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Former golf athletes prosper professionally

By Sarah Hess
On July 10, 2017

James Anstiss is one of three Lion golfers who have moved on from collegiate to professional golf. He is heading back to his home country, New Zealand. File Photo/The Lion's Roar

Three former Lion golfers that accomplished much during their time at the university now compete on a professional level. 

Alumni Horacio Leon, Grady Brame Jr and James Anstiss all transitioned from their collegiate years as golfers to competing in the professional circuit. Leon secured medalist honors at the Mackenzie Tour, PGA TOUR Canada Q-School. Leon shot a 19-under-par 269 to win by five strokes at Crown Isle Resort & Golf Community. This was Leon’s first tournament since he underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery three months ago. Anstiss is heading back to his home country, New Zealand, to begin tours there. 

Golf Head Coach Jake Narro only coached Anstiss, but he knows what type of young men the university’s golf program produced. 

“They’re all hard workers and dedicated to becoming better all the time, and they work their behinds off,” said Narro. 

Narro describes what type of golfer Anstiss is and what he contributed to the team during his time at the university. 

“I would call James like the sergeant-at-arms,” said Narro. “I didn’t really have to make sure that the guys were staying in line because if they stepped out of line, James took care of them. It’s not something I asked him to do. It’s just he was dedicated to having a good team and knew what it took and helped the younger guys understand what it takes. James is an unbelievable athlete, and his discipline is unmatched. Hey, it’s a long shot to make it in professional sports, in professional golf. It’s a global game, but James will leave no stone unturned, and if, for whatever reason, he doesn’t make it all the way to the PGA TOUR, which is what his dream is, he won’t be able to look back on it with any regret.” 

Narro also explains how the university’s golf program prepares its athletes for the next step to the professional circuit through traveling all throughout the country and playing great golf courses against tough competition.

“Professional golf is hard,” said Narro. “It’s tough. You’re traveling. You’re in hotel rooms. You’re eating out. You’re up early and home late. So, that’s going to help him tremendously, and that’s kind of what it’s like to be on a college golf team as well.” 

Anstiss describes the benefits he obtained from the university that has prepared him for the professional-level tours.

“The main lesson I learned is no matter what you’re doing, always put a hundred percent effort into it,” said Anstiss. “Always give back what you put in, and you should always be thankful for what you’re given.”

The coaches and athletic staff at the university strive not just to make athletes qualified to play in the big leagues, but they are here to instill life lessons to produce well-rounded men that are also qualified to compete at a national level. Narro explains how their program based around shaping the individual as a whole and not just working on golf game has set their program apart from others. 

“I would say that we definitely provide an environment to get better,” said Narro. “We encourage dreaming about playing golf professionally while we’re in college, and we definitely work hard and dedicate ourselves to what we’re doing. If you can’t do that then you don’t have a chance.”

Anstiss also describes some of his highlights from his career, how the golf circuit in New Zealand differs from the U.S and how this was able to help better his golf career by coming to play and learn at the university. 

Anstiss said, “Starting off with playing in the regional NCAA Originals in 2015. That was probably one of my main highlights. The Southland Conference last year that was definitely a highlight. Just being on a team with guys who are passionate about golf and working towards the same goal. Coming to Southeastern helped me improve my game because we don’t really have college sports back home. There are not many opportunities to play golf on a team especially all year round, and it’s also hard to combine education and sports back home because we don’t have a college sports system. That was one difference coming over here and combing the two quite well.” 

While Anstiss makes his way to the professional league, he thanks those from the lion nation and his coaching staff who were with him in the beginning of his career. 

“I can’t thank them enough for all their time, effort and support people have given me,” said Anstiss. “It really means a lot to me. Yeah, I can’t really thank people enough for the opportunity I was given.”

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