Columbia, 2019 Alumni
Daniel Faccini represented Columbia in the 2019 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship. Daniel attended high school at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida and was the No. 1-ranked junior golfer in Columbia. He furthered his education on a golf scholarship to Barry University in Miami, Florida where he notched eleven top-20 finishes, four of which he finished top-10.
The Spirit: You immediately impacted Barry and started almost every event since your freshman year. How were you so prepared heading into college golf?
Daniel Faccini: Initially, it all started since I finished my last year of high school at IMG. This gave me a solid basis when college golf started. My senior year of high school year was crucial for me. At that moment, I was not playing as much golf as I did at IMG. IMG impacted me because it gave me various tools to use and get better, from psychological training to physical training every day of the week. After a year of hard work at IMG, I started to see results in tournaments, and I chose to play college golf at Barry University.
The Spirit: What has representing your country in amateur golf meant to you?
Faccini: Since I first started representing Colombia in international tournaments, getting nervous was part of it. This meant I cared about the position I was in, and it was vital for me to perform well. I have always thought that anything you try to do in life, whether it’s golf or not, you should try the best you can. It means a lot to me to represent Colombia and wear the uniform with our national colors. It also means you have earned a spot for it after years of hard work and sacrifice.
The Spirit: Who was your biggest role model growing up?
Faccini: I would say that I always looked up to Tiger Woods while growing up. But the most significant role model I have is Camilo Villegas. The first Colombian to win on the PGA tour and be ranked top 10 globally for several years.
The Spirit: You were one of the top golfers in Columbia and the world at the time you committed to Barry. What made you choose Barry?
Faccini: To be honest with you, older friends from Colombia helped me throughout the process. After receiving advice from peers, I created a list with all the pros and cons of the offers I got. With it, Barry ended up being the best choice. The key factors were location, coach, schedule. The area is close to Colombia, a very Latin city, and we can practice year-round. Coach Stobs is a rigorous person, and it helped me grow in my five years at Barry. The schedule we played in had some pure golf courses and great competition with other universities.
The Spirit: Where does The Spirit International rank in the team events you have competed in?
Faccini: The Spirit International is easily one of the best events I have ever played. I look forward to going back to play that unique golf course.
The Spirit: What was your favorite part about The Spirit?
Faccini: The activities at night made it very special. We got to know other team members. Another excellent aspect of the tournament was staying at Camp Olympia.
The Spirit: What was your favorite off-course activity at The Spirit?
Faccini: My favorite activity at The Spirit was playing the Par 3 golf course called The Needler. If a person who makes a hole in one, they receive a Rolex.
USA, 2019 Alumni
In 2019, Kaitlyn Papp competed in The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship while playing at the University of Texas. She charted 19 career top-10 finishes in college and currently holds the Texas school record for career stroke average at 71.91. Papp was a three-time Arnold Palmer Cup team member and participated in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019. She equally excelled in the classroom, making Big 12 Academic Honor four times while at Texas. Here is The Spirit’s Q & A with Texas Ex and now professional golfer, Kaitlyn Papp.
The Spirit: What makes representing the United States in team-format special?
Papp: It is always an honor to represent your country but being on a team makes the moment even more fun and memorable. We all create a special bond.
The Spirit: How did 9th in the U.S. Open in 2020 help your confidence as you are on the brink of turning professional?
Papp: The 2020 U.S. Open was a big confidence boost for me. I always knew my ability was there but being able to bring it all together in a major was really meaningful for me.
The Spirit: Did the U.S. Open taking place in your home state enhance that experience?
Papp: Even though there were not any fans allowed in 2020, many residents who lived on the golf course were cheering for me and yelling “Hook’em” in the fairways, so I felt really comfortable.
The Spirit: Did you always dream of going to University of Texas in your hometown of Austin?
Papp: I did not grow up at University of Texas fan, as the majority of my family went to University of Florida. When my family and I moved to Austin in 2014, I knew I didn’t want to leave anytime soon and Texas happened to be a great fit.
The Spirit: What type of work ethic goes into holding University of Texas’ school record for career stroke average?
Papp: I have always worked hard on my golf game throughout high school and college with the goal of being on the LPGA Tour. This kind of goal has motivated me for many years. I want to improve all aspects of my game.
The Spirit: What was it like getting the initial call to play the Arnold Palmer Cup? After now having represented the U.S. in that prestigious event, what was the experience of play in late Arnold Palmer’s tournament?
Papp: I remember in 2018 (my first Palmer Cup) when I got a call that I was the final pick for Team USA, I cried tears of joy and was happy my hard work paid off. Playing in the Palmer Cup was a lot of fun because we were representing not only the USA but also Mr. Palmer’s legacy. The format of the event allows the whole team to come together.
The Spirit: Who was your biggest role model growing up?
Papp: My biggest role model growing up was Tim Tebow. I grew up a big Florida football fan and his hard work and character inspired me.
The Spirit: What was your favorite aspect of The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship?
Papp: I really enjoyed being around my teammates and our captain, Stacy Lewis. As a team we all got along well and learned a lot from her.
The Spirit: What was your favorite off-course activity at The Spirit?
Papp: My favorite off-course activity was The Spirit Games! All of the activities were fun and it added another element of competition to the week.
The Spirit: It is very rare when a player from the same state and college are selected to play in the same team event to represent their country. At the 2019 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship, you represented the United States women’s team, and fellow Longhorn Cole Hammer represented the United States men’s team. How special was it to share that moment with a fellow Texan?
Papp: Being selected to Team USA that year with Cole was really special. I have known him since our AJGA days and become good friends. We have played similar events and were representing the USA and Longhorn nation that week which was pretty cool.
