Lacombe's Brady McKinlay to signs on to play golf with Utah Valley University

Lacombe golfer Brady McKinlay tees off during the championship match of the Lacombe Men's Open golf tournament at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club on Sunday, July 7, 2019. McKinlay won the Men's Open in his first year playing in the tournament, following a third place finish at the Alberta Junior Championships in High River. Ashli Barrett / jpg, LG

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Brady McKinlay is taking his golf career to a new post-secondary school as he’s signed with the Utah Valley University (UVU) Wolverines.

Having formerly attended York College in York, Nebraska, it was announced Thursday he will be making the switch from a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II school to a more competitive NCAA Division I affiliated school, a move McKinlay says is entirely about challenging himself.

“I kind of rushed into the Nebraska school. I didn’t know what I was in for as far as college golf in the States,” he said. “It’s not that the school wasn’t good, but the competition wasn’t where I wanted it to be, so I didn’t want to waste my eligibility when I could be somewhere I was more challenged.”

The Lacombe native who grew up playing on the Lacombe Golf and Country Club course is no stranger to playing at a high level. In recent past, he finished second at the 2019 Canadian Junior Amateur, and tied for sixth at the same event in 2018. He was third at the Alberta Junior Championship in July and has represented Canada overseas at the Euro Junior Cup and Maple Leaf Junior Tournament Nordic Junior team matches, not to mention claiming the Lacombe Men’s Open title this summer in his first year of eligibility.

His original goal was to study and play at York College following his graduation from Lacombe Composite High School in 2018, but came home after his first semester.

He says it was a build up of a number of little things that lead to his decision, but one of the contributing factors was winning his very first college tournament, the National Christian College Athletics Association (NCCAA) Central Regional Championship, while the school team lagged behind.

“In my first college tournament, the NCCAA regional, I ended up winning the tournament playoff, but the team finished almost dead last. Although golf’s an individual sport, the team aspect of college golf is what makes it cool and that’s what I was looking forward to. It kind of sucked because I was on my own,” he said. “I don’t want to feel like I’m capping myself or going somewhere where it’s easy. I want to work for it.”

While he returned to Lacombe, his desire to advance his golf game didn’t change, and through his coach, Scott Stiles, he was put in touch with recruiter Jonnie Motomochi from Morgan Creek Golf Course who helped him navigate the world of U.S. collegiate sports, which can be tough for international students.

While Canada has a decent pool of high-quality golfers, with the large pool in the U.S., McKinlay said a lot of U.S. coaches “don’t bat an eye” or look seriously at recruiting Canadians. However, Motomochi knew Chris Curran, Utah Valley University’s men’s golf coach, and a few phone calls, emails and a visit to the school, and McKinlay decided the school would provide him with the challenge he was looking for.

“Going to this new school, there’s a couple of other Canadians as well, but I’ve got a whole team of guys that are going to be way more competitive,” he said.

“It’s everybody’s dream is to make it to the PGA tour, but that’s really tough – there’s a lot of work that goes into it. Ultimately it’s where I’d like to be but right now I just want to get to the school and try and do my best there….No matter what I want to give pro golf a chance. Whether I make it or not is a different story.”

He will begin in the fall of 2020, and hopes to head to the U.S. to start training early and set himself up for success in tournaments early next season.

“Brady comes to us with lots of big-time tournament experience,” said Curran. “I fully expect him to make an immediate impact on our team.”