Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Many college freshmen have to deal with living away from home for the first time and those first few pangs of homesickness. For freshman golfer Stuart Ballingall, home was a few thousand miles farther from school than most.
As a native of Norwich, UK, the choice to play golf at the University of Missouri meant leaving England and the family and friends he grew up with.
“The thing I’ve found the hardest to adjust to is definitely being so far away from home,” Ballingall said. “It’s difficult being so far away for months at a time, but we’re pretty busy, which normally keeps my mind off it.”
Ballingall’s road to Columbia was slightly unconventional. The decision to attend an American university in general was the easy part.
“The main reason I chose an American University over a British one was because of the balance between athletics and education that’s offered here. Although the Universities are good back home academically, there’s nothing there that equates to the athletic programs you get here, or the facilities and competition,” Ballingall said.
From there, the decision was more difficult. Ballingall had not signed with a recruiting company, a traditional practice for European student-athletes wanting to gain exposure in the States, which meant that he wasn’t pursued by any schools. Choosing the college that is a perfect fit for a student is always difficult, and it is made even more so when an ocean separates the student from any prospective school. However, a friend of Ballingall’s eventually provided a perfect opportunity.
“Will Harrold on the men’s golf team basically got me involved with Mizzou,” Ballingall said. “He’s from the same part of England as me and when he came back for Christmas break in 2008 he told me how much he was enjoying it and recommended that I should apply. I knew that if I was going to go to college in America I wanted to be somewhere that I knew someone, so Mizzou was an ideal choice.”
If Mizzou seemed ideal to Ballingall, the feeling was mutual. He brought with him a laundry list of accolades and championships from competitions in both Scotland and England. A two-time champion of the Norfolk Open, Ballingall won his first title at the tender age of sixteen, something he called “totally unexpected.” Ballingall also played for the Scottish U-18 team and both the Norfolk Man and Junior teams, winning three consecutive Norfolk Bay Championships along the way.
He has brought his winning mentality and drive to a very young Tigers team, making an instant impact. Missouri ranks fifth in the country in GolfStat’s Freshman Class Impact Rankings, largely due to Ballingall. He opened his career at Mizzou by winning the season-opening Turning Stone Intercollegiate tournament, and has since helped lead the team to a school record total of 820 and tournament victory at the George Washington Invitational. Ballingall has high hopes for a team he feels can make huge progress this year.
“Firstly, I feel that the team hasn’t reached anywhere near its potential yet,” Ballingall said. “We’re all focused on making the regionals which will then give us a shot at making it to Nationals. As a team, it would also be nice to win some more tournaments in the spring, which will boost our ranking as well.”
Although still undecided on a major, Ballingall knows he would like to try to play golf professionally after college. Now, however, he is focused on making the most of a college experience that has offered him new experiences he never expected.
“It’s just been great meeting lots of new people and traveling all across America,” Ballingall said. “Competing for Mizzou in lots of different tournaments has been an awesome experience. I’ve enjoyed everything about being a part of the team here, and I hope we can achieve the success that we’re capable of.”