Student-athletes gain insight to collegiate sports

PUHI — Matthew Fuqua never got called while he was in high school.

But after joining the Western Kentucky University golf team, he started winning tournaments and matches, said WKU golf coach Brian Tirpak.

Tirpak was joined by his golf team and the team from North Dakota State in leading a workshop for young golfers Wednesday night at the Kaua‘i Community College cafeteria.

“College golf is a privilege, not a right,” Tirpak said to the group that was comprised mostly of Kaua‘i and Kapa‘a high school’s golf teams and some of its parents. “Remember that you’re a student first.”

Working through the various collegiate players from both teams, the aspiring collegiate golfers were treated to experiences shared by the college players on how to juggle their time between studies, practice and playing as part of a college team.

“It takes a special person to be able to juggle the schedule between classes, studies and golf,” said Tirpak. “During tournaments, there are multiple days away from class and there is the need to catch up.”

Tirpak said it’s stressful when classes are missed and grades need to be maintained.

“In addition to discipline, students need to have good time management,” said Troy Hawkins, a WKU golfer. “You may have to miss some parties.”

Despite the hectic schedule of playing in tournaments around the country, NDS coach Billy Iverson said college golf is exciting.

Students were clued in on scholarship opportunities, working through the various tests that will help them get academic as well as golf scholarships, and in general, get a head start on what to expect in the world of collegiate golf.

Iverson and Tirpak noted that tournaments and tours are planned around providing opportunities for the student athletes they might not otherwise get.

One of these is the 8th Annual Kaua‘i Collegiate Cup which opens today at the Princeville Makai course.

The collegiate workshop is a preface to this tournament hosted by WKU and allows Kaua‘i young golfers an opportunity to interact with the collegiate coaches and players in a more intimate atmosphere outside the golf course.

Fred Levinthol, the Kapa‘a golf coach, encouraged all the high school players to find time to watch the college players in action.

Featured at this year’s tournament, Tirpak pointed out the No. 1 NAIA team from Oklah oma Christian University led by Bruno Buccolo and Rhein Gibson, both two-time NAIA All-Americans.

Additionally, the nine-team field features two teams from Canada — University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto.

Joining the field this year is a team from Hawai‘i Pacific University under head coach Greg Gibbs.

WKU, who won the Cup in 2005 with a 40-under par, is the reigning Sun Belt team champion and has at least one player, Justin Perry, who has competed on the PGA Tour.

Perry’s dad, Kenny Perry, is an alumni of WKU.

The first group tees off starting at 7:30 a.m. for 36 holes. The final 18 holes will be played tomorrow.

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