Hayley McNeill attended Charlestown Southern University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
Why did you choose to pursue the US College pathway over other potential pathway options?
Having the opportunity to live in another country whilst playing golf and getting a university degree – it was an easy decision for me. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do if I stayed in Australia – either going to university or pursuing a career in golf, so to have the opportunity to do both was incredible.
How were you recruited (Contacted directly by US Coaches, did my own recruiting, utilised a Recruitment Agency)?
I used a private recruiter who made the entire process so easy. I wouldn’t have known where to begin so having her took the stress out of it and made sure I covered everything. She helped me create a resume, videos, talk to college coaches, and also all of the admin work that came with applying for a visa. It was a bit pricey but totally worth it.
What were your greatest memories of being a Student/Athlete at US College?
The whole experience was just incredible. I lived in a beautiful city – Charleston, South Carolina, which is so unique and has such a rich history. We were also lucky to play some of the best golf courses – we would play at different courses out at Kiawah Island every week, the Ocean Course was definitely my favourite. Winning a tournament in Las Vegas was a great memory as well.
I think the entire student-athlete experience is something special. You form such incredible relationships with people – your teammates, coach, strength coach, athletic trainer, classmates. We had a very diverse team, over the four years I was there I had teammates from the US, Sweden, Spain, Japan, Thailand, Canada, South Africa and Ecuador. We formed such great friendships and learn so much about different people and cultures.
What were some of the challenges you faced during your time at US College? How did you overcome these challenges?
I’ve always been a pretty independent person, so the concept of living so far away from family and friends wasn’t really a big deal for me, although there were some times when it was really hard. You form this really special bond with your international teammates as you’re all kind of in the same boat – living in a foreign country away from your family, so we were always there for each other. My coach was Australian so we had a great relationship.
I think the most important thing was to prioritise my own physical and mental health. It’s so important to look after yourself as you can so easily get run down and it can be quite overwhelming at times – trying to perform your best, fulfilling your team commitments (practice, workouts, physio, team sessions), keeping on top of your classwork, and having a social life. Looking after yourself and your own well-being helps you show up and be a better teammate also.
How did US College prepare you for your career?
The whole college experience helps in numerous ways. Maturing as a person is a major part of it all. Travelling to golf The US College experience would have prepared me for my career no matter what role or industry I ended up working in. Moving to the other side of the world as an 18-year-old makes you mature and grow up very quickly. You develop people skills, and the relationships you make prepares you for dealing with a wide range of people in your professional working career.
What advice/tips/recommendations would you provide to anybody considering going to US College?
Do as much research as you can and figure out what it is most that you want to get out of the whole experience. There are so many different things to consider when choosing a university – coaching staff, practice facilities, weather, degrees offered – the list goes on. You should also talk to as many coaches as you can – the relationship you have with your coach is such an important one, and you really need to gel with them to ensure you both get what you’re after.
It’s important to understand that you’re going to be away from a technical coach for quite some time, so be prepared for that and learn to be independent without your coach. Learn as many drills and movements that you can so you always have something to fall back on when something isn’t quite right with your swing. College coaches don’t emphasise the technical side of your swing, but they are great in helping you play and win tournaments.
I think that if you’re even considering going down the US College pathway, you have to do it. You’re never going to get the opportunity again and at the end of the day, if you really don’t like it, you can always come home!
What (if any) are the common traps/pitfalls/mistakes people make in the recruitment process or when selecting to pursue the US College Pathway as their desired option?
I think it’s really important to choose the university that’s right for you. Whilst everyone wants to go to one of the top ranked schools, you also want to go somewhere where you’re going to be making the team to play each week – that’s what you’re going over there to do. Choose a school where you’re going to make the line-up but also where there’s room for you to grow and get better.