COLUMBIA — Missouri freshman William Harrold had just sank his birdie putt March 26 on the 18th hole of the Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif., to shoot a 66 in his first round.
Considering the score was good enough to put Harrold in the lead after 18 holes, and he had never broken 70 before in a college tournament, one might expect a celebration from the young golfer.
But even after struggling through the final 36 holes of the tournament with scores of 78 and 77 to slip into a tie for 10th, the Guestwich, England native’s temperament differed little from his first trip around the course. That’s just how he plays the game.
“A lot of guys get really emotional on the course,” Harrold said. “Whereas I could be 4-over or 4-under and you’d really have no way of knowing where I am.”
Despite Harrold’s struggles late in the tournament, the tie for 10th was his best finish on the season, and one that he sees as a springboard for the rest of the season, beginning with today’s Mizzou Intercollegiate. The tournament will be the first at The Club at Old Hawthorne, the team’s home since the course opened in 2007.
Men’s golf coach Mark Leroux says Harrold’s on-course demeanor allows him to do more than just play solid golf.
“It really helps the way you represent yourself, our school, and the university,” said Leroux, who said he thinks the best players on tour carried themselves in much of the same way. “Whether it’s good or bad, if you’re walking and talking the same way regardless of how your round is going, that’s the way you want to be.”
Although Harrold may be a stone-faced competitor on the course, his teammates say that doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The way he can focus on the course just shows how good he is at getting down to business,” Bud Reynolds said of his wiry, 6-foot-2 teammate. “He’s not very talkative on the course, which is a whole lot different than the way he is off it. I think that’s just him being motivated to play good golf.”
Harrold agrees, and said putting his off-the-course distractions out of his mind was a big reason for why he’s gotten this far.
“You just have to put them away,” Harrold said. “Whether it’s telling your mom and dad what you shot or whatever it is that’s in your head, if you can forget about all that and just focus on golf, on your next shot, it really helps.”
Harrold’s parents both work on their farm in England, but in order to chase his dream of playing golf professionally and still get a degree, coming to America was Harrold’s best option.
Now, he’s following in the footsteps of British golfers on the PGA Tour like Luke Donald and Paul Casey who also went to college in the U.S. Once the recruiting process began, it wasn’t long before Harrold had made the decision to come to Columbia for an opportunity to play Division I golf.
“I kind of took my first scholarship offer,” he said. “I just wanted to get over here and start playing golf as soon as possible. Besides all the golf, it’s just an awesome university.”
Harrold has stayed close to his farming roots as an agriculture business major.
Once he arrived at MU, not only was he in a different culture, he was playing a completely different style of course as well.
“Sheringham Golf Course, my home course in England, is right on the coast, with a lot of cliffs and it’s an old-style links course,” Harrold said. “I was used to playing in a lot of wind, so I hit a lot of low shots, and my ball flight was just really, really low in general when I got out here.”
Links-style courses rarely contain trees, and on most, the fairways feature shorter grass than American courses and tighter lies. Greens are also less receptive to long approach shots, which require players to hit low shots that land short of the green and roll onto the putting surface. Like Harrold’s course, many are located on the coasts of the United Kingdom or Scotland. Several old courses remain loyal to the “in” and “out” written on the scorecard, with the front nine holes all playing in a straight line out, and the back nine coming back in, as opposed to the more winding style common in America.
Now, he says the biggest thing he’s worked on since arriving is raising his ball flight to adjust to his new conditions, one of several factors in his improved play of late.
“With the grass not being nearly as short in the fairway, and the ground not as hard, I just don’t get as much roll as I would back home, but now, I’m really getting used to the style of play here.”
Harrold’s outlook on the game often clashed with his competitors.
“Guys here seem to be a lot more competitive, and you get a sense that they really want to win,” he said. “Guys in England want to win pretty badly too, but it doesn’t come across that way. The players here though, even if they’re playing bad, I really get a sense of this fighting spirit.”
Harrold and his teammates have yet to finish better than third in a tournament this season, but now, armed with a “home-course advantage,” Harrold knows how important this week is.
“We need to win this tournament,” Harrold says. “Doing that would give us a great chance to qualify for regionals and then nationals, so obviously that’s a big deal. Even with that though, Coach wants us to win our first tournament here more than any other place.”