'Even bigger and even better'
Nova S'eastern's Taylor battles transition to U.S., expectations
HERSHEY, Pa. -- Ben Taylor had golf clubs in his hands as soon as he could walk, and probably even before that.
Better yet, he had a wonderful playground unfolding right before him where he could use those clubs to his heart’s content. His dad, Phil, has owned Pachesham Park Golf Center in Leatherhead, England for the past 26 years.
Now 20, Taylor has known every square inch of Pachesham Park quite literally for his entire life. While other sports sometimes caught his attention early on, it was golf that eventually won out.
“I had access to a great facility to learn how to play,” Taylor said. “I’ve always been a sportsman. I’ve played every sport that high school offers, and I was also a big ice hockey player when I was younger.
“When I hit the age of 14 or 15, I realized I needed to focus all my energy into just the one sport. Golf was by far my favorite sport, and one that was the most influential in my life. That’s the one I wanted to take up.”
The decision to concentrate his efforts on golf has turned out well so far. He made the decision to head across the pond from England to begin his collegiate career at Nova Southeastern.
“Nova was the first school and the first coach I got in contact with,” Taylor said. “When the recruitment happened, that’s the one I went to visit. Being an international student in America, the bigger schools are a lot more of a culture shock.
“Coming to Nova, being a slightly smaller school, was a very wise decision. I was blessed with how good the facilities are, a lot better than I could’ve imagined.”
As a sophomore in his first year of eligibility in the United States, Taylor led the Sharks to last year’s NCAA Division II national championship in men’s golf.
On the way to winning it all with Nova in 2012, Taylor was named to the Sunshine State Conference’s Player of the Year and to the DII PING All-America First Team.
Those honors were amazing enough, but he was also presented with the Jack Nicklaus Award as the DII collegiate player of the year by the Golf Coaches Association of America.
“There’s always that thought in the back of my mind about how to handle the extra pressure, not only getting the player of the year award, but retaining it,” Taylor said. “I’m experienced enough to deal with those and use it to my advantage. I’ve already accomplished a player-of-the-year award in Division II.”
Issues with transferring credits from England to the States prevented the young man from playing golf his freshman year at Nova.
“I couldn’t play my freshman year, which was a great shame,” Taylor said. “Winning the player of the year award and also a national championship in my first year of being eligible to play was quite emotional, actually.
“It meant a lot having to grind through the first year, not being able to attend team practices, not being able to travel with the team. At the start, it was a tough decision to take, staying at college and not being able to play.”
Nova Southeastern is again ranked first coming into this year’s title round. Taylor would consider it an even grander accomplishment to win a second DII crown in as many years.
“I see it as more of a challenge than the year before,” he said. “We’re not going to the national championship to win it again. We’re going to win it for the second year in a row, which is a bigger achievement in itself. We don’t just want to bring back the same award we had last year.
“We want to make it even bigger and even better. It strives everyone to stay in the gym a bit longer, to work out when we practice a little bit harder. We just have a slightly different mindset going into the national championship, rather than putting that extra pressure on ourselves.”