"Expectations exceeded,” was how Baylor University freshman Rosie Belsham enthusiastically summed up her first few months of Stateside golf upon her return to the somewhat colder climate of North-East of England for the Christmas holidays.
The 18-year-old England international and #TeamProDream client has certainly hit the ground running since making the move to the No.1 ranked women’s golf team in the country across in Waco, Texas. Undefeated in team competitions and with a string of impressive individual performances, Rosie is enjoying life as a Baylor Bear student-athlete.
“It really is great being able to play golf and practice in the sunshine the whole time and the facilities we have at Baylor are amazing,” says Rosie. “The course we play on, Ridgewood, is incredible and the team are treated like celebrities. Everyone at the club knows who you are and asks about how you’re getting on. They’re so accommodating with the players.
“The practice facilities are also amazing – we have 6 different greens you can play from with all different yardages and a huge putting green with access 24/7.”
She came close to not qualifying for the first tournament of the Fall season - The Schooner Fall Classic - but dug deep to pull off the only under par final round to earn her place in the team and hasn’t looked back since.
“Our first tournament was so much fun. We had to play in a team as a five-ball because of Covid and we all just fed off each other. We ended up winning by a margin of 31 shots and we’ve just continued on strongly from there.”
“It’s very different travelling everywhere as a team as opposed to doing it mostly as an individual back home, but it’s been so much fun. The furthest we’ve travelled was northern Oklahoma which was around 6½ hours, but I managed to do a bit of school work on the bus and the time went by quickly.”
“We’ve got one of the strongest teams in the country and the standard is very high, but I feel like I can compete at this level. It’s so good having quality players alongside you and it makes you want work hard to be better than them. Everyone practices hard and we really push each other on.”
Baylor Bears Women’s Golf have played in three team events, winning all three and have boasted an individual winner on each occasion, with Rosie tying for 6th place at the Cowgirl Classic to record her first top-10 finish in the final tournament of 2020.
“It’s pretty awesome to be No.1 in the country and anything is possible when you’re at the top. We’d love to remain undefeated and our aim is to make it to Nationals, where I think we have a really good shot at winning. Personally, I’d love to get a few more top 10s and hopefully get an individual win under my belt.
On the academic side, Rosie believes the key to achieving the right balance between golf and studying is being organised. Although all her classes have been online thus far, she has been able to fit in her work through the week, to leave her focused on tournament golf at the weekends.
So, after four months of living in the States, would she recommend US college life to others?
“Yes, 100%. Coming back to the UK, I’m so glad I’ve gone somewhere that’s warm all year round. You can just go practice any day you want on great facilities and I’d absolutely recommend college golf to anyone considering it. I’ve had so much fun.”
“It wasn’t quite the first semester I had envisaged with the restrictions around Covid but as much as it sucked not having the parties around tournaments and all the extra things you’d normally get around events, we’ve been fortunate in that we’ve been able to play all our tournaments and still travel as a team.
Rosie is back in her native Whitley Bay for Christmas but will return to the Florida sunshine for some warm-weather training at the start of January and play in a tournament, before starting the new season back at Baylor on 10 January.
Looking ahead the amateur circuit next summer, having reached the semi-finals of the English Women’s Amateur Championship in July, she has set her sights on winning a national event and feels her experience in the States will stand her in good stead.
“My game has improved massively since I’ve been at Baylor and my short game is much more consistent. With another season of tough competition and playing a high level I’d like to think I’d be in a good position to be challenging for a big amateur title next summer.”
We certainly wouldn’t bet against it! Thanks Rosie, and enjoy the festive season…