Mateo Fernandez De Oliveira
Argentina| 2019 Alumni
Mateo Fernandez De Oliveira was the top golfer in Argentina and climbing the junior golf rankings when he arrived to Texas Christian University in 2019. Before stepping foot on a college campus, Fernandez De Oliveira finished 19th in the Latin America Amateur Championship and made the cut at the Open de Argentina, the most prestigious professional tournament in Argentina.
As a freshman at TCU, he played a crucial role in the lineup, starting in eight events. Fernandez De Oliveira had three Top-20 finishes and completed his freshman year with a 72.57 scoring average. That same year (2019) he represented Argentina in the Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship. The following year, Fernandez De Oliveira was academic All-Big 12 and fired 14 rounds of par or better. He closed the 20-21 season with a bang, placing 9th at the Big 12 Championship. After his sophomore season, Fernandez De Oliveira decided he would take his talents to the University of Arkansas. The Spirit caught up with him for a Q&A following the 2021 NCAA National Championship and qualifying for the U.S. Amateur.
The Spirit: What is the biggest challenge of collegiate golf?
Mateo Fernandez De Oliveira: The biggest challenge is being a student-athlete. It’s difficult to understand how hard it is to manage your time between classes, tournaments, school work, team meetings, and workouts without the experience of being a student-athlete.
The Spirit: Do you plan on turning professional after college?
Fernandez De Oliveira: Yes, the plan is to turn professional right after college.
The Spirit: How important is it for federations to continue to support team play around the world?
Fernandez De Oliveira: It is super important, and it is a massive challenge for countries nowadays. Fortunately, Argentina is still supporting us as they have throughout my years of representing the country.
The Spirit: What have your National Championship experiences been like?
Fernandez De Oliveira: They have been an honor for me. Since I was a kid, I dreamed of representing my country. To have the opportunity to represent in different tournaments is a privilege. I’ve made so many memories that will last a lifetime.
The Spirit: You just transferred from TCU to the University of Arkansas. What are you looking forward to on your next journey?
Fernandez De Oliveira: I am looking forward to a great time with all of my friends there. We will have a good team with my other guys from South America, and I will have my girlfriend there. They are going to be two great years.
The Spirit: Where does the Spirit International rank in the team events you have played?
Fernandez De Oliveira: It’s hard to rank the tournaments. But, I would put The Spirit as the most fun event. It’s such a great atmosphere within the players, on and off the course.
The Spirit: How did The Spirit International prepare you for the next level of golf?
Fernandez De Oliveira: The Spirit was a great experience in all aspects. It was an excellent competition played in an exciting format. It challenged me to play the course more aggressively, which was my major takeaway from the week.
The Spirit: What did it mean to represent your country in an Olympic like competition at Whispering Pines?
Fernandez De Oliveira: Playing the event was even more special because the team was more united. It was an honor and a pleasure.
The Spirit: What was your favorite off-course activity in The Spirit International?
Fernandez De Oliveira: The Spirit games at Camp Olympia during the nights. They were super fun and engaging.
France, 2019 Alumni
Before attending the University of South Carolina, Pauline Roussin-Bouchard was already a veteran in the world of amateur golf. She was selected to represent Europe in the 2016 Junior Ryder Cup and won the 2019 Italian International Ladies Amateur. She was ready to make an immediate impact when she arrived in Columbia, SC. She was first-team All-American and recorded the best scoring average of any freshman in the program’s history (71.27). She was also selected to play the Palmer Cup following her freshman season.
Roussin-Bouchard’s sophomore year saw her rise to greater heights. She won four events, with the last coming at the 2021 SEC Championship, shooting 67-67-65 for 199 total, which is an SEC Championship record.
The Spirit caught up with Roussin-Bouchard to discuss the greatness of international team-style golf events, how she stayed sharp over the COVID-19 pandemic and her success at the University of South Carolina.
The Spirit: How early in your golf career did you know you wanted to come to the United States to play collegiately?
Pauline Roussin-Bouchard: I was around 14. French players were coming back from the states telling me about their experience. My decision came right after that.
The Spirit: Was the 2016 Junior Ryder Cup in Minnesota your first event in the states? How exciting was the process of being selected to play the most prestigious junior match play team event?
Roussin-Bouchard: It was my first event in the United States. It was awesome to play for Europe and represent more than just my country.
The Spirit: What made you choose South Carolina?
Roussin-Bouchard: The entire golf program and the school. The golf program stood out to be because of the coaches. South Carolina’s golf facilities have over 17 acres of green, lush fairway. It is paradise. Off the course, I fell in love with the school itself and life in Columbia, SC.
The Spirit: Was it tough to get acclimated to life in the United States?
Roussin-Bouchard: Nope! I was a fish in the water.
The Spirit: You made an immediate impact as a freshman at South Carolina, and you had the lowest scoring average out of any freshman who’s played at South Carolina (71.27). Does that speak to how seasoned you already were in the world of amateur golf? Most junior golfers from the states only play junior events, but you had already won events like the Italian International and the Grand Prix?
Roussin-Bouchard: Before college, I competed many tournaments with fantastic fields filled with players from all over Europe. When I got to the states, I was already so experienced in national events. Since I loved what I was doing in South Carolina, it helped me vastly improve.
The Spirit: It’s easier to settle into an atmosphere you like, isn’t it?
Roussin-Bouchard: Exactly. It was very similar to the rhythm of life I used to have in France. I’ve never had a hard time waking up early to go work out, school, practice, or taking care of my studies. I already understood how to handle all of it before I arrived. It made everything perfect.
