 18th October, brought the Eagles another success story placing first out of thirteen colleges, the last day being 90% rain with freezing cold winds. I played my best round of 72 here in the USA, which my coach was really happy about saying "Rushda, you are not going anywhere, you staying right here with this team!” This ecstatic outcry from my coach, Sandy Wagner, made me really happy and boosted my confidence. I placed tied 11th individually out of 77 players.
My last tournament for the first semester was Fort Meyers Pat Bradley in Florida from the 23rd to the 25th October with our team placing second out of fifteen colleges. This unfortunately was not my most successful round placing 26th individually out of 80 players, but none the less I was thrilled that the EMU team and myself were on such high spirits and our golf in a really good place. At the beginning of this semester EMU were placed over 100 in college golf and at the end of our season we managed to be ranked 78 out of 254 colleges division one.
The golf tournaments not only gave me the opportunity to play against top women's golf colleges but also to travel around America. The golf courses are very different from South Africa but it gives me experience to test my golfing skills on the many different types of golf courses each with their own spectacular views.
The most exciting part of the golf tournaments are the road trips, as most of the tournaments are close by. Team building, turning up the volume on the radio and getting energized for the upcoming golf, is all part of the game on the way to the tournament so that we are well prepared and looking forward to a high success rate for women’s golf. If there is a best part there is also unfortunately a worst part, and that being the drive back home and knowing that you have to go to classes the next day. Well not exactly the worst part, but somehow not as great as getting to play golf often enough!
So this is the tough part. I am currently doing the Individual Studies Program (ISP) with my minor subjects being Liability Studies, Marketing and Public Relations. The course itself is tolerable, the fun part being Marketing which I am considering furthering my studies. Apart from the minor courses which I have selected, I have to complete some general education classes (compulsory for all students) which are really helpful through your semester with regards to the minor subjects I have chosen, which I believe is a great benefit to me and other students. The workload however gets really tough when we have to go away for tournaments. Books are part of the luggage and assignments are to be completed after a round of golf, which I will admit is no fun but does minimize the amount of work on retuning back to university, although I would prefer golf time to be strictly golf time. There are a number of Professors who are really helpful with the competitive athletes, by allowing work to be due when they are able to. I am very fond of the understanding atmosphere at University, but for other Professors there is no road called excuse.
Back in SA, while attending Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) I did not have to walk long distances to my classes, but at EMU I have to run and sometimes slide across ice, no I am only joking about the sliding, but really sometimes sprinting is involved in order for me to be in time for my next class. The environment of the campus is really pleasant with it being easy to make friends and meeting people from different backgrounds and heading down different paths taking them to their future jobs.
Apart from University and golf there is also the weather, which adds a bit of difference to everyday experiences. I love the cold weather I am experiencing in Michigan! Although the weather is freezing, I am still waiting patiently for loads of snow to come crashing down. I look at the weather updates constantly watching it go to minus Celsius degrees which gets me excited at the little bit of snow that I get to run around in when I have some free time on my hands. For the December break I went to Canada with my team mate where the snow was so high I literally had to drag my feet up, moving them one step at a time as we walked around a little town. I am now semi skilled in skiing, sledding (the views being the prettiest I have seen on the horse sled), tabooing and ice skating. I would rather like to say I am skilled since I have not fallen once during all the fun of learning, but that would mean I have to get really serious about five more different sports and at the moment golf is quiet enough, even in the snow. Playing golf in the cold weather feels way better than having the sun beat down on my bare neck. I played my best round of golf in the lowest temperature I have experienced here in the States! Now that it is winter, we practice our golf in the football dome, which helps with accuracy shots a lot and some days we visit the driving range where there are heaters above your heads, which is pretty cool.
I am grateful for the help I have received in getting to the USA and the help I have received from friends, Professors at University, my team mates and coach from day one of settling in at Michigan. I have yet to gain more experience in the coming years and look forward to them with an open mind, knowing that I am doing the things I love and having fun at the same time.