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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Ulverston golf ace Carr at home in the Heart of Dixie

JACKSONVILLE, Alabama, the Heart of Dixie, in America’s Deep South, now home to Ulverston golfer Oliver Carr.

The 19-year-old has flown the coop from his South Cumbrian home and landed in the Yellowhammer State, looking to take his game to the next level.

A winner of the Faldo Series – a string of events designed by the former Open Championship and US Masters champion to help up-and-coming golfers excel – last year, Carr is an undoubted talent in the game.

Having honed his skills on and around the greens and fairways of Ulverston, he is now playing at the top level of American college golf – in the NCAA Division One – the competition where many future tour professionals make their start.

Carr is in the first of three years studying for a degree in business management at Jacksonville State University, where he divides his time between the classroom and the practice course.

By the end of it, the Cumbria under-18s player hopes to be a step closer to playing on the European Tour – the ultimate goal at the end of the line for the talented youngster.

“I think I’ve improved a lot since coming here,” said Carr, who spends nearly four hours a day, every day, on the course with the college team and a further hour every morning either running or in the gym.

“I can get a degree at the same time as playing golf every day – which I could not do at home.

“The facilities which we have at the Robert Trent Jones Trail golf course are fantastic – I could not do as much as I do here if I was still at home.

“I hope to eventually play on the European Tour. It is a very tough school to get there, but I think I have the determination and work ethic to do it.

“I have looked at the Challenge Tour, Sunshine Tour and Tour School, which are ways of getting there.”

At the weekend, he played in his first collegiate tournament for JSU, the Wendy’s Kiawah Classic, at Turtle Point.

The Jacksonville team finished third after three rounds of competition, with Carr carding rounds of 79, 80 and a final round 78 to finish tied for 83rd. The team’s next tournament takes place in the spring.

Carr tweeted about his round: “I didn’t play great, had a bad spell in middle! Lads did great though.”

The youngster is being helped on his way by sponsorship from Simon Halsall, from Cumbria Tyres, but needs more support if he is to take a further step up through the rankings.

He has also been aided by coaches at home, including Paul Rawlinson and Paul Stoller, who helped him with drills during his summer break, which improved his game, before he headed to Alabama.

The combined assistance of these coaches helped him to his Faldo Series triumph in 2011, as well as earning him a place in the Cumbria Under-18s team which won the Northern Counties crown.

Those achievements all came on courses much different from those he is encountering in the USA, where there is the opportunity to play at some world-famous venues with the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.

“If I can get myself in the line-up next semester, I will get the chance to play at TPC-Sawgrass,” Carr said.

“Back home I have played on the 2012 Open course at Royal Lytham St Annes. The course was amazing when I played and really is a true test of golf.

“The courses play differently out here, the grass is different because at home we have bent grass, but here I play on a lot of Bermuda.”

As well as honing his own game, Carr has been able to watch some of the game’s best players in action as well – allowing him observe them on the range and study their swings.

Last month he went to watch a practice day at the Fed-Ex Championships and met European Ryder Cup player Justin Rose.

It was a chance meeting which led to Carr and his friends enjoying all four days of the season-ending competition in style.

The teenager added: “We were talking to Justin Rose on the practice ground and I ended up asking if he had spare tickets.

“He went to see what he could do and came back with four tickets for all four days, with the Sunday tickets being clubhouse tickets.”

If all goes to plan for Carr, that will not be the last time he is involved in a big tournament on one of the professional tours. Only then, he will be on the other side of the dividing rope, gunning for glory in his own right.

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