Big 12 Campus Correspondent
College golf is an ever-changing melting pot of players that come from all reaches of the globe. Tour stars like Adam Scott and Graeme McDowell left their homelands to pursue collegiate golf careers in the United States. Iowa State has been fortunate enough to have its own European star the past three seasons in Scott Fernandez.
Although Fernandez, a 2013 All-American, is one of the highest touted collegiate golfers, his first love wasn’t golf.
“I was on the national (ski) team when I was 11,” Fernandez said. “Half the year I was skiing and competing, and then as soon as the ski season was over, I got into golf.”
Up until he was about 14 years old, Fernandez performed a balancing act of two sports in which he thrived in. But, when the time came, the decision was clear.
“I gave up making it on the European (ski) team to attend a weekend practice for golf with the Spanish national golf team,” Fernandez said. “I wasn’t even selected yet, I just went to this meet in Madrid. Thanks to that, I got selected to go into the Spanish national school, and coach Tank got an eye on me.”
The school that Fernandez is referring to is the Blume Residence High School in Madrid. It is a center of high performing athletes that has churned out golfing stars like Sergio Garcia. The school was certainly pivotal in helping Fernandez develop into a player that could succeed both physically and mentally on the college circuit.
“It was my first time away from home,” Fernandez said about moving to Madrid. “It was a big step leaving your parents like that. It was a big development for me as a person.”
Fernandez’s experience at Blume helped him make the tough decision to leave Spain and head across the Atlantic to pursue his collegiate career.
“At one point I wasn’t sure if I was going to study in Madrid, go back home, or come to the States,” Fernandez said. “I was kind of scared about coming to the States. It’s pretty far away. I said, ‘Look, I’ve been away from home already, and I can do this again. It’s just a little longer trip.’”
After winning the 2011 European Amateur Team Championships as a member of the Spanish national team and winning the under 21 Junior National Championship, Fernandez signed on the dotted line to become a Cyclone. At the conclusion of his high school career, he was the second ranked U18 golfer in Spain.
Head coach Andrew Tank was not only impressed with Fernandez’s numbers, but also with his poise.
“Obviously, his competitive record stood out to me,” Tank said. “His results were very good. I was probably most impressed with the first time I interacted with him, just kind of getting to know him, and what he was about. I could just tell that he was a real genuine person, and that he’d be a good fit for us.”
Once on campus in Ames, success soon followed. In his second collegiate event of his young career, Fernandez fired a 205 to earn medalist honors at the 2011 VCU shootout.
“I had no expectations,” Fernandez said about his first win. “I really liked the course, and it suited my game. I was just trotting along and I found myself with a win there.”
Fernandez compiled an impressive stroke average of 73.18 in his rookie season, breaking the record for lowest stroke average by an Iowa State freshman.
His second season (2012-13) as a Cyclone was arguably the best by any ISU golfer in program history. Fernandez’s sophomore campaign included eight top-10 finishes in 10 starts, with one of those top-10s coming at the Big 12 Championship (T7th). His stroke average of 71.27 broke Iowa State’s single-season scoring mark. His play that year earned him a trip to the NCAA Regional in Columbus, Ohio. At the Regional, Fernandez tied for 13th and became the fifth Cyclone in school history to earn an individual NCAA Regional bid.
“I saw a big difference last year,” Fernandez said about his game. “I just focused and worked on my stuff and it worked out. Last year was a really good season for me.”
Fernandez was named second-team All-American by Golfweek and Ping, picked up All-Big 12 First-Team honors, finished the year ranked 6th nationally by Golfstat and earned a spot on the prestigious European Palmer Cup team. Iowa State also recognized Fernandez as its 2012-2013 Male Athlete of the Year.
“I think the year he had last year as a sophomore was incredible,” Tank said. “He’s looked at as one of the better players in the country now. He’s improved a lot.”
Fernandez is pacing an NCAA Columbia Regional-bound Iowa State golf team this season with six top-10 finishes and a stroke average of 71.94. In the spring, he tallied a stroke average of 71.68 while picking up four of his six total top-10s.
His career numbers are flattering. With his six top-10s this season, it brings his career total to 20, the most in program history and second among active Big 12 golfers. His career scoring average of 72.22 also ranks first in ISU history and he boasts 16 career sub-70 rounds.
With no seniors in ISU’s top-five, Fernandez has emerged as a leader for his squad and the younger players have certainly recognized that.
“He was a big reason why I came here,” freshman Nick Voke said. “He’s a really good bloke, really humble and having the likes of him on the team has really helped me push myself.”
With one more year of collegiate golf left to play, the sky is the limit for this young linkster. Tank has produced several future tour stars and all signs indicate that Fernandez could be next.