American college life suiting Douglas golfer Sara Byrne

She was also part of the Emerging Talent Programme in the UCC Mardyke Arena which helped her with the strength and conditioning side of the game. 
American college life suiting Douglas golfer Sara Byrne

Sara Byrne in action at the Irish Women's Close in Ballybunion. Picture: Niall O'Shea

DOUGLAS golfer Sara Byrne is enjoying life in Florida. The University of Miami player is in her second year, and after a Covid-19 disrupted first year, the sophomore has settled back into college life.

Sara moved to Miami in September 2020, but there was no college golf until early 2021. She went back in August of this year and played in the full series of fall events, finishing in the top 10 twice and helping her team to three top-three finishes.

It was an action-packed few months for Sara, but a welcome change from 2020.

“This fall certainly was very different to last fall,” said Sara.

“It was way more full-on, having tournaments with the team, as I had five tournaments between the middle of September to the first week in November.

“There was a lot of travelling, but when travelling with a team, it makes it way more fun and just better overall.

“It was so nice having the whole team here this fall and having things go back to somewhat normal anyway.

“Travelling to tournaments individually, like I did in the fall of 2020, was very difficult, but a great learning experience.”

Byrne’s performances were solid and her game improved.

“I’m pretty happy overall with the fall season,” said Sara.

I had a bit more pressure on myself to perform this year, since I’m now a sophomore, but I know the more pressure and expectation I put on myself, the harder it gets, so I just tried to play golf and see what happened.

“I knew I was playing well, so I just tried to release on the course. I had two top 10s, which is great to get them.

“I obviously had a few rounds I was not happy with, but that’s just golf. I feel like I learned a lot from both my good and bad rounds, which is always good.

“I am now shooting more under-par-rounds and my scoring average is coming down. It’s now 72.3, which is a big improvement on last semester.”

In addition to the fall series of NCAA Division 1 tournaments, Sara also had another opportunity to represent Ireland, at an international tournament in Texas earlier this month.

Although the Spirit was an off-season invitational, it gave Sara another chance to represent Ireland at elite amateur level.

“The Spirit in Texas was a fantastic tournament that I loved playing with Team Ireland,” Sara said.

“The course was quite tough, but it was great to play such a strategic course. It was good to be playing with some of the best players in the world, I got to see the current world number one play a bit, which I was able to learn from.

“The tournament was great fun as well. I made a lot of new friends.”

While US university scholarships sound great, the demands are high.

 

University of Miami player Sara Byrne
University of Miami player Sara Byrne

Sara is a full-time athlete, but she’s also a full-time student, which means that she has a demanding schedule, especially when there’s a run of tournaments.

“When we are in season, from the end of August to the end of October, my schedule is very hectic, from workouts and yoga to practice and classes and then adding in travelling to tournaments,” Sara said. “There really is not much time for anything else.

“However, whenever myself and the team have free time, we always try to do something, like go to the beach, as taking a break is certainly a big part to recovering and playing well.

“Recovery is now a major part in performance. I think, being in Miami helps, with the weather being nice, that we can just relax in the sun or by the pool for a few hours when we can.

“We do try to enjoy the social side as much as we can, especially last spring, with Covid, there was just a lot of tension around, so, I think, being able to have a social side and a bit of fun is very important,”

Although it’s Sara’s second year, it’s her first year to have in-person classes and be based back in the lecture halls.

“It was pretty easy getting back into it, but there was a slight adjustment to having everything back in person again,” Sara said.

“Having all in-person classes takes up a bit more time than doing them online, so there was just a bit of a settling-in period for the first few weeks. It’s nice to be back and for it to be in person, though.

“I am currently studying accounting and finance. It is hard work, being able to keep up with the work while travelling, as I miss a good bit of class. When I’m away, it’s quite hard to find time to do homework and assignments, so a lot of the work gets done in the hotel room at night or in the airport before the flight back to campus.

“There is plenty of catching up to do the few days after I get back from travelling.”

Now that Sara has a break between the tournament series, it’s time to focus on being a full-time student.

“When we went into off-season after our last tournament with the team, in the end of October, the focus really shifted to getting through the end of classes and to our final exams.

“We don’t have mandatory practice, so there’s a little bit more flexibility to when I go to the course and when I do my schoolwork.

Our academic results do impact on the scholarship, so it’s a must to keep grades up always.”

Sara is used to putting in the hours, on and off the course.

For the past number of years, she has been busy practising and playing in Douglas, managing a full playing schedule, and she was also a member of the ILGU girls high-performance squad.

As well as that, she was also part of the Emerging Talent Programme in UCC Mardyke Arena, which helped her with the strength-and-conditioning side of the game.

And during all of that, she also completed her Leaving Cert.

Like most other college students, Sara is facing into end-of-semester exams, but she is looking forward to a trip home in December.

“After my Christmas exams, I will be flying back on December 17. I’m home for about two weeks, which is nice,” Sara said.

“I’ll be seeing Fred Twomey and my gym trainer, Luke Dennehy, when I’m back, just to make sure all is good with my swing and strength.

“I will do a good bit of gym work and practice to build up my strength and work on drills since I’m away from tournaments for a while.

“While travelling this fall, there were a few back-to-back tournaments, so there was little time to actually put in a good bit of practice on the range, so that’s what I will be doing in off-season.

“I’ll be working with my swing coach, Fred Twomey, to get my swing into great shape for the coming spring season.

“Then, I’ll be coming back to Miami on January 1 to prepare for my spring season and my parents will actually be coming back with me for a few weeks, which I’m excited about.

“I now fully understand how important it is for a student-athlete to get a scholarship to the right college to suit your talent level, academics, roster, and weather.

“It takes a lot of hard work and determination to be able to keep up with everything and to keep improving.

“I see so many disappointed athletes over here, so I am happy that the University of Miami is right for me.”

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