The Spirit: How were you able to maintain the form you had in 2019-20 during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Roussin-Bouchard: I went home immediately after they made the announcement that the season would be canceled. I didn’t stop practicing or working out when I got home. I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend, Julian Sale, who is also on the French national team. We played together at The Spirit. We were motivating each other throughout the entire pandemic. That helped a lot. We had the chance to play a couple of tournaments in Europe together. It allowed us to stay competitive.
The Spirit: That seems like the most normalcy you could ask for under the circumstances of the pandemic. Did it feel like a good time to regroup and continue to improve on the technical side of your game?
Roussin-Bouchard: It was all about accepting the circumstances because it’s something we could not control. We were going where we could play. It was different than what we were supposed to do, but we gained a new experience out of it.
The Spirit: You picked up right where you left off when you got back, winning three events during the regular season and then winning the SEC championship in historic fashion. How were you able to break the scoring record at the 2021 SEC Championship shooting 17-under on the week?
Roussin-Bouchard: Whenever I’m in South Carolina, I always want to get better. I never think about all the records to break. I am just eager to improve every single part of my game. I’m not afraid to make slight changes that make a significant impact. It all paid off. Both of my coaches in South Carolina and France helped a lot. It was a strong, stricter environment that allowed me to get better and be focused.
The Spirit: How important is it for federations worldwide to continue to support international team competition?
Roussin-Bouchard: It’s huge. Golf is a very individual sport, and whenever you get to play with people from different countries, it’s a very special experience and so enriching. I think it’s very important to have moment in a golf career.
The Spirit: It doesn’t seem like golfers get enough chances to play in a team setting?
Roussin-Bouchard: It’s so different than playing for yourself. Even playing for my country versus playing for my university is different. At the Palmer Cup, I was representing the entire world.
The Spirit: What has been your favorite team event of your career?
Roussin-Bouchard: The Palmer Cup. You have the entire world behind you. It’s very special for both your country and college. Team events in college are amazing as well. But when you get to play in the Palmer Cup for the International team, it’s another level. The International team is made up of 23 players from all over the world. There is a different language and different culture. We are all just playing to win and to beat the United States. The atmosphere that weekend is unbelievable.
The Spirit: What was the process of getting selected to represent France in the 2019 Spirit International Amateur Championship?
Roussin-Bouchard: I loved it. I talked about the Palmer Cup as a team event but representing France at The Spirit was one of the best tournaments I’ve ever played.
The Spirit: Will the Evian Championship be your first major?
Roussin-Bouchard: No, it’s going to be my third. I played the Evian Championship in 2019 and the U.S. Women’s Open in 2020.
The Spirit: What did you learn from those?
Roussin-Bouchard: I learned a lot in my first two majors. They were so different. Playing Evian in France with French fans around is very different from playing in a U.S. Open. Since I played in the U.S. Open during COVID-19 when fans weren’t allowed, both experiences were tremendous for my future, and I learned a lot. I still am. Three majors won’t be enough to change that.
The Spirit: Who has been the most influential person in your golf career?
Roussin-Bouchard: My family. I’m leading what we call the “family project,” and they are my biggest fans. We are all very close.
Mexico, 2019 Alumni
Aaron Terrazas has always represented his home country to the best of his ability. Before representing Mexico in the 2019 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship and his stellar college career, Terrazas was the No.1 ranked player in Mexico and won the 2016 Mexico Amateur. He also finished in the Top 10 at the 2013 United States Junior Amateur.
Aaron Terrazas has always represented his home country to the best of his ability. Before representing Mexico in the 2019 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship and his stellar college career, Terrazas was the No.1 ranked player in Mexico and won the 2016 Mexico Amateur. He also finished in the Top 10 at the 2013 United States Junior Amateur. After his first collegiate season at the University of Oklahoma, Terrazas decided to transfer to the University of Texas-El Paso. He maintained the second-best scoring average on the team as a sophomore (72.35). Terrazas made another leap during his junior year in the 2017-18 season. He finished in the Top 10 once and Top 20 in four events.
Terrazas blossomed during his senior year at UTEP (2018-19). He had the best scoring average on the team (71.5) and placed in the Top 10 six times. He won his first two collegiate events at the Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate and the Pepsi-Cola Classic. The Spirit caught up with Aaron to discuss his successful amateur career and what he has learned as a young professional golfer.
The Spirit: How did the Spirit International prepare you for the next level of golf?
Aaron Terrazas: The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship prepared me in a way where I can compete at the highest level possible but still have fun.
The Spirit: What does it mean to represent your country in Olympic-style competition?
Terrazas: Representing my country at any event will always be the greatest honor as an athlete.
The Spirit: What is the most significant change from amateur to professional golf?
Terrazas: The biggest change that I have faced in my professional career has been the amount of traveling. You have to manage your energy when playing six to eight weeks in a row.
The Spirit: What guided your decision to further your education on a golf scholarship to the University of Texas at El Paso after spending your freshman year at Oklahoma?
Terrazas: I decided to transfer to the University of Texas at El Paso because I didn’t get enough playing time at the previous university I was attending. UTEP allowed me to compete regularly which I will always be grateful for. Coach Scott Lieberwirth helped me a lot during my college years.
The Spirit: Where does the Spirit International rank in the team events you have played?
Terrazas: Second after the World Amateur Championship. The World Amateur Championship is a stressful and more competitive environment. At The Spirit International Amateur Championship, there is still a high level of competition; however, you have a lot more fun at the Spirit, and that is what makes it unique.
