Turning professional in any sport can be a huge test for an athlete. In many sports, playing time is the only thing one must worry about once they join the ranks of the elites. In golf, that’s not the case.
Former UCF golf standout Connor Arendell has traveled to many different countries across the world since turning professional after his junior season in 2011, hoping to spend just a little more time on the green and fairway.
“It was a lot to take in my first year,” Arendell said. “You are traveling somewhere new, different languages every week, different foods, so it was hard to get used to.”
Going through qualifying school is the way that golfers earn their right to play on tour. In qualifying school, many players compete, but only so many play well enough to earn their tour cards and the right to play on the tour they intend to qualify for.
Arendell has played in qualifying school in both Europe and the United States. He has been able to play on the European Tour, and the Web.com Tour, and has made two appearances in the PGA Tour.
“[Arendell] used to come into my office and say, ‘Coach, there is not enough hours in the day to practice,’” UCF golf head coach Bryce Wallor said. “You don’t get that too often as a coach. You don’t get a guy trying to maximize every hour of daylight to become a professional athlete.”
Though he missed qualifying for the Shell Houston Open by one stroke last week, Arendell was able to qualify for the Puerto Rico Open the week before. That tournament was his first PGA Tour event in 2016.
Competing in the European Challenge Tour will be Arendell’s main focus in the coming months. He expects his first event on that tour to be toward the end of April.
After he played one year at the University of Louisville, Arendell transferred to UCF, where he would see the great improvement he needed before turning professional. In his junior year, he was named to the All-Conference USA First Team and advanced to the round of 16 in match play at the U.S. Amateur Championship at University Place, Washington.
“I thought about leaving after my sophomore year,” Arendell said. “Coach kind of convinced me to stay, and I was glad I did. My game just got a lot better with another year sticking around. After my junior year, we both kind of knew I was ready to go, but I learned a lot from him overall in all aspects of the game.”
Along with Arendell, UCF has produced other professional golfers, including Brad Schneider, Greg Eason and Ricardo Gouveia.
“It makes me really happy to see that they have done what they wanted to do, and they accomplished the things they wanted to accomplish,” Wallor said. “It kind of gives you a sense of relief that if you have that many go on to play professional golf, you think maybe you are doing the right thing.”
Matthew Saunders is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. You can follow him on Twitter at @ClassicSmit and email him at MatthewS@CentralFloridaFuture.com