Long drive: UK golf team improves with summer trip

By Jon Hale

If you looked for the UK men’s golf team this summer, you might have found them in a surprising place. For seven days this summer, several members of the team were not honing their skills at any number of local courses, bu Will Txting Ex Make Him Not Want U Back t instead they were an ocean away, playing some of the most famous courses in the world on a summer tour of Ireland.

An NCAA rule allows golf teams to make one international trip during the summer every four years, and this summer the UK men’s golf team utilized that rule to visit Ireland and play on some of the most unique courses in the world. Seven members of the team, boosters, coaches and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart visited the Emerald Isle for seven straight days of golf this summer.

“We were all excited to have some unbelievable experiences playing the world’s greatest golf courses,” men’s golf coach Brian Craig said.

This trip wasn’t the golf team’s first expedition across the Atlantic. In 2004 the team took a similar tour of Ireland. During their trip this summer, the team played six courses located in the southwest of the country.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” junior golfer Brian Belden said. “My dad went with me and it was great to be able to spend a week with him playing on some of the best courses in the world.”

During their tour of Ireland, the team played courses designed by Greg Norman and Arnold Palmer as well as four courses that were built over 100 years ago. Several of the courses the team visited have earned global recognition for their difficulty.

Doonbeg Golf Club, designed by two-time British Open champion Norman, was ranked the second most influential new course by Sports Illustrated in 2002.

“This is a course I want to be identified with, one I am able to say with pride, I did that one,” Norman said on the Doonbeg Golf Club Web site. “I am the luckiest designer in the world … because of the uniqueness of the site.”

The Old Course at Ballybunion, home of the Murphy’s Irish Open (2004), the Home Internationals (2003) and the Palmer Cup (2004), highlighted the trip. The course was ranked the seventh-best course outside the United States by “Golf Digest” in 2007.

According to the Ballybunion Golf Club Web site, five-time British Open champion Tom Watson said: “Having played the Old Course at Ballybunion many times since my first visit in 1981, I am now of the opinion it is one of the best and most beautiful tests of links golf anywhere in the world.”

The top five golfers on the men’s team at the end of the 2007-08 season were guaranteed spots on the trip, and additional golfers were added as spots became available. In addition to the team and coaches, several boosters, parents, Barnhart and his son made the trip overseas.

“The experience of playing golf on the beautiful courses in Ireland with coach Craig and his team was invaluable,” Barnhart said in a statement provided to the Kernel. “It’s always good to have an opportunity to interact with our student athletes. The young men on our golf team represented the University of Kentucky well. It was truly a unique experience”

According to Craig, Barnhart’s role in the trip didn’t go unnoticed by the players.

“Mitch loves to spend time with all student athletes,” Craig said. “To go on a trip where he actually had a chance to play with the athletes was special to him. This trip was a great opportunity to spend time with the guys, and I think they really appreciated it.”

The men’s golf team opens its 2008 schedule on Sunday at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate held at Wolf Run Golf Club in Zionville, Ind.

“I think a trip like this helps make you a better player,” Craig said. “When playing the links courses in Ireland you have to be more creative. I can’t say for certain that you’ll see a direct improvement from the trip when we start the season, but this can only help our players’ development.”

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