The Spirit: Besides the pureness of Whispering Pines and the level of competition at The Spirit, what off-course activities made this event unique?
Terrazas: My favorite activity outside of the tournament was the two-day Spirit games. Such a solid event.
Australia, 2019 Alumni
Before competing in The 2019 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship, Emily Mahar already made waves during her first season at Virginia Tech. She arrived on campus after four consecutive state titles at Xavier College Preparatory. During her freshman year of college, she finished in the Top 20 three times and recorded one Top 5 finish. She competed for Australia in the 2019 Astor Trophy competition and again at The Spirit International Amateur in November, where she and fellow Aussie Cassie Porter finished 12th (-6 total).
Mahar’s sophomore campaign saw her finish in the Top 20 five times, and she led the Hokies in scoring average in the 2018-19 season at 73.26. She excelled in the classroom and was named to the 2019 All-ACC Academic Women’s team. Her progress only continued junior year following the COVID-19 pandemic. She ranked 13th in the ACC in scoring average (72.81) and finished no worse than 12th in six of the seven team events in 2021. Mahar also led the Hokies to their first NCAA National Championship, posting 69-69-65. It was the first time a Virginia Tech player had posted all three rounds under 70 in a single event.
The Spirit caught up with Mahar to discuss her rise to success and her experience at The Spirit International Golf Amateur Championship.
The Spirit: You grew up in Australia, how did you end up going to high school in America? Had you been there for several years or was the move for golf?
Emily Mahar: My dad’s company transferred him to the U.S. and because I was already playing golf and potentially thinking of wanting to make it a career, he decided that we would settle in Phoenix – great weather and great courses! We moved in October 2012, I attended a few months in middle school before going to high school at Xavier College Preparatory.
The Spirit: You led your high school to four straight state titles. How essential was it to establish that championship mindset at a young age?
Mahar: It is very important to develop the championship mindset, especially when you want to play in college. Our team was unstoppable, and I think that was both positive and negative. Positive because it gave me the edge and confidence to perform under the pressure of expectations, but negative because we were always at the top and didn’t have any failures to learn from. This was apparent to me when I went to college because suddenly every girl I played with/against was as good or better than me. My championship mindset allowed me to develop and become a better golfer at a faster rate because I wanted to be at the top position I held in high school.
The Spirit: It seems like your natural leadership carried its way into college at Virginia Tech. How were you able to balance school and still maintain the best scoring average on your team for most of the time you were at Virginia Tech?
Mahar: I learned a lot of time management at Xavier. I still believe after four years at Virginia Tech and completing an undergraduate degree, I had many more late nights and larger piles of homework and assignments at Xavier. If I saw my pillow before midnight in high school, I was neglecting something – those skills I learned early in high school were essential for college. Within the first week of moving in to my dorm, I had to work out, practice, go to class, study hall, do assignments and eat, and then suddenly travel while finding my way. It was tough but I felt prepared after the initial shock of how much was on my plate.
The Spirit: What is your favorite part about representing Australia in team events?
Mahar: I love the support from every other Aussie when I represent. I have made some really great friendships with past Australian teammates, ones that go to college and I would see at events, and it was like a piece of home when I got to catch up with them. Obviously we shared that we don’t have family watching us play while our college teammates may have, so the long-lasting friendships from those events have been my favorite.
The Spirit: You shined in your events during the COVID-19 pandemic, like your victory at the 2020 Golfweek Caledonia Amateur. How important was it to get back on the course and get ready for the spring season of your senior year?
Mahar: I was itching so bad to get back out and play golf! I put my clubs away for about three whole months (March, April, May), which is unheard of, but necessary. As soon as I got back into it in June preparing for the U.S. Amateur I couldn’t wait to play. I had a new appreciation and mindset each time I stepped onto a championship golf course because I had gone so long not being able to compete. I was just happy to be playing. After the U.S. Amateur we found out that our fall season would not play out but we could play in unaffiliated amateur events. That was huge! It allowed me to keep practicing and playing in a more relaxed environment because again, I was just so happy to be back playing. That fall I had a huge mental development in my game because I began playing golf just for fun. I enjoyed every hole I played, every shot good or bad, I was not adding any unnecessary pressure to myself.
The Spirit: It’s tough to pinpoint your No.1 highlight moment at Virginia Tech because there are so many of them. What moment stood out to you most?
Mahar: Honestly, I think our team had the biggest moments off the course. We are all best of friends. There is almost no drama ever and we all push each other. This really transfers into our games because we know we can trust each other to help if we are struggling. On the course, I think the biggest moment would definitely be making the National Championship this year, sinking the final putt for our team to secure our ticket and having everyone run onto the green throwing water. It was a celebration like we had won the national title, because that has been our goal since the start of the program five years ago.
The Spirit: How exciting was the Olympic-like format that The Spirit International presented?
Mahar: The Olympic-style format of The Spirit was a lot of fun! It made that whole experience super relaxed and enjoyable because we could really involve ourselves in the after-round activities. I had never played anything like that format, and to only be counting birdies made it so exciting to just go for everything.
The Spirit: What was your favorite off-course aspect of The Spirit International?
Mahar: My favorite off-course aspect was how much we got to interact with the other teams. I knew a lot of the other players from college events, so it was cool to have familiar faces around and build some lasting relationships. I loved that we were able to put our competitive nature into something other than golf as well. Obviously I’m a bit biased saying that as we won the AirPods.
The Spirit: Did the fires in Australia affect your family?
