Mason Collins at Bundoran Golf Club
Mason Collins was really into Gaelic football in his early years in Bundoran but for the last five or six years, he has concentrated on golf and as a result he is heading to the US in August on a golf scholarship.
The (almost) scratch golfer has secured a place at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, thanks to Atlantic Scholarships Ltd, a company set up by two young Sligo men Jake Dykes and Ben Spelman.
From the West End in Bundoran, Mason Collins is the eldest of a family of five and at 19, is ready to follow his dream of becoming a golf professional.
A late developer, Mason says he was 13 or 14 before he took golf seriously.
"I was big into my Gaelic football in my early days. I would have started playing golf when I was 13/14 and then the love for Gaelic football faded away.
"I was up here (Bundoran Golf Club ) most days then," he says.
Mason would have played with the likes of Oisin Walsh and Matthew Duffy, who would be part of underage county panels and Adam Gallagher, who went on to play senior for Realt na Mara.
But golf was always part of life in the Collins family. "My dad (Frank) would have been big into his golf and would have been a very good golfer at the club here. He would have brought me up maybe when I was seven or eight. I would have done a bit of chipping and putting.
"Then a member, Eamon Maguire, got me big into the game when I was 13/14. He started getting me out on the course with different boys and got my handicap and all sorted. It was then that I started taking the game a bit more seriously."
The young starlet is well grounded and has an outgoing personality and a very good temperament.
"I wouldn't say it came easy to me. But as you know yourself, when you hit that one good shot, you want to come back. It brings you back the next day and you just want to keep hitting them and hitting them."
The big change came when Mason did TY at the local Magh Ene secondary school and did his work experience at the Bundoran club.
"In TY I did work experience at the club and David (Robinson) has been good enough to kinda keep me about the club doing different bits and bobs for him."
He has availed of the great wisdom available at the club in the form of club professional David Robinson and his assistants.
"David has two assistants, brothers Adam and Matthew Dunmore from the town and they would have grown up on the course as well and they went and did their PGA training. So at the start, they were all very good to me, all giving me coaching at different points."
However, being a little late to the game, his handicap was never low enough in the early years to get him into the boys and junior competitions.
"That's probably what I missed out on most, not starting to 13 or 14. My handicap wasn't low enough to enter any of those junior events at that point. So now in the last few years, I have finally started to get into a few of them.
"It was always a dream to go to America, because I missed out on so much amateur competitions here. So I would like to compete out there to make up for that side."
But while he may have missed out, the handicap is not an issue at present as Mason has rapidly reduced it to 0.6, just one good round away from being a scratch golfer.
He gave the handicapper some work just two weekends ago when he went around the Bundoran Links in 66 strokes, his best round so far at the course.
And he did so despite bogeying two of the par 3s. "I birdied the second, the par 5, but then gave it straight back on the third which is standard enough. So I birdied the next three holes, four, five and six. I parred my way to the 13th, down the hill here and bogeyed that. Parred my way to 17 and chipped in for eagle to get to four under. And then parred the last for 66," says Mason.
His new venture in the golf world begins in just over six weeks' time. "So I'm off at the start of August this year. It will be three to four years, depending on how the visa works. I am going to a University in Iowa called Briar Cliff to study business primarily. And I might Master in a different field of business out there.
"But the plan is I'm out on a golf scholarship so I will be representing the golf team for the time I'm there. I'm delighted to get the scholarship. I tried to do it myself last year but it was difficult to have the contacts," said Mason, who was recently a part of the Darren Clarke School of Excellence.
Mason says he has been fortunate to get in touch with a new local initiative set up by two lads from Grange (Co Sligo) called Atlantic Scholarships. "They made it very easy to make contact. They did the profiling and sent your stats, your swing and they send that out to the coaches.
"I'm very happy now. I have been in contact with the coaches out there and we will be practising as a team twice a week but then you are expected to practice yourself.
"There will be 14 tournaments throughout the year, seven in the Fall season, and then we're off in the winter season with the other seven in the spring," said Mason, who said the plan is to be home for two weeks at Christmas to spend with the family and then head back again.
Mason hopes to be playing off scratch by the time he heads to the US and wants to test himself at the highest level
"I would be very happy to get to scratch. That would also have been part of the dream."
Having someone like Mason Collins in their ranks is a feather in the cap of the Bundoran club and he says it would be nice to come back and play in the major amateur competitions like the West of Ireland, etc.
As regards the future, the dream for Mason Collins is to have a career in golf, be that as a playing professional or in a coaching capacity.
"Long term, depending on the next three or four years at college, it will determine that. If the game gets very good and very sharp out there, start winning a few events for the college, I would like to go pro. But I also like the coaching aspect of it."
Mason is wished well in the future and no doubt his siblings Malachi, Mea, Mamie and Marcus along with mum Nadine and dad Frank will be fully behind him, as will the members at Bundoran Golf Club.
Mason was guided in finding the correct university by Atlantic Scholarships, co-founded by Jake Dykes and Ben Spelman. The Sligo born company is assisting young athletes like Mason complete their moves to the USA. The company's Director, Ben Spelman is a former Sligo Rovers Academy player and has himself played collegiate soccer in the USA. Ben, had this to say about Mason’s commitment “Mason was one of our first clients in 2020 and to now see him committed to Briar Cliff University is a great testament to not only his golfing abilities but also his academic background.
“Soccer is very much our biggest client base but we see ourselves as a multisport company who help athletes across multiple disciplines and levels. We knew that Mason was of a great standard through some connections that we have made throughout the years and of course from reading through his impressive resume. It gives us a great sense of pride knowing that Mason will be competing week in week out against the best amateur players in the world”.
“When you look at the collegiate golfing landscape in the USA I’m sure you’ll agree that it is the best amateur level in the world. Most mens and womens golfers at some point or another have paved their way to the professional game through college. Moving forward our aim is to educate and inform people about the possibilities across the Atlantic across a range of sports and help secure spots on rosters”.
“We are working with all NCAA, NAIA & NJCAA regulated sports. If you are interested in pursuing a scholarship to the USA or simply want to hear more information about the collegiate scene, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.atlanticscholarships.ie”.
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