AFTER four years at Lincoln Memorial University, in Tennessee, Wakefield’s Dan Bradbury has earned himself a switch to Florida State University – akin to a Championship star footballer being signed by Premier League champions Manchester City
He has returned home for the summer not only as LMU’s most successful collegiate player of all time, with no fewer than nine individual victories at Division Two level, but also as one of England Golf’s elite Overseas Men’s Squad, and faces a busy schedule before heading back to the States in August.
But when Leeds and District Union of Golf Clubs’ team captain Nigel McKee rang to ask if there was any possibility of the 21-year-old making himself available for their Yorkshire Inter-District Union League team while on these shores his answer was an immediate ‘yes’.
The former Yorkshire Boys’ captain and county under-16s’ champion will tee it up on his home course on Sunday for Leeds when his scalp will be much sought after by the Harrogate players drawn against him in foursomes and singles sessions.
It is, as he is aware, a “lose-lose” situation given his phenomenal college career that took him inside the world’s top 100 players. But the fact he is prepared to put his reputation on the line speaks to his humility as well as his deep regard for McKee and the team ethos of county union golf.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision at all when Nigel rang me up and asked if I could have a look at the fixture list, saying if there was anything I could play in he would be extremely grateful,” reveals Bradbury, who finished his stint with LMU having earned an honours degree in sports and business management, the equivalent of a first here in England.
“Some people have asked me why I agreed because it’s a bit of a lose-lose situation because I’m expected to win. But I enjoy the days and hopefully I’ll get some good support being on my home course.”
After equalling the record of eight wins for the Railsplitters, as the LMU’s team, which plays second-tier collegiate golf, is known, he made himself a shoo-in eventually to be inducted into their haul of fame by setting a new mark of nine with triumph in the South Atlantic Conference Championship.
It meant when he put out feelers to universities with Division One teams, looking to start work next year on a Masters degree, Florida State University were among those quick to offer him a scholarship.
He will be expected to make a case for playing at No 1 or No 2 in the Seminoles’ line-up, a challenge he relishes, commenting: “From my ranking, from my record, I know I can do it.
“Last year, they got a kid called Vincent Norman and I used to play with him week in, week out. He has left Florida State now, he has just finished. So I will be following him and hopefully I can do the same as him because he got into the top 10 in the world, so I’m hoping to do something similar.”
Bradbury is saddened to be leaving LMU, but knows the transfer to FSU will give him a better shot at enhancing his already huge collegiate reputation so he can attract sponsors’ backing ahead of turning professional, intent on a career as a tournament player.
“I don’t know where it will be or when it will be, but I will be turning pro at some point. That will be determined by opportunities I can get and also the sponsorship,” he explained.
“Let’s be honest, as bad as it sounds it’s all about the money. If you get the most support, the most sponsorship - and I’m lucky enough to have spoken to a few people that might be able to help me in the future - but it is all dependent upon how I do next year.
“If I go to Florida and end up doing well I will probably do it [turn professional] in America because I will get more money, there will be more opportunities. If, for some reason, I go out and don’t quite perform then it will be a tough decision whether to come home or not.
“We will see. It’s just something I can’t exactly work out until that time. But I’m trying to put in as much prep work as I can for that, speak to people, network and just see what my opportunities are, what my options are, but I won’t know until it actually comes to it, who actually puts their hands in their pockets.”
Bradbury’s record at LMU is beyond exceptional and he is justifiably proud that, after a seven-year waiting period, he is likely to join the university’s hall of fame not only as part of the team that claimed a historic first appearance in the national collegiate finals, but also as a player who won on average once in every five events entered.
Of all his accomplishments, he rates producing both the first and second top career scoring averages in LMU history as the clearest indicators of the progress he has made under the guidance of head golf coach Travis Muncy and his team.
“There are quite a few records I’ve got,” he concedes when pushed, “but I’ve got the career scoring average, 71.2 or three, I’ve got the lowest single-season scoring average and the second lowest season scoring average. I broke the record last year with 70.2 and this year I was about 69.4 or 69.5.
“We have played harder schedules, so to continue to win and to win more in harder events was great. I got three wins in my first two years, which was impressive, but we made the step up to harder events, we played fewer of them because of Covid, and I still won six times in the last two years.”
Muncy says of Bradbury: “He has played great all year. He has been one of those assets for four years for the team. He is sort of the leader and he carries the team. When the cards are down and you have to have some [low] scores, Dan is the guy to look to.”
Bradbury admits to being disappointed that he was overlooked for Great Britain & Ireland’s Walker Cup team and believes the fact that he played second-tier collegiate golf may have counted against him even though he was ranked higher in the world standings than some of those selected.
“But it’s easy for me to sit here and say I feel I should’ve made it because obviously everybody is going to think that,” he rationalises. “However, I believe if I had have been at Florida State this last year I would’ve at least been in the provisional squad. I spoke to people some people who were in the know and they said I was close and to keep going, but I didn’t make it.”
His inclusion in England Golf’s Overseas Men’s Squad brought him his first national recognition and he is grateful for the organisation’s part in easing his financial burden this summer.
“With England Golf there is a financial package, which we can use to cover some of our expenses at events,” he outlines. “It’s very helpful because events in the summer can get expensive. The main reason the squad was created was because a lot of the best England players were overseas and so weren’t getting the use of people like Graham Walker [from The Oaks, twice England Golf’s Coach of the Year], the fitness coaches, the nutritionists, All these different assets and people that England Golf have, we weren’t getting to use them so it gave us access to them.
“I guess the more you win the easier it is to approach people for clubs and clothes and things, but I am lucky I am well supported. I’ve been with Ping for two or three years, I’ve always used their clubs anyway, but they support me, which is really helpful.
I get my balls and shoes and gloves and things like that from Titleist and get a little bit off Nike, so that’s nice.
“These past two events [the St Andrews Links Trophy and the Amateur Championship] Graham has been coming round and talking through some things such as strategies, working with him on the range after rounds, things like that.
“I’m lucky enough to have an exemption into the Brabazon Trophy [England’s stroke play championship]. However, I’m not sure at the moment whether I can use that because the Brabazon ends on August 22 and school starts on the 23rd. I will have to do all the medical things, all the new student orientations, so it looks like I’ll have to miss the Brabazon and go back on something like the 14th or 15th.
“At the moment I’ve still got the Walton Heath Trophy, and the English amateur match play. I should be in France right now for the European amateur championships, but with Covid I would’ve had to quarantine when I got back and I’ve already done one of the 10- day quarantine protocols, when I came back home from the States, and I’m not doing that again.”
Bradbury’s academic success at LMU would not have come as too much of a surprise given that he secured A level passes in Economics, Geography and PE back in 2017 despite suffering a debilitating bout of glandular fever, which saw him rise from his bed to take exams and return to it immediately after.
Mum and dad, Richard and Sandra, plus sister Katie will no doubt be hoping to snatch as much time as possible with him in between golf tournaments during his time back home.
“My mum and dad will tell you I don’t speak to them enough when I’m at college because I don’t get time, I don’t get the chance,” he smiles. “I’ll speak to them on the bus to tournaments, on the bus on the way back from tournaments, but when I’m at a tournament all I’m doing is playing golf and finishing my homework, and at home all we are doing is practising or school work.”
Such diligence has put Bradbury on the path to possible glory as a tournament professional, and certainly no one at LMU would bet against it. But on Sunday all that will matter to him is helping McKee’s side gain team victory for Leeds over Harrogate.