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Stateside Awaits For Carrigaline’s Sam Hogan

Writes Ciaran Dineen

On the very day that these words will be being read for the first time, a young man, rising in the golfing world shall be putting his own words together in a gloomy silent hall as the clock strikes 9:30am.

While English Paper 1 and the rest of his Leaving Certificate will be at the forefront of his focus, Carrigaline’s Sam Hogan can soon shift his thoughts to the bright golden sands of the US east coast.

The teenager, who at this stage is almost a regular feature in The Carrigdhoun Newspaper, recently discovered that he was on course to following his golfing dream, after accepting a scholarship to play collegiate golf for the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). After months of hard work, mostly off the course, and with the help from his coaches, teachers, friends and family, the Coláiste Muire student is all set to swap Myrtleville for Myrtle Beach later this summer.

A few weeks earlier, Sam has just ordered a mocha, and he sits across from me with an air of enthusiasm and palpable positivity that is oozing through his pores, best captured by the huge smile stretched wide on his face. The good vibes are infectious. I feel like I’m part of the success and want to bask in the wholesomeness of the good news he’s received.

“I was having calls all the time, maybe two or three a week”, Sam says when discussing how he was being approached by Universities in the States towards the end of 2021. There were in fact, 12 colleges in total that had been in contact with the teenager, with some follow-up interviews lasting as long as two hours. “They’re just looking to get a feel about you as a person and an individual more than just your golfing abilities. It’s pretty much a job interview so it’s quite intense and full-on.”

On the day that we met, in an alternative reality, the Coláiste Muire student may well have been gearing up to sit the SATs, which measures the readiness of high school students for college. Traditionally, the exam must be sat for those seeking to move to the US for third level education, but due to COVID this has now be scrapped for the time being. While he might have been able to avoid travelling all the way to Antrim on this occasion to sit the exam, Sam won’t quite be able to muster the same level of evasion this very week, as he begins his Leaving Certificate exams. However, based on recent results and a focused attitude that he demonstrates, he has little to worry about.

It's somewhat accepted therefore that his mind might sometimes already be on the beach, which will be practically on his doorstep once he arrives in North Carolina in August. It won’t be all plain sailing though, with early 6am starts in the gym, followed by class work and studies, and then out onto the golf course, there will be little opportunity for idle hands. UNCW takes its academic approach very seriously. This was an important factor in deciding where Sam would end up next year, with his dad Brian saying “from a parent’s point of view, getting the right education is the be all and end all”.

Sam will have to embrace a new environment with different surroundings. He is joining a golfing team at UNCW where there will just be one other European, a fellow rookie from Norway, with the rest all from different parts of the United States. There will be plenty of opportunities to get to know them however, with Sam telling me that he’ll have the use of five different golf courses during his stay, while he casually sits back and declares, “there’s also a trip to Hawaii in February”, with a big grin on his face. While the weather, surroundings and trips away are all added bonuses, there should be no suggestion that Sam views this opportunity as being an extended holiday. In fact, what he is most looking forward to is, “the hunger and whole process of just getting better and better. I’m going to be golfing 24/7 which will be tough, and I’ll miss home but I’m really just excited to develop my game.”

That will be music to his coaches, teachers, and parents’ ears, with Brian saying, “we are all obviously hugely proud. It’s a fantastic achievement and he has put a lot of work into it over the course of the year. We’ll be travelling over with him for a few days so he can settle in. His mum will be able to see where he’s sleeping so she’s delighted about that,” he jokes. His extended family and friends will also be delighted for the teenager, with reports that his grandad has been walking around Carrigaline 10 feet tall, spreading the good news.

Universities in America don’t hand out scholarships to just anyone, and while Sam has clearly demonstrated his golfing ability from winning various tournaments and having reached a handicap of +1, institutions need to be sure that there is more to the person than just their sporting talents.

Fortunately, Sam’s character does more than stand up to scrutiny, polite and respectful, he made a point of expressing thanks to his long-time coach, Paul Kiely, as well as Brad O’Donoghue (Fota Island Captain) and Anthony O’Connell (President), “who have been incredibly supportive down through the years”.

He was also very appreciative of the support from Director of Golf, Kevin Morris, while also clearly grateful for everything that his family, particularly his dad Brian, have done for him over the last number of months, along with Guidance Counsellor, Karen Heffernan in Coláiste Muire. With a charismatic and infectious personality, Sam is sure to have a positive impact on all those he meets in this new chapter of this life. We wish him all the best!!

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