Unheralded international is a steak for Iowa men's golf

BY KEVIN GLUECK | MARCH 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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When men’s head golf coach Mark Hankins attended the 2011 American Junior Golf Association Quad Cities tournament to recruit, a long name he didn’t recognize kept appearing on the leaderboard— Voramate Aussarassakorn.

“He didn’t have any parents with him or anyone around him on the range. We didn’t really know who the heck he was,” Hankins said. “Pretty soon you’re like, ‘Who is this kid? What’s going on?’ because he kept placing in the top 10 every tournament he played in.”

Aussarassakorn had come to Rockford, Ill., from Bangkok, Thailand, to play in junior golf tournaments in hopes of getting a scholarship to an American school. His play in such contests earned him the 65th ranking in the 2012 junior golf rankings and the attention of the coaching staff at Iowa.

“We kept watching him on the Internet and said, ‘Wow, this kid continues to play well,’ ” Hankins said. “Not many people knew about him. There aren’t many times anymore that you find a kid that no one knows about.”

Aussarassakorn says that golf is popular in his home country, but it is not necessarily played often because it’s expensive and reserved more for business ventures and tourism. When it comes to learning golf though, Aussarassakorn had his eyes set elsewhere.

“The golf in the USA is better than Thailand,” he said. “The facilities and courses are better. If I come here, I’m going to be better.”

Aussarassakorn chose Iowa after a flurry of visits to other schools, including Iowa State, Kansas, and Texas. Hankins said that the timing was right for Aussarassakorn to commit to Iowa, because the Hawkeyes had graduated four seniors the year before.

“Game” as his teammates call him, already has international experience — he played for the Thailand National team for two years.

“I think it is fun, because we would make other friends in other countries,” he said. “When we play as a team it is more fun than as an individual. If you play bad that day, it can affect your team, so you have to focus more.”

At the UI, 3.4 per cent of undergraduates are of Asian descent, and a small portion of those numbers hail from Thailand. Aussarassakorn is just one of these foreign students adjusting to a different culture.

But, teammate Ian Vandersee says that Aussarassakorn has acclimated himself well with the school and golf team.

“At the beginning of the year, like all the other freshmen, he was shy,” Vandersee said. “Now that we’ve gotten to know him, it’s like he’s a regular member of the team. It’s hardly any different now.”

On top of that though, is the adaption to American golf courses and how they play compared to the rain-soaked courses in Thailand.

“The green is very different [than Thai golf courses],” Aussarassakorn said. “The green is faster, and the ball stops faster.”

Overall, Hankins is happy that Aussarassakorn has settled into Iowa.

“We were an up-and-coming program,” Hankins. “We’ve been going to NCAAs. I think it was a good choice for him.”

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