Italia Champ McDowell Well-Traveled

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European TourIts not Darren Clarke. And its not Padraig Harrington. Its not Des Smyth. But the island of Ireland claims the defending champion of the Telecom Italia Open this week ' Graeme McDowell.

McDowell won the Italia last year after four holes of a playoff with Thomas Levet. It was only his third year as a pro after attending college at, of all places, the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
 
McDowell is asked repeatedly how a lad from the Northern Ireland town of Portrush winds up at college in America.
 
There's an Irish player at the time and he was a pretty good player, and I guess he was trying to strengthen the team, put the coach in touch with me, and I think he gave my coach two names of two decent players in Ireland, said McDowell. And I think he called me first. And I was just about ready to go.
 
It's something I had wanted to do. And when the situation arose, I mean, I was all over it. It was a good decision in hindsight.
 
And when it happened, McDowell was pleasantly surprised. He discovered he really liked Birmingham ' the U.S. version, not the English version.

I had a good time in Birmingham, remembers McDowell. It took some adjustment. It took me a year to adjust, to be fair. But I had a good time. It took my game to the next level. It took me to where I wanted to be.
 
And McDowell expects lots of other Irish youth to scatter across the world playing golf.
 
I think the (Irish) Golfing Union (has) put a lot of money in coaching, and I think all the International Federation seem to realize now that the players, they're going to have to travel, worldwide, to gain the experience that they're going to require to tap into the next level, he said.
 
Like say the money is now becoming available for young amateur players for travel to Australia in the winter and do this and that, and travel all over the world and play in golf tournaments and gain that experience of traveling and playing different golf courses and competing against international players.
 
And I think college in the States is becoming a lot more available to young players, as well. I think for me it was an invaluable tool to get me to where I am right now. Any of the young kids I meet, I generally point them in the direction here to the States. I say, go to college in America, you can keep your academics going, you can play sport, and you can pretty much get your game up to turn pro if that's what you want to do.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Telecom Italia Open