Fuqua picks Cats

November 14, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

Ben Fuqua always dreamed of championships and scholarships. Now all of his dreams are coming true.

Fuqua realized one of his dreams when he won the state high school golf championship last month, and another is just a stroke of the pen away for the Danville senior.

The state's reigning Mr. Golf plans to sign a letter-of-intent with Kentucky today or Saturday, fulfilling a longtime goal of earning a major college athletic grant.

"I probably thought about that since I was in middle school," he said.

Fuqua's acceptance of UK's scholarship offer comes just over a month after another of his biggest dreams came true when he won the state tournament in a sudden-death playoff.


"Even in elementary school I said I wanted to win a state championship," he said. "I think then I wanted to do it in about four sports."

Fuqua said Kentucky is a choice that means as much to him as to any native son who goes there to play basketball or football.

"I was raised on UK," he said.

Fuqua said he wasn't thinking about that when he was trying to choose between Kentucky and Louisville, the two schools on his short list.

"I didn't want that to influence my decision, and it didn't," he said. "I went to Louisville with an open mind."

He visited both schools and said meetings with Kentucky coach Brian Craig and athletics director Mitch Barnhart convinced him that UK was the place for him.

"It was kind of a gut feeling," he said. "It seemed like I'd be happy there for four years."

Fuqua was already being recruited by Kentucky and other major colleges before he won the state title - he said UK's Craig first saw him play at this summer's Kentucky Open - but his state tourney win certainly didn't hurt.

"That just upped his stock in terms of being looked at by Division I programs," Danville coach Craig Pippen said.

Brown helped him with his decision

Fuqua said he and his father talked things over with Fuqua's golf instructor, Bruce Brown of Old Bridge Golf Club, before he made his decision.

"Without a doubt, Ben is Division I material," Brown said. "For him to go anywhere else just would've been counterproductive.

"Kentucky has really turned their program around a little bit. It's a good opportunity for him."

Choosing Kentucky also gives Fuqua the chance to continue to work with Brown - with his college coach's blessing.

The Kentucky program is on an upswing in its second year under Craig.

The Wildcats finished the season ranked 26th nationally.

"That looked real good to me," Fuqua said.

"Four or five years ago, there was no real history to Kentucky golf."

Their top player, junior John Holmes, tied for 16th place at last year's NCAA Championships and was the medalist at the U.S. Amateur, and junior Matt Kohn also played in the U.S. Am.

"I finally get to play with a group of guys who are better than me, and that should help me and make me better," he said. "The SEC might be the strongest conference in golf."

Fuqua said he has no intention of being left behind when he joins the team next summer, saying he wants to crack the five-man tournament lineup as soon as possible.

"I'm hoping to come in and do well in the first qualifying tournament," he said. "I want to play in the first tournament and every tournament from then on."

Until then, Fuqua said he plans to work on staying in shape this winter, then continue his work with Brown in the spring and summer.

"I'm already a consistent player, but I've got to be able to take it low when I need to," he said.

While Fuqua looks to go low, his high school coach said this is a high point for him and for the Danville program.

"It's a very exciting time for us," Pippen said.

"Probably the best thing about it is it sets an example of what hard work and perseverance can do. He knew from day one that was his mission."

Central Kentucky News Articles