Mahar: Not directly. I visited in December 2019 through January 2020, right when the fires were roaring. We were affected by the smoke most. Typically, when I would be in Australia during December, we would have 27 sunny days, but that year because of the smoke everywhere I think we saw the sun maybe less than 10 times. It was devastating to see all of nature burnt to the ground and the poor wildlife that was either killed or without a home anymore.
The Spirit: Has it been tough to focus on golf with that on your mind?
Mahar: I think golf has been a good distraction from everything going on at home. The fires weren’t on my mind a lot because my family was not directly impacted, but COVID has definitely been on my mind. I haven’t seen my family since the time I was there during the fires, which has been about 18 months now and it has been hard. Golf has been a bittersweet escape because I have been able to focus my time into practice and play, but hard because I don’t have my family here to support me in the achievements I have made. They are very supportive though and I can feel it from the other side of the world.
Australia, 2019 Alumni
Cassie Porter’s 2019 amateur golf season was unforgettable. Besides competing for Australia at The Spirit International Golf Amateur Championship, Porter won the Toyota Junior World Cup and Greg Norman Junior Masters. She began golf at six years old and began climbing the ranks of the game with speed. Leading up to The Spirit, Porter was the 2017 Queensland Junior Golf Player of the Year and 2018 Queensland Female Junior Amateur of the Year.
The Spirit caught up with Porter as she begins to make the transition from amateur to professional golf.
The Spirit: What has been the best part of growing up playing junior and amateur golf in Australia?
Cassie Porter: The absolute best part of growing up playing junior and amateur golf is meeting all different types of people from across the globe and gaining unique experiences for you and your sport.
The Spirit: After back-to-back Top 5 finishes at the Greg Norman Jr. Masters in 2017 and 2018, how exciting was it finally to win that event in 2019?
Porter: The Greg Norman Junior Masters was probably one of the main events that everyone aspired to win in junior golf within my home state. To win the event in my last year of competing was extremely special to me.
The Spirit: What was your most memorable win as a junior golfer?
Porter: My most memorable win as a junior golfer would have to be winning the Victorian Junior Open in 2019. I started the final day seven shots behind the leader and carded a 7-under to tie the lead and force a playoff. I birdied the first playoff hole and secured the win. It was a special moment as I proved a lot to myself that day in terms of persistence and playing under pressure which was ultimately rewarded.
The Spirit: How important was it for federations to continue to support amateur golf worldwide?
Porter: I can’t express how important it is for different federations to continue supporting amateur golf, as it gives those individuals who strive to be like their role models of Nelly Korda and Justin Thomas. It’s a pathway to begin a journey.
The Spirit: What was your first international golf event outside of Australia, and what was that like?
Porter: My very first international golf event was the 2015 Veritas World Junior Championships in California. I won the 12&U division. Traveling the world playing the sport you love at such a young age is such a privilege that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The Spirit: With such a decorated junior and amateur career, you must have had opportunities to play collegiate golf in the United States. What went into that decision?
Porter: I had multiple college scouts contacting me interested in attending their colleges and being a part of their golf programs. I decided not to go to college about two years before I finished high school. I am eager to turn professional and play on the tours.
The Spirit: Was your family impacted by the fires in Australia?
Porter: My family and I live in a suburb that was surrounded by the fires. However, we were extremely lucky as the wind was constantly going in the opposite direction. The response teams did an amazing job which resulted in a best-case outcome.
The Spirit: Was it tough to stay focused on your game while worrying about your homeland?
Porter: It is hard not to be concerned when an unpredictable force threatens your hometown. I am lucky to live on a golf course, so it was easy enough to continue training. A fortune not many were lucky enough to have.
The Spirit: How much did you learn from your three Ladies’ European Tour starts in 2018? Were you among the youngest in the field?
Porter: I was lucky to get starts on the LET, and the amount of knowledge and experience I gained was priceless. At one time, I believe I was one of the youngest in the field, and it made the fire inside me brighter as I knew that being established on tour like LET or LPGA is definitely where I want to be in the near future.
The Spirit: What aspect of the 2019 Spirit international Amateur Golf Championship did you enjoy most?
Porter: It was everything I could have hoped for and more. To this day, it is probably one of my favorite weeks of golf that I have competed in. I loved how the whole week wasn’t just focused on the golf tournament. Camp Olympia incorporated many different activities, allowing us to meet players from other countries and form friendships across the globe. I honestly can’t pinpoint one specific thing that I enjoyed most as the whole week was unforgettable.
The Spirit: Where does The Spirit rank in the tournaments you have represented Australia in?
Porter: I would say with complete confidence that The Spirit would be my favorite event so far.
The Spirit: Have you turned professional? If so, what is the most significant difference between Amateur and professional golf?
Porter: I haven’t turned professional yet as COVID-19 has delayed my plans a bit. I promise… good things to come!
France, 2019 Alumni
Before the 2019 Spirit International Amateur Championship, Julien Sale had to earn his way into the roster of an NCAA Division 1 golf program. Sale began his college career at Indian Hills Junior College in Iowa. By the time he was a sophomore, he was ranked as the No.1 junior college player and led Indian Hills to the top of the NJCAA rankings. They finished second as a team at the NJCAA National Championships. After two seasons at Indian Hills, Sale earned a scholarship to play at Arkansas State University. He hit the ground running with five finishes in the Top 10, including a victory at his first event as a Red Wolf. He topped off his stellar junior season with a Top 25 finish in the 2019 NCAA Regional. He continued his stellar play by making it to the Round of 32 at the 2019 U.S. Amateur and was part of the France squad that won the 2019 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship.
The Spirit caught up with Sale as he prepared for the Sydbank Esbjerg Challenge in Denmark.
