Saunders’ stellar form wins him promotion to top division of US college golf

Lee-on-the-Solents George Saunders
Lee-on-the-Solents George Saunders
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AMERICA really is the land of opportunity for Lee-on-the-Solent golfer George Saunders.

His “American Dream” is proving to be a second successful season at Texas Midland University for last year’s West of England Amateur Champion.

And his stellar form has him lined up for a promotion to the NCAA – from where Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas all graduated to the PGA Tour.

The 20-year-old, who once played football alongside Portsmouth’s Matt Casey, is currently No. 2 in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) rankings with a stroke average of 69.92.

Saunders has recorded two runners-up finishes and a third in his first five tournaments since heading back to the Lone Star State in August.

And he came agonisingly close to shooting a 59 in practice at Texas Midland’s Green Tree Country Club in September.

The Hampshire first-team player was captured on video as his putt of more than 20 feet across the green lipped out – having made nine birdies and an eagle on the par 71 course.

Saunders’ name has been on the watch list of nearly two dozen NCAA coaches following his first successful season, when his team won nine out of 13 tournaments.

In his fresher year, George finished runner-up in the TankLogix Invite, on his home course, in his seventh start for The Chaparrals.

He recorded four top fives plus five more top 10s in 12 tournaments.

Offers to move up to the NCAA – which has produced nearly all of the top PGA Tour players over the past 40 years – followed.

And later this month Saunders will complete his switch to the University of Tennessee at the start for the 2020/21 academic year.

Saunders said: ‘Tennessee approached me after the English Amateur. I went there to have a look and loved every second.

‘UT was amazing. The coaches have great experience and knowledge to help the team and individuals achieve great things.

‘I had 19 offers from school all over the US. Cutting it down to Tennessee, Central Florida and Mississippi State was really hard.’

He added: ‘Tennessee have unlimited resources for everything you need.

‘Being dyslexic, I’ve found school hard. However with the support system they have and the facilities – both golf and school – it’s unreal.’

George missed the final event of the Fall season because of a wrist injury.

But the former Hampshire U12, U14, U15 and U16 champion will be keen to get The Chaparrals on the march for another crack at the National Finals next May.