Freshman golfer Snyman lifting Mean Green with calm demeanor on the course

Freshman golfer Snyman lifting Mean Green with calm demeanor on the course

Freshman golfer Snyman lifting Mean Green with calm demeanor on the course
March 03
01:27 2016

Austin Jackson | Staff Writer

@a_jack17

Like a junkie obsessing over his next score, North Texas freshman Ian Snyman climbs the grass perch, eyes thirsty, darting towards his fix.  The 21-year-old stops, shrugs the bag off his shoulders, then unsheathes the big club, unsure if the dose will take him too far.

After setting up his line, his hands meld together, interlocked. Finally, serenity courses through his veins, as the freshman sends his body coiling away. With a thunderous thwack, Snyman jolts back to reality on the Fazio Course at Stonebriar Country Club.

Golf is Snyman’s muse and has taken him higher than he ever imagined. For 17 years, the sport has been both a diabolical villain and most generous friend.

“It’s a terrible, great game,” Snyman said. “The challenge made me fall in love with it.”

Now at North Texas, 10,000 miles away from the family he left behind in Bellville, South Africa, Snyman hopes to improve his game to the level it takes to qualify for the PGA Tour.

“I want to be the best me I can be,” Snyman said. “I don’t want to be Tiger woods, I don’t want to be Ernie Els, I want to be Ian Snyman.”

Snyman was conditioned to competition at an early age. His parents and his siblings raised Snyman to love competing at a handful of sports.

“He was hooked on all things with a bat and a ball from cricket, baseball, soccer and tennis,” Johan Snyman Sr. said. “He just loved all sports and had an exceptional eye and very good timing.”

But one sport was always off limits: his father’s pastime, rugby. Snyman Sr. played rugby and represented his province as “a top amateur” in what Ian said would now be considered professional rugby.

Fortunately for North Texas, his mother stopped him from limping into his father’s footsteps, instead putting a golf club in his hands at just 3-years-old.

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North Texas freshman golfer Ian Snyman poses for a photo on the green of one of the holes while preparing for the John Hayt Classic in Florida. Austin Jackson | Staff Writer

Snyman said he spent the majority of his days as a toddler bounding about his backyard, cranking whiffle-balls into his mom’s empty gardening pots. The little plastic golf club would take Snyman further than he or his family could have imagined.

At 8-years-old, Snyman took his first golf lesson. At nine-years-old, he won the first tournament he entered.  Later, in 2010, Snyman’s parents enlisted Paul Mackenzie, a world-renowned golf coach, to oversee his swing.

“When I first started coaching Ian, he was a little boy with impeccable manners, a cheeky-grin and a high-handicap,” Mackenzie said. “But right from the beginning he showed a hunger for the game and a want to learn.”

In late 2013, Mackenzie turned Snyman’s game from good to great after they unlocked a mental approach that Snyman dubbed “the never mind attitude.”

“[Good or bad], the shot isn’t going to change his life,” Mackenzie said. “He’s not going to die or get sick or anything else awful.”

Snyman’s Hakuna-Matata approach to golf has given him perspective, allowing him to play the moment, “without feeling the pressure of expectation,” according to Mackenzie. It propelled Snyman to winning seven tournaments in 2013 and become the number one ranked golfer in the Western Province Golf Union while playing on the South African national team.

It was then he came to grips with the decision to pursue golf at the next level, which involved moving to America to play NCAA golf. But in the summer of 2015, Snyman’s NCAA dream was nearly deterred due to eligibility issues. According to Snyman, the NCAA ruled him a “non-qualifier” and denied his eligibility.

“It was a nightmare,” Snyman said. “A nightmare with a happy ending.”

Stymied, Snyman signed to play golf at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, the top ranked JUCO golf program in the country. But, several months before Snyman left for Iowa, North Texas men’s golf coach Brad Stracke swooped in, vowing to work with the NCAA.

Just two days before his flight departed for Iowa, the NCAA relented, ending the four-month nightmare as Snyman faxed his I-20 that day.

“Thinking back now, I get the shivers. It was a photo finish,” Johan Snyman Jr., Ian’s brother, said. ”I’m just grateful everything worked out as it did. Clearance by the NCAA was a long, hard battle.”

After the nightmarish hurdle to get to North Texas, Ian has found smooth sailing. In his first year, Snyman separated himself as the second best scoring player on the roster, notching three top-15 finishes.

On Feb. 14-15 at the UTSA Oak Hills Invitational, Snyman had his best tournament of his North Texas career, finishing two strokes shy of his first win in third place.

On the surface his biggest strength appears to be his biggest weakness. Snyman said his average driving distance is 270 yards, the shortest on the team.

“I won’t say I’m short. I’m just short compared to the guys on the team,” Snyman said. “Coach Stracke is known for recruiting long hitters, the program has a reputation. I was like, the gamble.”

Unlike his teammates who bomb and gouge the course with obscene distance, Snyman plays the game steadily and surgically, using a fairway-friendly low fade that coaxes courses to work for him.

“My biggest strength is keeping it in play, using my head,” Snyman said. “I think my way around the golf course.”

Junior teammate Cory Churchman agrees with his South African teammate and has already placed Snyman on a high pedestal.

“The staple of Ian’s game is how straight he drives the golf ball,” junior teammate Cory Churchman said. “He probably hits the driver straighter than anyone I’ve ever played with.”

Adjusting to life in America can be difficult, but having fellow freshman Thomas Rosenmueller, who hails from Germany, has helped ease the transition. Snyman said they helped each other adjust to their new lives, as both were confused with by similar things, like why people here like Fetty Wap.

From owning the team’s top two tournament scoring averages to discovering the limitations of store-bought hair dye, the duo’s journey towards graduation is inextricably connected.

The pair has proven the potential to take North Texas men’s golf to heights it’s never seen before, but Snyman’s goal of reaching golf’s pinnacle remains.

“I definitely want to play professional golf,” Snyman said. “If the golf is going well, I want to go straight playing with the big guys in the big leagues here in America.”                                 

 

Featured Image: North Texas freshman golfer Ian Snyman chips a ball onto the green while preparing for the John Hayt Classic to be played in Florida. Austin Jackson | Staff Writer

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