The Spirit: What were some advantages of playing amateur golf at an earlier age in France?
Julien Sale: I’ve never played amateur golf in France growing up, as I was born and raised in Reunion Island (a small French island in the Indian Ocean right next to Mauritius).
It’s easy to quickly become the best player when you are on an island. But where I learned the most was when in a golf academy for two years before college in South Africa. This experience helped me to develop into the player that I am now. I was able to compete against players better than me and played in many high-level golf tournaments. I learned to manage and embrace the pressure of those big tournaments and play on many golf courses with different setups, styles, weather. It helps to be a complete golfer.
The Spirit: You took the route of going to junior college first. Was Indian Hills Junior Community College (Iowa) a big adjustment from life in France?
Sale: Yes, I went to Indian Hills first, but Arkansas State recruited me from the beginning. Because the French school system and the U.S. school system are different, the NCAA said that I was not eligible for NCAA division 1 at that time. So, Coach Hagen directed me towards Indian Hills since he previously was the head coach there, and his assistant coach was the new head coach.
It wasn’t a big adjustment. I’ve been used to traveling and being away from the family for long periods since I was a kid, so for that part, I was good. Indian Hills is in a small town, but since I never grew up in a city, that didn’t bother me. My intentions at Indian Hills were to play golf, make the team, and get to the next level.
The Spirit: You were the No.1 ranked Junior College player (via Golfstat) for the 2017-2018 season. How motivated were you to advance to the NCAA Division 1 level?
Sale: My freshman year was not the best one. I played only one event in the fall, and my results were a bit up and down during the spring season. So I knew coming into the sophomore year, I needed to play well and see some results if I wanted to transfer into a good DI school. So starting it with a win gave me a lot of confidence and momentum for the rest of the year.
The Spirit: Were there other schools that you considered before committing to Arkansas State?
Sale: I didn’t have that many schools to choose from since most of them already had their roster full for the following season. I talked to a couple of schools like the University of Louisana-Monroe. But after talking to all the coaches, I was all on board for Arkansas State.
The Spirit: You immediately made an impact your sophomore year at Arkansas State and recorded the 2nd lowest scoring average in program history since 1994. How were you able to maintain that type of consistency?
Sale: I just kept practicing, trying to improve and get better every day on and off the golf course. I saw that what I was doing was working, so I kept doing the same things and just had a goal to improve and become a better player. When I got to Arkansas State, I realized I had a chance at playing golf for a living. I can make it to the next level (the professional level), which motivated me, and I started working toward this goal to play on the PGA Tour and European Tour.
The Spirit: You made it to the Round of 32 in the 2019 U.S. Amateur. What was that experience like at Pinehurst?
Sale: The U.S. Amateur was an unbelievable experience. To play against the best amateurs, make the cut, and get to the Round of 32 was amazing. And to play Pinehurst #2, a U.S. Open golf course, was terrific. It was such a great test. Tough but fair. Good shots were rewarded, and bad ones, not so much.
The Spirit: What was your favorite aspect of the 2019 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship?
Sale: Winning the gold medal for Team France was the best aspect of the week. I also liked the settings of the camp and where we were staying. Every night there were activities to do, all the teams were together playing games, hanging out with each other, and we got to meet people. It’s different than what is usually presented when we play team tournaments in Europe.
The Spirit: Who is someone you looked up to in the game of golf?
Sale: I would say my parents because I started playing golf because of them. They taught me the basics of golf growing up.
Then there was a couple of players whose game and swing I liked such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Adam Scott.
Sweden, 2015 Alumni
Robin Petersson had an illustrious amateur career at Augusta University before making waves on the European Challenge Tour scene. The Swedish won two MEAC Championships and recorded 19 Top 20 finishes. He finished T5 in the 2015 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship during his junior year while representing Sweden. After The Spirit, Petersson went on to have a successful senior year at Augusta, earning a PING Division 1 All-Region award and was ranked 29th in the country. The stellar year earned him a spot on Europe’s 2016 Palmer Cup Team.
The Spirit caught up with Petersson to discuss his climb to success in professional golf.
The Spirit: What was the process of deciding to go to Augusta University?
Robin Petersson: I started playing golf in the fall of 2003, so the first big televised event I watched was the 2004 Masters. I remember Phil winning at Augusta and thought it was one of the coolest golf courses I had ever seen. I started to research the event and golf club and found out how exclusive it was. Ever since I had always had the dream of playing at Augusta National. When I made the Swedish National team at 17, I seriously started thinking about college, and there was only one clear choice in my mind. I did talk to a few other schools but thought they would have to offer me something special for me not to try to get into Augusta University. The coach at the time had recruited a lot of Europeans, so I sent him an email. Four Swedes were attending Augusta, so I tried to get them to speak highly of me to the coach. In hindsight, everything worked out great. I liked the fact it was a smaller school and town, the weather was good all year round, and the people were just awesome. Oh, and I’ve also had the honor and pleasure to have played Augusta National three times!
The Spirit: How big of a culture change was it moving from Sweden to Augusta, Georgia?
Petersson: Pretty big change. I’d say the two biggest differences would be the food and the southern hospitality, both great, by the way!
The Spirit: You had a great freshman year with the 2nd best scoring average on your team and followed it up with a great sophomore year with six rounds of par or better. Then you took a redshirt year. Why?
