Pope-Ferguson to golf for D1 college

By Joel Charron

Tyler Pope-Ferguson has been swinging a golf club since he was three-year old and now he’s going to have an opportunity to swing for a Division I college.

Pope-Ferguson has recently signed a letter of intent to Illinois State University.

“This is something that has been in the works for a while now,” said the 17-year-old Villanova student.

According to Pope-Ferguson, for the past year he’s been sending out packages to different universities in hope of snagging a scholarship. He was also looking at Mercy University, Bowling Green University and Miami Ohio, but ultimately decided on Illinois State.

“Out of everywhere we visited, Illinois State had the best facilities,” said Pope-Ferguson. “Also, all the help you get academically is going to be very helpful. They look really determined to help.”

Tyler Pope-Ferguson will be golfing at Northern Illinois University on a golf scholarship next year.

Pope-Ferguson noted that the Illinois State athletes hold a 3.0 grade point average.

“That’s pretty good,” he said.

Pope-Ferguson was named Villanova’s athlete of the year in 2010. The Amherstburg  native recorded first place finishes at the 2011 WECSSAA Conference Championship, the 2010 and 2011 Ontario Junior Championship Regional Golf Qualifier, the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Canadian Optimist Regional Qualifier and the 2011 Roseland Invitational. A finalist in the 2010 Michigan State Junior Championship, he finished second following a playoff. Pope-Ferguson has also posted the lowest round score in Jameson Golf Tour history, by shooting a 66.

It won’t take long for Pope-Ferguson to make an impact with the Illinois State Redbirds, according to the Redbirds website, men’s head gold coach Ray Kralis said their newly acquired students will have an opportunity to play right away.

“Pope-Ferguson is a proven winner on the golf course, someone who has been able to post low numbers in tough conditions,” said Kralis. “As someone with a hockey background, he understands toughness and how to be a scorer. You like that kind of makeup in a competitor, so I’m real excited to have Tyler aboard.”

Pope-Ferguson added he’s excited to have the opportunity to play right away.

“I can’t wait to start playing,” he said. “I’m going to work my tail off and see where it takes me.”

Pope-Ferguson is the first Canadian to play for the Redbirds since 2000 graduate Stuart Anderson, who plays on the Canadian Professional Gold Tour. Pope-Ferguson has spent time caddying for Anderson.

With accepting the scholarship, Pope-Ferguson knows the door will be shutting on another passion of his, hockey.

“I have mixed emotions about it,” he explained. “I love hockey but I know I’m not going anywhere with it. You have to do what you have to do.”

Pope-Ferguson said his goal is to help the Redbirds break into the top 70 and earn a berth in the NCAA Golf Tournament.

“They are ranked just over 100 right now,” he said. “The coach thinks we can get into the top 70, so that’s the goal for the year.”

Pope-Ferguson will be heading to Illinois State in August.

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