Brayden Eriksen is back home on the range, a little older and a little wiser after his freshman season playing NCAA golf south of the border with the Utah Valley University Wolverines.
The News caught up with Eriksen a while back during the Vancouver Island High School golf tournament played out at Pheasant Glen Golf Resort in Qualicum Beach, where his dad Gord is the head golf pro and where, not surprisingly, he’ll be working during the summer.
That tourney replaced the BC School Sports Island finals which were cancelled because of the teacher’s dispute.
“It’s great to see them all out there,” he said, conceding “it feels a bit weird on this side of the rope.”
Eriksen, 18, had just returned from his first year at Utah Valley University where he competed for the Wolverines.
“I drove,” he chuckled. “It’s 19 hours by car … it’s nice to be home.”
“I enjoyed it,” he said of his first year of university and NCAA Div. 1 golf. “At times of course you miss home but at the same time I had a good team, a good coach, and I met some good people as well.”
Eriksen said he was part of a team of 10 to start the year, but two of them quit after the second semester. Before each tournament a coach must choose his ‘travelling five,’ essentially their starting lineup. Most teams carry a minimum 10 players up to as many as 15. He said next year they expect to have between 10-12 players on the team.
Their tournament schedule kicks off the first week of school in September and wrapped up with the conference championship in Connecticut the end of May.
The Wolverines compete in the NCAA Div. 1 American Sky Conference and played in a total of 10 tournaments this past season — Eriksen was in the mix for seven of them. UVU finished fourth out of 12 teams at the conference finals this year — not what they were hoping, but something to build on nonetheless.
“Our goal this year was to win it — we thought we had a good chance (but) Sacramento State ended up running away with it,” said Eriksen, and confirmed there’s some really good players out there, when asked if the competition was what he expected.
The Wolverines competed in a tourney at a Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon that included teams from Washington and Oregon State that are ranked in the top 50 in America. UVU went into the season ranked 220th out of the 300 teams in Div. 1 and finished the campaign having moved up to the 160s.
“We’re actually pretty lucky, we get to fly to most of our tournaments,” he said when asked about their travel schedule.
Eriksen is taking business management courses, with an emphasis on international business.
The highlight of his season he said was in April at a tournament in Beaumont, California where he shot a personal best 65 in the opening round for a two-stroke lead and set a new school record.
He followed it with scores of 72 and 73 and finished second overall.
“I lost by one,” he said, his competitive streak shining through, “so that was kind of tough to swallow … but I was happy, I mean as a freshmen to get that kind of experience, to be in the hunt and get to know the feeling … it was kinda cool, and I still have three more years, so hopefully I can get a win.”
The former Kwalikum Secondary School student is a pup, considering most of the top finishing college players are in their early to mid 20s.
“It was a good experience, and I didn’t let the age effect me or bother me at all. I had a rough patch in the middle there where I wasn’t playing that great,” he said modestly, adding he turned it around in the second half of the season and recorded two top-five finishes.
Wolverines’ head coach Chris Curran shed some light on his young Canuck and on his squad’s season.
“Brayden’s a great kid, and an extremely hard worker, both on the golf course and in the classroom,” Curren said from Utah this week. “I know our (grading) system is a bit different then the Canadian, but his GPA is like 375 — he only had one or two Bs and the rest were As. To be able to be a student and to miss class due to golf tournaments, it’s not easy … he’s just a very responsible kid.”
“I met him at Torrey Pines Golf Course when he was playing at the Callaway Junior World’s,” said Curran, “I was really impressed with how straight he shot the ball, and I thought his game would transfer well to the college game.”
“Brayden has a very solid golf swing and his confidence level this spring is what really set him apart — he kind of got in the mode that he was going out to win and just having that confidence really gave him a boost at the end of the season. To have the kind of season he had as a true freshman is a heck of an accomplishment,” said Curran. “He grew up around the golf course and understands the game very well, and the thing is he’s still a young kid — Brayden’s got a lot of years ahead of him and a bright future in the game of golf.”