Petersson: Two reasons. First of all, coming in as a freshman I had to take a few special classes because English is not my first language. Those classes counted towards my credits for the semester but not towards my final degree. With this in mind, I was already going to have to go for 4,5 years to graduate so I thought, why not just do 5? I really enjoyed myself there and was in no rush. Second, I didn’t think I had that good of a sophomore year. I think my average score went up compared to my freshman year. I wasn’t happy with the way I had been playing. I started working with a swing coach in Augusta and learned more about my swing to get better. To redshirt is probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
The Spirit: After that, you won back-to-back MEAC Championships. How much confidence were you able to gain off of that heading into your professional career?
Petersson: Wins will always give you confidence, it shows that you can handle the pressure that comes with being in contention.
The Spirit: What were the first significant differences you saw between amateur golf versus professional golf?
Petersson: First of all, the financial part of it. College golfers are lucky to travel and play some of the world’s best courses without having to pay for them. Second, the quality of courses on the mini-tours is not always great, but I remember most all golf courses I played in college were very good. Third, it’s a lot more “lonely” as you’re now only playing for yourself. I’ve always thought of golf as an individual sport, but college golf has a special atmosphere that almost makes it a team sport. You always have your teammates and your coach to talk with. I really do miss it sometimes.
The Spirit: You started your professional career in the Nordic Golf League. What was most memorable about that experience?
Petersson: People probably think of high-class travel and living when thinking of pro golf, but that’s not the case while playing the minor leagues. When I turned professional, I can remember many long drives, leaving early in the morning, getting back home late at night, and sleeping at not-so-classy accommodations. Pro golf is not always as glamorous as people might think it is, but it’s still part of it, and I love it.
The Spirit: What was the biggest takeaway from your first professional win at the 2020 Landeryd Masters by LiveCaddie?
Petersson: To win my first professional event was truly awesome. My biggest takeaway from that week is how I handled myself while I was in contention.
The Spirit: You have recently made some starts on the Challenge Tour. What is the most significant change you have seen in your game from your first professional year to now?
Petersson: I play a lot better from a strategic standpoint now than what I did in college, but I think it has to do with how the courses are set up. The Challenge and European Tours challenge the players with tricky pins, so it’s impossible to go for all pins like I might have done in college.
The Spirit: You placed T5 at the 2015 Spirit International Amateur. What is your fondest memory of that week?
Petersson: The dinners and announcements of Olympian of the Day!
The Spirit: How important is it for federations to continue to support amateur golf?
Petersson: I think it’s really important to support amateur and also junior golf. In order to grow the game in today’s world with instant gratification and a lot of distractions and alternatives to golf, I believe we have to show juniors how great this game is at an early age. Playing golf teaches you a lot more than just swinging a club. It teaches you valuable life lessons such as time management, work ethic, and respecting other people. It is also great exercise, and you get plenty of fresh air and sunlight.
Spain, 2019 Alumni
Before arriving at Texas Christian University, Alejandro Aguilera was already impacting the world of amateur golf in Europe. Aguilera finished runner up the 2016 British Boys Amateur, Scotland Boys Amateur, and The Campeonato Abierto De Madrid. In the same calendar year, he was also victorious at the 2016 Inter Autonomico De Espana. Once he began his collegiate career at TCU, he was more for NCAA Division 1 golf than most of his teammates due to his amateur success in Europe. Aguilera’s freshman year saw him finish T13 at the famed Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach and was a member of the 2019 Academic All-Big 12 team.
The Spirit caught up with Aguilera as he was beginning his transition to a new university in Spain.
The Spirit: How important was it to be awarded to Academic All-Big 12 your freshman year, and does that build confidence within the coaches and team that you are a dependable player?
Alejandro Aguilera: To be awarded to Academic All-Big 12 my freshman year was essential to me because it was my first year studying abroad in a foreign language. I was a little nervous about it, so it gave me a lot of confidence because I felt like I could focus more on golf.
The Spirit: As an international junior player, did you feel like you built more confidence winning amateur events like the 2016 Inter Autonomico De Espana rather than only play junior golf?
Aguilera: We all know how hard it is to win in junior golf, but you look for bigger things once you do it. Winning amateur events while still being a junior golfer made me feel that I could beat the “big guys” and that my game was not that far from a professional golfer.
The Spirit: You finished 13 in your first-ever collegiate event for TCU at the Carmel Cup. How memorable was it to do that at Pebble Beach?
Aguilera: One of my happiest experiences was playing my first collegiate event at Pebble Beach. And shooting back-to-back 67s helped me built a lot of confidence and believe I could do some special things at TCU. I would love to play Pebble Beach one more time.
The Spirit: How much motivation did you get from watching Jon Rahm become the first person from your home country of Spain to win a U.S. Open?
Aguilera: Jon Rahm is the biggest inspiration for every Spanish kid who plays golf. When we watch him win tournaments and majors, we feel proud of him, and he makes me believe that I can also play on tour.
The Spirit: Who has had the most significant influence on your golf career growing up?
Aguilera: The biggest influence on my golf career growing up was, for sure, my dad. He was always there to drive me to practice and tournaments. He always cared about me having the best clubs we could afford and sometimes making huge efforts so that I could play golf all around the country.
The Spirit: Do you feel like you traveled more for Junior golf more than you would have had you been in the United States?
Aguilera: No doubt. As a European junior golfer, I had to travel almost once a month to a different country, not only to European countries but also to America or Asia at some point.
The Spirit: What is your favorite dish from your homeland?
Aguilera: Spanish potato omelet. I missed it when I was studying at TCU.
The Spirit: What was your aspect of the Spirit International Golf Amateur Championship?
Aguilera: I loved the week I spent at Camp Olympia playing for Team Spain at the Spirit. Whispering Pines is on the list of the top courses I have ever played. I did not play my best golf, but I enjoyed every single minute there.
