Worldly players stand to rule the game

Jin Jeong of South Korea holds the British Amateur trophy.

Jin Jeong of South Korea holds the British Amateur trophy.

If you wanted to know why the Official World Golf Ranking has taken on such a cosmopolitan look since its inception in 1986, then the recent Portuguese Amateur Championship may provide a clue.

England’s Eddie Pepperell took the title by a stroke over France’s Jean-Pierre Verselin. Italy’s Domenico Geminiani was third, while Daan Huizing of the Netherlands finished fourth.

International leaderboards in amateur golf are nothing new. Nor are such leaderboards confined to European soil. England sent a squad of six down to Australia this past winter. Scotland sent a team down to South Africa recently for the South African Amateur Championship. Australia and South Africa have been sending players to play in the big British amateur tournaments for as long as I can remember.

The Lytham Trophy – one of the most prestigious amateur events in the UK – gets more and more cosmopolitan every year. French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, Italian, Dutch and golfers from all over Europe fill out the draw alongside British amateurs.

Last year a Korean, Jin Jeong, became the first Asian to win the British Amateur Championship. Meanwhile, the U.S. college golf rankings are replete with players who claim allegiance to countries other than the United States.

International amateur players compete in countries around the world from an early age. The Portuguese stamp in Pepperell’s passport will be one of many he has clocked up in miles flown around the world playing amateur golf, thanks to funding from the English Golf Union.

The English Golf Union isn’t the only national association investing in amateur players and giving them as much international experience as possible. Many nations around the world have similar systems in place.

No wonder young golfers such as Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Oliver Fisher, Matteo Manassero, Noh Seung-yul and others move so seamlessly onto the European Tour. Dealing with different currencies, cultures, conditions and international travel does not faze them because they’ve been doing it from such a young age.

Compare the experience of young international players with Steve Stricker’s recent trip to the Middle East for the Qatar Masters. “I felt like it was my first day of school,” Stricker said. “I didn’t know where to go, didn’t know where to register, where anything was…. I take my hat off to the guys who do it on a regular basis.”

Stricker couldn’t adjust because he was outside his comfort zone. Sadly, that’s the case with many American players. No wonder the Official World Golf Ranking is no longer the domain of golfers from the USA.

There’s a warning here to those who want to see U.S. golfers remain dominant. American youngsters need to get as much international experience as possible. They need to get out of their comfort zones and see the rest of the world.

Otherwise, the U.S. is in danger of getting left behind the rest of the world.

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