Golf: American door of opportunity opens for ace Joshua

The weather outside may be about to get frightful, again, but for one Leeds teenager life is about to get even more delightful.

Because not long after the Christmas decorations come down talented amateur Joshua McCormick will be heading to America to follow his golfing dream.

The one-handicap Garforth club member is jetting out to Jackson State University, Mississippi, on a four-year scholarship next month as he looks to take the next step on the sporting ladder.

"I'm really looking forward to it," he told the Yorkshire Evening Post this week, "it's going to be fantastic experience and hopefully I can keep improving my game and get to where I want to be.

"The aim, initially, is to make the national tour in America – the one below the full PGA Tour – when I leave university. That's what I really want to do.

"But I'm also doing a business and management degree as part of the golf scholarship so I can go into player management if things don't pan out the way I hope they will."

But what does the scholarship entail?

"I'll be doing physical work – weights in the gym, that sort of thing – in the mornings, and then studying during the day and playing golf four times a week.

"There's also an option of playing at weekends – which I'm definitely going to take up!"

Little wonder then that the lad whose love of the game started when he was thrashing a plastic golf ball round the family's back garden is looking forward to swapping the cold of West Yorkshire for the warmer climes of southern USA.

But you also sense his determination to make the very most of an opportunity that he pursued while a student at Garforth Community College.

And the fact he earned several A-level passes, including an A* in business, and proved his academic and sporting prowess is one of the reasons he was successful.

"About two years ago I found out, via the internet, about a company called FirstPoint USA, which basically helps young sports people find study places in America," McCormick added.

"I had to take a golfing test in Scotland at a course near Edinburgh with one of their coaches and a couple of months later they called me back, filmed me, did a 10-minute video of me playing, and then sent that off to college coaches to see if anyone was interested."

In January, he will take up his coveted place – FirstPoint only accepts around 30 young sportsmen and women from Britain every year – at Jackson State under the tutelage of one Eddie Payton, the golfing brother of American Football legend, Walter, who went to the same unversity.

"A lot of the universities over there run a squad of golfers to select from but Jackson State only has a six-strong team and I'm part of that," McCormick said.

It's a long way from when the golfing bug first bit.

"I started playing when I was a kid, with one of those little golf sets that you can get.

"From there, my dad, Neil, took me to the local driving range to hit golf balls and I absolutely loved it.

"I just loved playing, so I went up to Wike Ridge, got some coaching, and once I got my 26 handicap, when I was 12, I joined the Garforth club which is my nearest course."

He's now officially a 0.6 handicap and has represented his local club's juniors team, and Garforth's senior nett and scratch teams, as well as the Leeds and District Juniors side.

Not content with that McCormick looked to pick up even more experience from one of Garforth's top players, Andy King, by caddying for him and he hasn't forgotten the many people – his family included – who helped him all along the way.

"A lot of people have helped me, people like Graham Walker at the Oaks, Mike Walker and Pete Howarth. They've been terrific."

And Joshua may not be the last of his family to head Stateside, as his father Neil revealed.

"Joshua's 16-year-old sister, Nicole, started playing golf two years ago and now has a 17 handicap, and she's also aiming to try and get a scholarship to America in 2012. And his youngest brother, Max, is 12 and plays off 28 at Garforth."

The potential is there for a McCormick golfing dynasty!

Thomas Christiansen

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