The Spirit: What was your favorite part about the 2019 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship off the golf course?
Aguilera: Meeting so many people from so many different countries was a really cool experience. We also had to share room with three or four teams, so we all came home with new friends and memories. The games we had every night after dinner was enjoyable too, although we as Team Spain were not very successful.
The Spirit: What is something that you want to improve on in your last two years of collegiate golf?
Aguilera: During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to quit college golf and return to Spain. It was not an easy decision, but my golf was not the level I needed to compete for a top team like TCU. I still play amateur golf in Europe while studying at a Spanish university. For my finals years as an amateur, I would like to improve my mental strength, stability, physical strength and power, and my game around the greens. I need to be much better at those things if I want to play professional golf.
Australia, 2019 Alumni
As a high school athlete, Lachlan Barker was one of Australia’s best junior golfers. In his senior year, Barker won the South Australian Junior Championship, the Malaysian Amateur and came in third at the Australian Junior Championship. He was also the three-time recipient of the South Australian state team and two-time team captain for the South Australian Junior squad. And, that’s all during his high school career. Fast forward, now a Senior at Iowa State, Barker continues to illustrate his rising star power. His collegiate career highlights include three-time NCAA Regional qualifier, earning a spot in the NCAA Stillwater Regional, and First-Team Academic All-Big 12. That’s just naming a few. Lachlan Barker represented Australia in the Spirit’s 2019 championship, so we spent some time catching up with him to reflect on his thriving career and the role the SGA and golf federations play in growing future talent in the game.
1.)You won the Greg Norman Junior Masters during your junior year of high school. Is that the highest achievement as a junior golfer who grew up in Australia?
Barker: That was a great result for me when I was really developing into an elite amateur and a very memorable win, however, the one to win as a junior golfer in Australia was the Australian Junior, which was the pinnacle of Aussie junior golf.
2.)During your senior year of high school, you won the Malaysian Amateur. How essential was it to have success on the amateur level before even going to college?
Barker: I think having success as a developing amateur is the most important time to have success, it really establishes levels of self-belief when you need it, and it keeps you hungry to develop and improve to be your best. Especially after being in college for some years, I see the value in having the past success that you can lean on when things are tough. The best part of winning is the mental strength it gives you. The “I can” because I have before.
3.)Did being elected as two-time team captain for South Australia’s junior team give you the leadership skills needed at the next level?
Barker: Being selected as the State team captain was definitely an important leadership role that I had when I was younger and gave me a sense of belonging, belief, and ownership in my game and my team, it definitely helped me step up my game.
4.)How rewarding was it to lead your team to an NCAA National Championship appearance your freshman year at Iowa State?
Barker: Freshman year of college nationals was a great start to college, going through the highs and lows of a college season to then play well when it mattered and make it through regionals as a team was unreal. Nationals was the icing on the cake!
5.)You also had your appendix removed in the middle of your freshman year. How did you overcome that adversity and continue to maintain the best scoring average in Iowa State history for a freshman?
Barker: Freshman year first semester I bulked up in the dining halls and with the workout schedule I gained 15 pounds, in 2 weeks over January I lost it all after having appendicitis. Unfortunately, I missed the first tournament in the spring. However, I was able to control what I could and work hard to get back to playing form and I was able to finish off the season fairly well and crack the scoring record.
6.)You cracked the Top 100 on the Golfweek rankings during your sophomore year. Was that an internal goal of yours?
Barker: Rankings are always there to work towards, for me, they are an indirect goal, focusing on daily process goals and on-course playing goals help me to achieve results and those results are reflected in the rankings, but cracking the top 100 did bring a smile to my face.
7.)You had a career 8-4-3 record in Big 12 match play. Were you more prepared for team golf than most juniors going to college?
Barker: I have had a good record at the big 12 match play against very good opponents, I attribute that to good preparation in Australia, every year amateur golfers aspire to make their respective state teams and the annual Interstate series is held. There is a junior and open team for each state and you have a match play contest against every state, then a Final. On the Junior team with South Australia, I was lucky enough to win one, but I think it is the ultimate preparation for competition in amateur golfers. So I have lots of match play experience and that has helped at Big 12’s.
8.)What was your favorite aspect of representing Australia at the 2019 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship?
Barker: My favorite part of the spirit was the whole experience and I don’t mean it as a cliche, when you arrive every aspect of what you do is connected, everyone stays together, eats together, hangs out together, and then competes! It’s such a unique dynamic and I made lots of new friends out of it. In most events, the only place you see players is at the course. The community aspect was something I’ll never forget. I will say, I also really enjoyed the team challenge night, the course was great and Camp Olympia will forever have my heart.
9.)Why is it essential for federations to continue to support amateur golf?
Barker: It’s the most important thing federations need to do, if they want to have future stars representing their country on the world’s major tours, it starts with support and playing opportunities such as the Spirit international. Players work towards an event like that, it inspires them to work hard and when they get there, they get to test their game against other elite amateurs whilst making lifelong memories. World stars all start somewhere and Federations carry a lot of power to develop those stars.
10.) Do you plan on playing professional golf? What will be the biggest from amateur to professional golf?
Barker: I do plan on turning Pro mid-2022 after this college season, the biggest changes will be going away from team golf after getting so used to it at Iowa State, building my brand, and becoming my own CEO. The unknown of starting out as a pro, that can be very scary but it’s important to stay present and control what you can every day. I need to completely understand what I do well when I play well. That will help me to consistently perform better and target my practice at what needs to improve. I will need to build a new support crew around me, caddie, coach, management, trainer. Lastly, it will be exciting to play for money! Go Team Australia!