May 042006
 
Authors: GRANT MEECH The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Kevin McAlpine might never have been to America before his freshman year, but that has not stopped him from becoming one of the best-known golfers in the Mountain West Conference.

He had lived his whole life in Scotland until he came here to play golf. He was 18 years old, alone, in a foreign country and brought everything he owned with him. The young golfer was scared at first, but settled in eventually.

McAlpine, 22, like many Scottish and international golfers, came to America for a chance to prove himself on the course. International flavor is a common trait in collegiate golf, and CSU is no stranger to it.

Men’s head coach Jamie Bermel’s roster contains three international members: freshman Herve Gevers from Antwerp, Belgium, McAlpine, and junior Adam Nelson from Glasgow, Scotland.

The women’s team doesn’t have any international players on its roster currently but head coach Angie Hopkins said she is always recruiting international golfers.

“It gives you more of a market when you can tap into the world,” Hopkins said. “They are an elite group.”

These golfers come here because their countries lack collegiate athletic programs that Americans are so accustomed to. McAlpine said the universities in Scotland have programs, but they aren’t as competitive as the systems here.

“They’ll have a tournament over there once a month,” McAlpine said with his thick Scottish accent. “But the majority of the time is spent partying and it isn’t taken serious.”

McAlpine knew he wanted to play in the states when he was about 16. He sent letters and videos to coaches in America but it was former Ram golfer and fellow Scot Martin Laird who got the ball rolling.

“I played on the Scottish national team with Martin and I told him my story,” said McAlpine. “Then I got a phone call from Coach Bermel.”

Six of the nine golfers for CSU are American, but Bermel found something special in his Scottish senior.

“What I liked about Kevin was he was one of the top five players in Scotland and that’s better than the 400 golfers in the U.S,” Bermel said.

Part of the appeal to coaches is a golfer’s ability to perform well in bad conditions. The main difference between Scottish golf and American golf is the weather, Nelson said. Scottish winds are very nasty and can cause trouble on the golf course, and having a player experienced in these types of conditions can be very valuable.

“They are used to playing in bad weather,” said Bermel. “It doesn’t bother them.”

The trip across the pond has worked out for McAlpine. Last year, he held the lowest scoring average on the team with 72.53, and was the only Ram to make the All-MWC conference team. In addition, McAlpine had his best finish of the season when he tied for fourth at the Barona Cup Tournament in San Diego.

Nelson redshirted this season, but the future looks bright for him and the men’s golf team.

Golf brought them here, and golf will eventually take them back. With the season now over, McAlpine will finish up his final exams and head home to Blairgowrie where he will work on his game. His wish is to come back and play competitively in the U.S.

Grant Meech can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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