To conclude HSC’s America series, Vishal Saha spoke to Hampton alumnus, golfer Liam Cox OH (2013).
When did you leave Hampton and which University did you go to – and why?
I left Hampton after 6th Form in 2013 and went to the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, USA. My main motivation for going to university in the USA was to develop my golfing ability alongside stretching myself in the classroom and getting the best education available to me. I was also keen simply to spend 4 years in a different country, to meet different kinds of people and grow as a person.
What was it like moving from the UK to the US? How did you settle?
Initially I was a little bit nervous, but that feeling quickly went away during the first few days of being on campus. I was so busy I really didn’t have time to think about what I missed from home, and that enabled me to settle in very quickly. I was also lucky to have very welcoming team-mates who made me feel at ease straight away and helped me understand a lot of American idiosyncrasies. It took me a little bit longer to adjust to different ways of working academically, but there was a huge amount of support available to international students to help make those adjustments.
What was it like to achieve a World Amateur Golf Ranking?
It was rewarding to achieve one initially because it validated all the hours I was spending on improving my game. It was then a case of continually trying to improve that ranking over the years, and the ranking served as a useful benchmark to measure my progress against my peers.
Where are you in your golf career now – what’s next?
For the last couple of years, I have played mostly at club level. After about ten years in a row of quite intense competitive golf at county, national and collegiate level, I am really enjoying competing in a slightly more relaxed environment. I had a lot of success at club level in 2019 so I’m planning to play in some regional and national events this year and test myself against the country’s best players again. I’m also trying to ‘give back’ to a sport that has given me lots of opportunity, so I’m organising a charity challenge this year where a group will play 100 holes in a day – equal to a marathon!
How has being in the US helped you develop your golf differently?
The courses that host US college tournaments are generally very long and very difficult, forcing the player to perform well in every department. When I went to college in 2013, I was quite short off the tee and thereby effectively giving everyone else a head start. Through our team’s strength and conditioning programme and some changes to my swing, I went from being a short hitter – by college standards – to quite a long one, which really helped my performance on the bigger courses.
More than anything though, my mental and strategic approaches to the game both went to the next level. I put this down to spending hours and hours, every day, around elite players and coaches with a wealth of experience. I was constantly asking them questions and trying to absorb as much knowledge as I could, which I then applied to my own game.
Do you have any tips for anyone trying to follow your path?
For someone thinking of going to university in the US to play golf – or any other sport – I would strongly recommend visiting the universities you are considering, at least once, before deciding where to go. If it feels like a good fit initially, it will be, and you will have a fantastic four-year experience.
Throughout the 4 years, it’s important to keep clear long-term goals and structure every day around achieving those. Whether you want to turn professional after you graduate, follow a different career path, or maybe even pursue academia, there will always be other possibilities available to you and distractions along the way. Remembering why you are there in the first place will keep you focussed.
Finally, I think it’s really important to make the most of the resources you will have at your disposal. One of the best aspects of playing sports at university in the US is that a lot of investment is made by a huge number of people in the performance of the team, and the individuals within the team. Everyone is there to help you, so don’t be shy in asking what they can do to help you improve.