KirkwoodGolf: McIlroy signed Letter of Intent for East Tennessee State

Friday, January 30, 2015

McIlroy signed Letter of Intent for East Tennessee State

What if I told you Rory McIlroy was supposed to play college golf in the United States?
In 2004, the Irishman signed a National Letter of Intent to play for East Tennessee State in Johnson City, Tennessee.
It never happened, of course, but how did the Ulsterman who would become the World No 1 pro hear about ETSU? 
Fred Warren, who is in his 28th year of coaching the Bucs, was one of the first college coaches to start recruiting overseas in the late 1980s. 
In fact, his first Irish signee was J.P. Fitzgerald - McIlroy's current caddie.
Talk about a small world.
"At the time, I was just looking for good players," Warren said. "It's a global game, and there's a lot of good players outside the U.S."
Warren is still benefiting from that international mindset.
For the 2014-15 season, Warren's roster is made up of six foreign players – four players from Europe, one from Canada and the other from Iceland. It also includes two Americans.
Poland native Adrian Meronk, a junior, is taking advantage of Warren's thought process and enjoyed a break-out autumnl. Meronk, ranked 14th by Golfweek after the fall season, won his first college title in the team's first event of the 2014-2015 college golf season. 
At the end of his sophomore year, he finished 165th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.
"I improved many things," the 22-year-old said. "My short game is way better than last year. I played with more confidence. I'm pretty happy with my game right now."
Meronk found out about the small school of 15,000 students by word of mouth, and points to former ETSU player Rhys Davies, a Welshman who gained Walker Cup honours for GB and I, as a major influence.
 Meronk wanted a comfortable transition from life in Europe to life in the U.S., and was relieved that Warren had dealt with many international players over the years.
"It's unbelievable how much he's matured both on and off the course," Warren said.
Meronk, Warren and the rest of the Bucs are aiming for their first conference title since 2010 as they enter the spring season as the favorite to win the Southern Conference title.
"Adrian and the whole team are gaining a lot of confidence," Warren said. "We have a lot of depth. We're going to have a lot of competition for the fifth spot (in the lineup).
"We have a chance to do well, not just in the conference, but in the postseason, too."