Frequent flier James taps international scene to bolster Minnesota’s roster

David McCoy

Minnesota men’s golf coach Brad James said he knows the struggles international players go through.

And just by glancing at the Gophers’ roster, it’s obvious those players know their Australian coach knows.

James’ ability to relate to foreign recruits is one of the main reasons Minnesota has become the biggest hub for international players in Big Ten golf.

“I can let them know that I know exactly what they’re going through as an international student, because I was one myself,” James said.

James, a native of Caims, in Queensland, played golf for Minnesota from 1993-96. His connections back home, as well as around the world, have delivered five international golfers to this year’s squad.

James said he recruits so heavily overseas because it’s necessary to keep up with the nation’s best.

“To remain competitive in today’s environment, you have to go and recruit the best players in the world,” James said. “That’s just the way the game’s been going the last five years.”

But as far as the Big Ten is concerned, James is a little ahead of the trend.

He’s the only foreign-born coach in the Big Ten, and the Gophers have more than twice as many international players as every team in the Big Ten, except Purdue, which has three. Michigan and Indiana each have two international players, and Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State have only one each.

But Michigan, Northwestern and Purdue are the only other teams to recruit overseas, as the Buckeyes’ and Lions’ players are from Canada, while the Hoosiers have Canadian and Mexican natives.

The other five Big Ten teams don’t even have one international player.

Minnesota’s Bronson La’Cassie also hails from Australia. Victor Almstrom is from Sweden, John Hemptstock is from Scotland, Niall Turner is from Ireland and Jurrian Van Der Vaart is from the Netherlands.

But James insists he doesn’t put any special emphasis on recruiting outside the borders

“I don’t necessarily recruit internationally; I just recruit the best players that I can,” James said. “I don’t look if they’re from England, if they’re from Australia, or if they’re from South Africa, or if they’re from Minnesota. If they’re the best players that I can get into this program, those are the kids that I’m going to go after.”

James said he spends much time traveling through Europe in the summer and Australia during Christmas because at those times those countries hold their major tournaments.

But it’s not as if Minnesota has a bigger traveling budget than other Big Ten teams for recruiting. In fact, international recruiting isn’t a part of Minnesota’s budget at all.

“Our budget is pretty much the same as everyone else’s,” James said. “International recruiting – our budget does not pay for that. That’s something I need to go out there and raise (through donors).”

Turner said the personal visit makes a big difference for an international player looking to go to college in the United States.

“If they take that much interest in you, you’re definitely going to take notice,” Turner said. “I talked to a lot of coaches on the phone, but you don’t really see what they’re like. It was good to actually meet him.”

Van Der Vaart said it’s nice playing in an environment in which the coach can relate.

And one where a good chunk of his teammates can as well.

“It’s an advantage, when all the other guys know what you’re going through. We’ve faced a lot of the same problems” he said. “A lot of coaches don’t recruit internationally, just around the corner block. It’s an advantage, but it’s not like, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of international players at Minnesota, let’s go there.’ “