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Irish golfer Gareth Lappin has developed his game and his character at MSU

April 22, 2016
<p>MSU junior golfer Gareth Lappin swings a golf club at Forest Akers. Photo courtesy Matt Mitchell/MSU Athletics</p>

MSU junior golfer Gareth Lappin swings a golf club at Forest Akers. Photo courtesy Matt Mitchell/MSU Athletics

MSU junior golfer Gareth Lappin has been playing the sport of golf ever since his parents bought him a set of starter clubs for his birthday when he was six or seven years old.

Soon after this, Lappin, born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, couldn’t get enough of the game. By the time he was 10, Lappin said his parents would drop him off at the local golf club nearly every day in the summer and he would spend the whole day there.

“Gareth seemed to take to the game from an early age and was always keen to be out (practicing), needed very little encouragement,” Gareth’s father Adrian Lappin said via email. “He became a member of a local golf club at the age of 12 and was given a 32 handicap. After this I took him to a PGA coach who spotted potential and we later moved to his current club, Belvoir Park in Belfast, here his handicap plummeted down to single figures within two to three years.”

Gareth Lappin’s golf game would only get better from there. By 2012, he won the Irish Boys Amateur Championship by eight strokes. It was then the Lappin family knew Gareth had a future in the sport, as many colleges soon began recruiting him, MSU being among them.

Gareth said his college decision came down to what he’d heard from other Europeans who had gone to America to play college golf. 

They told him, because of all the resources a school like MSU has to offer, “If you’ve got a chance to play at a Big Ten school, you’ve got to take it.”

That sold him. Gareth started school at MSU in the spring semester of 2014. However, the decision was still, in large part, a leap of faith.

“The way I always say it is Michigan State chose me, because I did not know really anything about the school,” Gareth said. “I’d never come for a visit. I’d never met the coach. So I really was, I came in blind. I had only been in America one time previously. I played in a tournament when I was a junior in Florida when I was like 16, so that was the really the only experience I had of the states.”

When Gareth first arrived at MSU — from the very moment two teammates he’d never met picked him up at the airport — he said it was a bit of a culture shock at first.

For starters, because of some Visa issues, he arrived in East Lansing a week late into the semester and was already behind in some classes. In addition to this, he had no idea how to get around campus and he’d arrived in East Lansing in one of the coldest winters in recent memory.

“Why did I come here to play golf?” Gareth thought to himself.

As he navigated his new life at MSU, he said he leaned on a lot of support from his parents.

“The first two or three weeks were tough for him,” Adrian said. “It took a while for him to settle in. The academic side of life in Michigan was totally different to what he was used to at home. I spoke to him on the telephone and tried to keep his spirits up.”

Gareth eventually figured things out. And it was the team, Gareth said, that ultimately helped him adjust to everything.

“Teammates and coaches were really welcoming and stuff and everyone was excited to get to know new people and learn more about my culture and stuff,” Gareth said. “So that was good, because I could come to practice and I would know people here and it’s like family.”

MSU assistant golf coach Dan Ellis, a former player at MSU who spent some time recruiting Gareth while serving as an assistant at Coastal Carolina three years ago, met back up with Gareth when he took an assistant coaching job with MSU in the spring of 2014. He said having Gareth around the team has been awesome.

“He’s one of the guys here now,” Ellis said. “One of the cool things about college golf is you bring together all these best players off high school teams and all that from the Midwest ... and then you throw in a couple pieces like Gareth where the team gets to see a totally different culture, and it certainly didn’t take him long to fit right in and be a part of this culture at Michigan State.”

From a competitive standpoint, Gareth said he believes his game has improved a lot in his three years at MSU, as he has become one of the most integral parts of the team. He played in every match in the 2014-15 season and posted a 74.22 average, good enough for the third lowest average on the team. And again this year, he's been one of the team's most consistent players.

Beyond just golf, Gareth said he he loves how much he’s grown as a person in his time at MSU. But his favorite part has been being part of a team, one who has come a long way since the day he arrived.

“Whenever I got here, the team was struggling a bit,” Gareth said. “We were right down in the rankings and then, kind of the same group of guys, just like four of us who have been through everything together … we’ve played pretty much every tournament together and we were terrible about two years ago but now we’re slowly getting better … and now I’d say the team is the best it’s been in probably in like eight or nine years."

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