SE: Jaffrey, Gandon Benefit From World Amateur Team Championships

Connie Jaffrey said the feeling is difficult to explain. Jeremy Gandon described it as a dream come true. 

Both Jaffrey, a junior for the K-State women’s golf team, and Gandon, a sophomore for the men’s squad, represented their respective countries — Scotland and France — in the World Amateur Team Championships in September. 

“That was a great experience to represent my home country,” Gandon said of the event in Riviera Maya, Mexico, where three male and three female amateur golfers represented their country. “It means a lot. That’s like a dream. It’s why I play golf.”

“It’s hard to explain until you do it, but it does feel like you have some importance, and it’s an honor,” Jaffrey added of the WATC, which takes place every two years. “You’re one of three from your whole country going to compete in a prestigious event, so it’s a big thing.”

To an extent, Gandon and Jaffrey were both surprised by their selections. 

Gandon wasn’t selected for the European Amateur Team Championships in early July. However, his play throughout the summer, which included qualifying for the French Open, increased his national ranking enough to make the World Amateur team. 

“I didn’t expect it at the beginning of the summer,” he said, “but since I played really well this summer, I earned my spot.”

Jaffrey was selected to the team her freshman year but the schedule conflicted too much with school, K-State’s season and a key period to adjust to everything else that comes with moving to a new country. 

“We were pretty confident she would get an invited as a junior,” said K-State head women’s coach Kristi Knight. “We’re just glad it worked out.”

For it to work out, Jaffrey also had to play her way in over the summer. She had strong showings in the European Ladies Team Championships in Iceland, the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship and the Scottish Women’s Amateur Championship to help boost her national ranking. 

“For a while last spring she was on the outside looking in,” Knight said. “I think it motivated her to really play strong this summer, gave her a real purpose, not that she didn’t have one, but I think it really focused her and got her in the right mindset.”

When Jaffrey did receive the news, via an email, she was filled with excitement. 

“I had a smile on my face all day,” she said, also appreciative of the widespread support from K-State to keep her on track academically and from her team to play its season opening tournament without her. “The athletic department has everything covered for people who want to achieve other things as well as being successful at K-State.” 

Ultimately, the Wildcats’ results may not have been exactly what they wanted, but the experience still proved valuable. 

Gandon finished in a tie for 62nd individually with a four-day, 72-hole total of 4-over par (290). 

“It’s kind of stressful,” said Gandon, who finished in a tie for third in the Wildcats’ first tournament of the season. “We’re used to playing for a university here. When you play for your country, it’s very intense. I didn’t play very well. My game was good, I just wasn’t able to score, but I’ll be ready next time. I hope I will play in it again.”

Gandon, who made the All-Big 12 Tournament team as a freshman, flashed his potential in the first round of the WATC. He opened with a 3-under 69 and he closed with an even-par 71, but his middle two rounds kept him from his desired finish. He scored in two of the four days for France, which finished 16th in the team format that took each country’s best two individual scores from the day. 

“It’s huge, just from how far he’s come,” K-State head men’s coach Grant Robbins said of Gandon playing in the WATC. “He wasn’t on the French national team as a junior (amateur), and then after one year of college he’s one of the top three amateur players in all of France. That says something about how hard he’s worked and how much he’s improved over the last year.”

Gandon said the experience only reaffirmed his dream to become a professional golfer. 

“I just realized I really want to do that every week,” he said. “I learned a lot. I got a lot of experience, so I’m pretty confident in my game. I’ve seen the highest level I can see.”

Jaffrey tied for 107th at 24-over (312), highlighted by her even-par third round. Scotland tied for 27th out of more than 50 countries, which Jaffrey said was “a big improvement” from years past.

“It was a great honor to come and compete against a whole world of golfers,” she said of the event, which certainly brought nerves to the young golfers. “Knowing that you’re one of the few who get this opportunity is pretty nerve-wracking. You get butterflies in your stomach.”

Jaffrey returned to help assist K-State secure its team title at the Chip-N Club Invitational in Lincoln, Nebraska, last week. She finished 13th individually despite not having any practice rounds, a sign, Knight said, of what the WATC did for her game.

“She stepped right in, played three competitive rounds on a course she’d essentially never seen and did fine. I think for her it really got her some confidence back,” Knight said. “It was just a cool experience for her. Anytime you get to do an event like that, you can’t help but be a little proud of yourself.”