Photo Courtesy: SAU Communications
MAGNOLIA, Ark. (SAU) - Nikki Vallandingham, a standout amateur golfer from Okinawa, Japan, became a Mulerider this fall because she feels the golf program at Southern Arkansas University will give her the best shot at being a successful pro golfer.
James "Coach" Robertson, SAU's golf coach, was a major draw for Vallandingham. Robertson has PGA tour experience himself, has worked with around 40 PGA and LPGA players, and still works on the Champions and Web.com Tours.
"We were looking at his resume and it was amazing. He is probably the best coach I could find in the States," said Vallandingham. "He is up there with all the big-name professional golf coaches."
But Robertson told Vallandingham not to make him the basis of her choosing SAU for her college career. Robertson said for them to come for the education and the accredited and well-known SAU College of Business.
"I knew I wanted to study business before we even chose SAU, but we found that SAU has a really strong business program. It turned out to be a good fit for me to get the education and degree I want, and work with the coach that I want," said Vallandingham.
She said she came to SAU's campus in Magnolia a few weeks early to get over jet lag and culture shock.
"The first day I did nothing but laugh at accents. My resident advisors have enjoyed teaching me southern sayings," said Vallandingham.
It is the southern charm and the low-key atmosphere in the community that also attracted her to SAU. She was recruited by NCAA Division I schools in larger metropolitan areas, but she said she likes the idea of focusing on her studies and her golf game without a lot of distractions.
Robertson said that Nikki is not the only "professional hopeful" in his golf program this year, and the golf staff is working hard at recruiting more future professional golfers.
"Ours is a balanced program: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. The key to success is balance and synergy with all the elements of our program working together - swing, training, conditioning, strength training, sport psychology, timing and tempo, competitive performance - and the list goes on and on," said Robertson. "We are bringing in players who will work the program. Several of us developed this peak performance program with the professional golfers at International Management Group, and I have brought it to the college level."
Nikki is also not the only golfer to come from afar for Robertson and his golf program. His group of twenty golfers, 12 men and 8 women, represent the U.K., Germany, Canada, Japan, and five states.
The SAU golf program is hosting a fund-raising golf tournament on Friday, September 6, 2013. There are still spots available for this four-person scramble. Tee-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. Cost per person is $80, or bring a team of four for $280.
"The primary objective of this event is to welcome our players back to SAU, introduce them to members of the community, and give the community the opportunity to meet, talk, and play some golf with them," said Robertson. "Most of my golfers are a long way from home and need to get established at SAU and with the Magnolia community."
For more information or to sign up yourself or your team for the tournament, contact Coach Robertson at (870) 235-4382 or JERobertson@saumag.edu.