SGA’s Mattias Varjun tells about his first month as a college player
The key is to be ready and prepared immediately.
I am Mattias Varjun, a freshman on a golf scholarship at Middle Tennessee State University. I have been a part of the Season Golf Academy team for four years, and continue to practice on the SGA International Elite Program while studying in the US.
The first month here in Tennessee has been very busy. After registering for classes and settling into accommodation we immediately started the season off by playing 2 qualifiers. Both of them were 72 holes from which only 2 best players qualified for the team of 5 players, plus 1 wild card player for the opening tournament played on 15th to 17th September in Louisiana. The key is to be ready and prepared immediately upon getting to college, which fortunately we are prepared for by our SGA coaches, the coaches and staff are very nice and helpful, plus having Ilari Saulo, my SGA team mate, there as a junior helps me a lot.
In the opening qualifier we played our home course The Grove and I shot 74, 70 even par off different sets of tees to change the golf course up. We then headed to Chattanooga and played The Honors Course where Tiger won the 1996 NCAA Championship, a long and tough golf course. My 69 moved me into contention for one of the 2 places, but a 79 in the 4th rd meant I finished 4th missing out on the top 2 spots by 2 shots, with Ilari in 3rd place only a shot out of automatic qualification.
We immediately began the 2nd 4 rd qualifier the next day again on the The Honors Course, where I struggled basically due to tiredness and lack of concentration, but Ilari started well with very solid 71 leading the team. We then had 4 days of school, rest and practice, which did me very well. Back at The Grove I shot 73, 71 and 70 to again just miss out the top 2 automatic spot with Ilari securing his place among the best 4 players in the complete qualifying. However, due to my consistent play and high finish in both qualifiers, Coach McEntire awarded me with the Wild Card and the 5th spot on the team.
I was well aware and prepared by our SGA head coach David for this experience, but it was tougher than I expected and really made me understand the importance of time management. The biggest takeaway is that you have to hit the ball very well off the tee to have a chance on these golf courses which are long with very fast greens and dense rough. Good repeatable technique and ball striking consistency are critical, which our SGA coaches really work us hard on to be competitive from the start here. Now I’m looking forward to competing against the good college players on tough golf courses, keep improving my golf and also focus on my education.
SGA Coach Comments
At the SGA we believe the college route for interim amateur golf years is important to player development. Its the first time our players can practice, play and compete at a very high level all-year round, something we cant do in Europe as the season closes down from October until May. Stats show that a huge majority of successful Tour players come onto PGA and European Tour via this route. The additional benefit of getting a college education and social development abroad matures our young players and prepares them better should they want to turn professional at a later stage.
SGA coaches develop close ties with various college and coaches, selecting the best possible options for our players in terms of scholarships, opportunity to play and education. Above short term golf results, we are more concerned with medium term development and preparing our young players for college golf. SGA college players have been most successful out of any Finnish academy – Kim Koivu was Conference Champion, Ilari Saulo won on the college circuit, Rasmus Karlsson has been the leading player at his college for 3 years and successive Top 3 at Conference Finals, etc, with our players being consistently in their college team line-ups throughout the season.
In addition to Ilari Saulo (Jr. at Middle Tennessee ), Rasmus Karlsson (Sr. at South Alabama), AJ Lintunen (Jr. at UTC) and Dominic Jones (So. at UTC), from August 2019 Mattias Varjun takes up his scholarship at MTSU, Wilma Merenmies her scholarship at OCU in Oklahoma and with Timo Raukas taking up his scholarship in January 2020 at Lee University in Tennessee, SGA has a total of 7 college players in 2019/2020.
David Da Silva