by Sean Begin
Sarah Boden was just 13 when the idea that she could come to America to pursue both of her loves first took root in the back of her mind.
Boden, now a junior at Central Connecticut, had been golfing for two years at that point – having asked for a set of golf clubs on her Christmas list when she was 11 – when she found out that a girl from her school and club, Danielle McVeigh, was heading to Texas A&M University on a scholarship.
“She was a fantastic golfer. I looked up to her,” said Boden. “And I thought, oh is this an option, to go to America on a golf scholarship. That was the first I even knew that that existed. And that was my goal in the back of my mind, work towards it.”
Four years later Boden was sending out copies of her golf resume and swing video to potential schools in America. While she wanted to continue playing golf, Boden’s other love of academics weighed just as heavily in her decision.
“I’m mature to the fact that you can’t just scrap academics and go for your sport,” said Boden. “You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I always really worked for academics.”
For Boden, Central Connecticut offered her everything she sought in a college. She could work towards the mechanical engineering degree she wanted while continuing to play the sport she loved. The road to New Britain wasn’t a simple one, though.
Boden’s father introduced her to golf. According to Boden, he picked up the sport when he was around 20 years old after giving up Gaelic football. “My dad, obviously, didn’t really have any expectations. When you’re a kid if the ball goes in the air, it’s like ‘whooo,’ [that’s great],’ said Boden.
But she took to the sport naturally, the only girl at her home club in Kilkeel, playing and practicing with the boys and spending day after day on the links.
“My mom used to drop me off at the golf club at 10 a.m. and she’d pick me up at 10 p.m. I would love it. I would not even think of the time,” Boden recalls. “My dad, I think he noticed that I was picking it up.”
Eventually, Boden was paired with Kevan Whitson, the golf professional at Royal County Down, one of the most prestigious clubs not only in Ireland but the world. Rory McIlroy, the top rated golfer in the world, has called Royal County Down his favorite course.
“He’s a really good professional,” said Boden of Whitson. “I started getting into competitions and he told me what competitions to enter.”
Entering those tournaments got her noticed and landed her on the under-15 team for her province of Ulster – one of four in Ireland – that won an All-Ireland title.
During this time, Boden talked to several players that had been recruited to play golf in America. Most of them were involved in programs or with recruiting agencies that made the process easier. But Boden didn’t have that luxury.
“I had no idea how to do anything like that. I was all on my own,” she said.
Her success and experience on both the provincial and national level, though, along with that long-term goal of attending school in America, led Boden to the internet.
“I Googled ‘college golf resumes’ and this site called ‘college golf resumes’ came up,” she said. “So I filled it out and I don’t know if that’s how Coach [Carly Ludwig] found me but I did get a lot of feedback after that from a lot of different coaches.”
Eventually, Ludwig did make contact with Boden and the two began exchanging emails, eventually talking face-to-face through Skype.
“I found out she was really cool, she’s young, they’re in Connecticut, which is great. I wanted to go the East Coast,” said Boden. “It’s a lot more comforting when you can just get one direct flight home. Like if anything was to happen, I wanted to not be too far away.”
Central Connecticut also offered Boden’s desired mechanical engineering major, a huge selling point that a lot of other school’s couldn’t offer her. She had found a place in Central that gave her everything she wanted.
“I got into a very good university at home and I turned it down to come here,” she said. “At home we don’t have the big athletics department that they do here. America… is the only place I can go to play golf and study. I can’t play competitively and study and practice and get training and coaching at home. It would all be on myself.”
Boden joined a team in 2012 and found success quickly. She was third on the team in scoring and played in all 20 rounds the team competed in her freshman year. Last season, as a sophomore on a team with three seniors and a junior, Boden was named captain.
“I think the girls, they had no problem with it that I know. But we were a very close team,” said Boden of last year’s squad. “We were all really good friends. From day one they respected my word. There was never any bother with it all.”
The girl’s on the team Boden joined made her transition from Ireland to Connecticut easier. It also helped that she found someone on campus who came from Ireland, too: current junior women’s soccer player Claire Walsh.
“She’s one of my best friends,,” said Boden. “So I already had one person to go and talk to and we’d let it all out with each other.”
Boden can now offer that some level of comfort to Tara Whelan, one of the two freshman who joined the team this year. Whelan is from Clonlara, Ireland. The two had met previously when the played a round together at the Irish Girls the summer before Boden came to New Britain.
“I’m glad [Tara] has me here as well to make it a little bit more comfortable,” said Boden. “It’s pretty daunting coming in and the culture is completely different to what you grew up with. It’s nice to have someone to bounce small things off and laugh and giggle.”
The independence Boden was raised to have, along with her focus to succeed have made coming to Connecticut easier for Boden, and made the role of captain a natural fit for her.
“I have a crazy need to fix and help everybody,” she said. “I really love to encourage. I genuinely get just as excited when one of my teammates plays well as when I play well. I love it. I love to motivate people and encourage people.”
As a junior, Boden is now the oldest player on the women’s golf team, with two sophomores and two freshman under her that she can help encourage and guide, something that hasn’t changed from last year.
“I don’t know if it’s any different really [from last year to this year],” said Boden. “Because I’m still enforcing encouragement and still trying to bring people up when they’re down.”
Boden has taken to the role so well that she potentially sees coaching in her future. For now, though, she’s concentrating on school, on improving her game and on helping her teammates succeed.