COLUMBIA — Missouri junior golfer William Harrold finally found a Ryder Cup teammate. Stuart Ballingall’s arrival on campus gave Harrold an European partner for friendly intrasquad matches against pairs of the American Tigers.
Harrold and Ballingall, a freshman, have competed against their other teammates during the early parts of the fall season. It has helped the Missouri men’s golf team bond, though it’s obvious both sides want bragging rights. When asked who normally comes out on top, Ballingall refused to answer in words, giving only a confident laugh.
Harrold played a big role in the recruitment of Ballingall. Harrold resides in Guestwich, England, about 20 minutes away from Ballingall’s hometown of Norwich, England. While at home last winter break, Harrold made it a priority to convince his former Norfolk golf teammate to join him at Missouri.
The two have played together since they were 13 years old. Over winter break, Harrold continually hyped Missouri to be sure they would continue to compete for the same team.
“He came back at Christmas and said how much he loved it and how great everything was,” Ballingall said.
Harrold didn’t need a holiday wish list to know Ballingall was exactly what the Tigers needed.
“He beat me in everything we played, unfortunately,” Harrold said. “He has more of a focus than others (golfers).”
Ballingall ultimately chose Missouri, arriving at school at the end of the summer ready to positively impact a Tigers team coming off of a disappointing ninth-place finish at the Big 12 Championships. Missouri also failed to qualify for the NCAA Regionals.
Harrold has helped Ballingall with his transition to Columbia. Harrold knows through his own experience it can be challenging to move continents, adjust to college classes and play Big 12 golf at the same time.
“I try to do what people did for me,” Harrold said. “I just tell him what needs to be done and help get him settled in.”
Harrold talked about the abundance of paper work involved with transferring from England and starting school and an NCAA sport. He assisted Ballingall by making sure he completed all of the necessary nuances and details.
Coach Mark Leroux points to Harrold, the lone junior on a team lacking a senior, as a key leader. However, while playing golf, Harrold and Ballingall do not have the typical upperclassman-freshman relationship in which the freshman looks up to his older teammate. They are equals.
“I wouldn’t classify Stuart as a freshman on the golf course,” Harrold said. “He just has so much experience.”
That experience includes winning the Norfolk Open in back-to-back years, a feat Harrold said is rare. Ballingall has already paid dividends for Missouri, leading the Tigers to their first victory since 2005 in the Turning Stone Intercollegiate over Labor Day weekend. His 54-hole total of 215 was the lowest of any individual in the tournament.
Leroux said he could feel his players' eagerness before the intercollegiate began.
“There was team excitement even before we played,” Leroux said. “They’re a small team (eight golfers) that’s really tight knit.”
The fun Ryder Cup matches are part of the reason the Tigers are so cohesive. Leroux has even expanded the competition to include the entire team. The four athletes from the state of Missouri compete against “the World,” meaning Ballingall, Harrold and golfers from Minnesota and Arizona.
But when it turns its attention to its real opponents, Missouri wants to be a force in the 2009-2010 season. With their current talent level, the Tigers expect a better result at the end of the year and wins to come more frequently.
“I’m sure we’ll get another (win) this semester,” Harrold said. “I know what kind of scores we need, and I know what kind of scores we’re capable of. We’ve been working our guts off for two years. It’s going to pay off.”