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Men’s Golf: Usher passes up career in England to play for Irish

Conor Kelly | Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Oxford program is arguably the most prestigious study abroad program offered at Notre Dame. Though many aspiring scholars apply, very few are accepted. One might say you would have to be a fool to turn down Oxford.

Tell that to Tom Usher, the Irish junior golfer from Bradford, England, who passed up a chance to study for four years at Oxford University and potentially turn pro in Europe, to pursue his degree at Notre Dame. The young man from across the pond did not waste time in establishing his presence on the Irish roster.

“In England, there are no collegiate sports,” Usher said. “So my options were either turn pro at 18 or study at university. I didn’t want to have to choose between golf and academics.”

The path that Usher followed to South Bend is one familiar to student-athletes across Europe who dream of a chance to pursue a degree in the United States while continuing with their sport. Usher contracted a scouting service, one often used by Irish men’s soccer coach Bobby Clark, to assemble a portfolio to show to American college coaches.

“It was initially tough to evaluate Tom because of the limited chances we had to see him play,” Irish men’s golf coach James Kubinski said. “But he ended up selling himself and has been a huge contributor for us.”

That might be an understatement. After seeing a solid amount of action as a freshman, Usher, who resides in O’Neill Hall, blossomed as a sophomore, nearly winning both the team and individual Big East championships for Notre Dame. After losing the team title to Georgetown on the 18th green, Usher was forced to come back in a playoff for the individual title.

“It really wasn’t fair to make them come out and play after that heartbreaking loss,” Kubinski said. “No one’s heart was really in it.”

That loss has been a huge motivator for Usher and the Irish, who have their sights set on not only a Big East championship but also regional and national championships. Usher led the Irish into all five tournaments in the fall, posting a 72.93 round average while posting a team-high six rounds with under-par scores. With the onset of winter, Usher acknowledges the challenges of trying to compete with teams that compete year round.

“It’s certainly nice to have a couple months off after the fall season, but we have to get ready for the spring,” Usher said. “That means hard workouts and travel. We travel to Scottsdale (Ariz.) next week to train.”

Dedication to his craft was what brought Usher to the United States, and he hopes that same dedication will not only lead the Irish onward to victory, but also give him a shot at a professional career. Having passed up the chance to go pro in Europe to pursue his degree, Usher has his an eye on making a pro tour in the U.S. after graduation.

“Going professional is definitely one of my top goals,” Usher said. “I would love to stay in the United States.”