THE first stage of Jackson Kneeshaw’s American adventure is almost over, but you get the sense the promising golfer has only just started the drive to achieve his goals.
After two years of combing his studies with hitting the fairways as part of a golfing scholarship in Clarendon, Texas, the young man from Newton Aycliffe is all-set for a move a little closer to home ... to Florida.
Kneeshaw is due to graduate from Clarendon College in May boasting five all-American awards – including one from PING - from his time in Texas and his next move is designed to take him on to another level again before returning to England to concentrate on a professional career in the sport he loves.
“It’s been decent out here, really decent,” said Kneeshaw. “It’s not quite been like the American Pie experience that I had been expecting, it has been much harder than that. It’s nothing like the film.
“You have to put an incredible amount of work in to your studies and make sure your work pays off. If you are not brilliant at your studies, you don’t play golf. That’s how it works out here.
“You have to realise that being on a scholarship demands that you put a lot of hard work in to combing the studies with the sport you are playing. That’s a good thing, though, really because it means your studies are not affected.
“Even if your Tiger Woods out here you would not be playing golf if you did not keep on top of your work, you need to get a grade C or above in all of the work that you do or that would be it.”
It will be two years in August that Kneeshaw finished runner-up in the inaugural Northern Masters, in association with The Northern Echo, at Rockliffe Hall by shooting a personal best 70 around Rockliffe Hall in horrible conditions.
Just days later he travelled over to the United States to embark on his new student life in Texas and it will be all change again after May. His talent has been honed across the Atlantic and he currently holds the best NJCAA par five scoring average in the United States. He is also ranked 14th in the best stroke average.
He said: “I’m going to be going over to Florida for a further two years and that will be another golf scholarship, only this time all of it will be funded except for my apartment. I have to try to get to the next level, keep improving before I come home.”
He will be putting extra work in on the greens over the next few months and beyond in an attempt to reduce his handicap further.
“I’m currently playing off scratch, but I want to get to plus one or thereabouts because that can help you get in to bigger competitions, like the British Amateur Championship,” he said.
“It’s hard over here to do that, though, because they are not interested in your handicap. You are basically playing for the kudos of winning. I will have to wait to come back home to hand in some cards to try to improve my handicap.”
Many Brits who head over to the United States end up staying there in the hope of making progress towards an appearance on the PGA Tour. While Kneeshaw would clearly welcome that, his aim is to return to County Durham to work his way towards the European Tour.
“I am still young, so when I leave university I think I want to come back home and play on the EuroPro Tour, which is the Tour just below the Challenge Tour,” said Kneeshaw, speaking from Texas. “I don’t think I’m quite ready to put up shop and head over to live full-time. At the minute it’s about getting through the golf scholarships, improving my game and readying myself for a professional career in golf.”
While Kneeshaw, who also had two years at the Sussex College of Golf before heading to States, is on the move this summer, his younger brother Wilson has also flown the family nest in Newton Aycliffe for a new challenge in Romania.
Wilson, who left Middlesbrough in search of first team football after graduating through the academy, is due to play his third game for ACS Poli Timisoara tomorrow night.
“I’ve been watching his games streaming on the internet and it’s been great to see him getting on, hopefully he will be starting soon,” said Jackson. “He’s a year younger than me, it’s a big move for him to go out to Romania.
“It’s a lot different than it was for me. Coming to America everyone speaks English so they can understand you. Out in Romania everyone speaks Romanian so it will be harder for him to settle in, but I think it’s started well for him out there.”