Evan Yue has been a member of the Goucher golf team since its inaugural season in 2017. During the team’s first three years together, they won three Conference Championship titles, and went to Nationals twice. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the team during their third year, and the Goucher campus shut down. Yue, along with all the other students, went back home. He spent the next year and a half learning remotely, completing his bachelor’s degree from Beijing, China.
Last year, Matt Shur, the head golf coach, reached back out to Yue, who had continued golfing in China. The coach wanted to know if Yue was interested in the graduate assistant position, a two-year job where Yue would earn a graduate degree in coaching, while working as an assistant coach for his alma mater. Yue then found out that he still had three seasons (each lasting one semester, equaling a year and a half) of eligibility left. For Yue, the long-term goal was – and still is to play professionally. He took the opportunity to further his education at a higher level as a way to continue to play, and is back at Goucher again, leading the golf team to continued victory.
Yue is far from the only international athlete at Goucher. Six out of the thirty-one athletes listed on the men’s soccer team roster are international players, including Ale Sternini, the stand-out Italian goalie who helped lead his team to ECACs in November. The tennis team has three listed international athletes, equestrian has two, and even men’s lacrosse and swim have at least one. But the men’s golf team has by far the highest ratio of international-to-domestic athletes, with half their team being from outside the United States.
For the golf team, that’s nothing new. “During [the program’s] first year, we only had six people on the team, but four were international. The second year, we brought in another kid from … [Costa Rica]. So it’s been that way,” Yue explained. Recruiting international athletes is “something the coaches have been trying to do… I graduated from a golf academy in Florida. When coaches look into recruits, they try to talk to academies, and a majority of time it’s somebody from somewhere else. Next year, we have five or six men [on the team] but two are international.”
So international golf players have been a major part of the team since the team started. But for other sports, this trend is somewhat newer. Andrea Ricketts-Preston, the Senior Associate Director of Athletics here at Goucher, spoke about the new trends of recruitment of international athletes.
“Part of Goucher’s strategic [and master] plan is to increase the international student population on campus and athletics,” she told me. Put another way, a push for international athletes is part of the college’s long-term goals. Ricketts-Preston explained that “the meetings and community conversations that [she has] been a part of have all had one common theme and goal, that Goucher is committed to providing a Global Education to students. The administration feels strongly that our Towson campus can contribute to that by increasing international student enrollment. They have worked very hard to be intentional with their recruiting and creating exchange programs as well.”
How does this translate into the athletics department? “Several of our coaches have great relationships with international agencies and I think our coaches are doing a great job of identifying students that are a great fit for Goucher and for our teams.” Ricketts-Preston said. She predicts that the incoming freshman class this fall will have a strong group of international student-athletes.
For Yue, this new drive in recruitment doesn’t change golf’s strategy. The golf team competed in the Conference Championship tournament last week and their results weren’t what they were hoping for – the program has a strong base in success, so going home with anything less than a trophy is disappointing.
“We gave it a good fight,” Yue recalled, but the poor weather conditions on the course made peak performance difficult to achieve. Despite the dreary conditions and disappointing results, the team kept a good attitude. “That’s our team culture,” Yue said. “We have rules about behavior and attitudes on the course. At the end of the day, the score isn’t our identity.”
Yue was relatively relaxed throughout our conversation, but when he started talking about his team culture, he became very serious. “We’re gentlemen representing Goucher out there, and if you do the right thing, the score will be there eventually.” This attitude isn’t just something Yue believes, either. It’s not one leader’s high standards; it’s something deeply ingrained across the program. “No matter where you’re from, if you’re on this team, you have to live up to the attitude of this team.”
We live in a time in which the world is more connected than ever before. At the end of the day, all of us came to Goucher for a reason. Many students here are local, some chose to come here from another country, or even another continent. Yue, who has lived in the United States for seven years, plans on spending his summer helping his coach try to clean up the golf facilities here on campus. Next year, he will play his last two seasons on the golf team, before graduating in December of 2024. After that, if all goes well, he’ll go pro. Or, he might stay back to help his coach a little bit.
“We just want to make the program better,” he said. Better is relative – in its six years, the golf team has seen consistent success. But for Yue, there’s nothing to do but keep going up.
Correction: Yue confirmed the athlete he mentioned in the fourth paragraph from Venezuela is actually from Costa Rica.