A small Northern French town, a modest public course, and an unwavering passion for the little white ball was the perfect recipe. It all started in 2000. Being a gymnast at the time, I decided to follow the footsteps of my brother and father who had just taken their membership at the club in my hometown, Amnéville. Back then, golf was not a popular sport in Northern France, especially for kids.
But there we were, a group of youngsters who reunited every Wednesday for “l’école de golf” and trust me, life had never been more fun. Yes, we would occasionally upset some of the “older, more conservative” golfers…Especially when we had ridiculous chipping contests around the putting green. I remember masquerading as Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia or Seve to name a few. My passion for the game grew each Wednesday at the club, and every evening after school when I found myself taking divots in my parents’ backyard, using ping-pong balls. At the age of 13 I decided to quit my other activities and take golf to another level. I spent summer after summer working on my craft, spending most of my free time at the golf course while my parents were busy running their restaurant and making sure my brother and I would never lack of anything.
The American dream…
By age fifteen, it was clear that in the immediate future I would have to make decisions about balancing school and golf, if this balance was at all possible. As a fortunate concurrence of circumstances, I ended up spending two weeks in California as part of a student exchange program with my high school. This trip grew my eagerness for the American dream and made me realize that staying in France would not permit the concurrent pursuit of athletics at the collegiate level. Upon my return, I promised myself that I would be back in California and compete as NCAA Divison 1 athlete.
I knew that for this dream to become reality, I needed to work harder than anyone else. High school was tough; I attended classes from 8 am to 5 pm which impeded my time to practice and when I missed class, I had to catch up with the homework and lectures. On some occasions, my teacher were not very happy about my absences and I felt some pressure, but still I completed all my assignments and remained fully committed. Time management was crucial; I knew I would not receive any special treatment. In order to earn a scholarship, it was necessary to balance my academic studies and my athletic performance. Although at times I found the French scholastic atmosphere difficult and frustrating, I focused on not losing sight of my objective and remained confident. My mother often reminded me of the wise words Rudyard Kipling once wrote: “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting to”. This philosophy amplified my eagerness to continue learning and mature through the challenges of others’ doubt and my own, using this doubt to push myself to find what I am truly capable of. Little did I know about the adventure I was about to embark on.
I joined the University of California at Berkeley in the Fall of 2010. I will never forget the first day of class. It was a dream come true. Adjusting to an unfamiliar culture was difficult at the start. I understood that I had to leave some French parts of me in France, and adopt new American customs for my new home in California.
I was plunged into an incredible learning environment, while being part of what some consider as the most successful college golf team in history. In the 2012-13 season our team won 12 of the 14 stroke play tournaments we competed in, setting a modern-era NCAA single-season win record. I claimed 5 individual titles during my college career, and was a First Team All-American and All-America Scholar as a senior. I was also a finalist for the Byron Nelson Award, which is given annually to a graduating senior who excels not only on the golf course but also in the classroom and community.
I graduated in May 2014 with a Business & Administration degree from the prestigious Haas School of Business. I will never forget this day, which as of today represents my life’s greatest achievement.
All of my experiences, whether successful or not, reminded me that I came to Berkeley knowing very little about what I would accomplish or what I would become. But I left knowing who I am, which is a gift to be treasured and remembered for the rest of my life.
Play hard, work harder..
I turned professional in the summer of 2014 after earning my degree and finished 5th in only my second event on the Challenge Tour at the Belgian Challenge Open. I then competed in my first European tour event, the prestigious Alstom French Open. With consistent form throughout the year I ensured full playing status for 2015. My first year on tour did not go as planned and it took me some time to adjust to this entirely new life, the latter requiring the ability to react from both triumph and defeat. Looking back, I have learned that failure and success are related and teach us something different in their own ways. The speed and level of competition at the professional level necessitates that I do not dwell upon mistakes, but instead accept them and use them as lessons, rather than as setbacks.
In 2016, after a great start to the season, I collected my first maiden professional victory at the Swedish Challenge hosted by Robert Karlsson. Claiming the title for the first time at the pro level is something that will stick with me forever, and the boost I needed to jump-start my professional career.
After what seemed like a never-ending wait in Oman, I earned the last European Tour card by finishing 16th on the Challenge Tour Order of merit. Graduating on the main tour was a childhood dream come true, and most importantly a statement to all the hard work and sacrifices I have put in since I started the game.
Arnold Palmer once told me “Everything I have I owe to the game of golf.” It is only now that I realize the power of its meaning. Golf has taken me around the globe and has given me the opportunity to learn from myself and others, making long-lasting friendship along the way. I feel extremely privileged to wake up every morning and do what I love for a living.
Just like Arnold, I owe so much to the game, and most importantly, to my parents whose sacrifices allowed me to embrace opportunities they never had.
To be continued…..