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Brains and Brun

WINDERMERE, FLORIDA | Another col¬lege golf season is well underway, and so, too, is the race for any one of the myriad college player of the year awards that populate the American game. The depth of individual talent continues to be mind-bending, and not all of it is home grown. Such as in the heart of Texas, where a Frenchman is quickly making a name for himself at Texas Christian University.
Julien Brun, a sophomore at TCU, burst onto the college scene a year ago and had a remarkable freshman year. He won the first college tournament he entered after arriving on American soil, shooting 8-under par last fall at the Turning Stone Intercollegiate. He would post two more wins and eight top-five finishes in the 2011-12 campaign on his way to finishing fifth in national scoring average (70.51). For his efforts, he was named a First Team Ping All-American.
In just one year, Brun became one of the all-time greats to play for TCU, shat¬tering nearly every individual record of significance. As if to prove that his fresh¬man year wasn’t a fluke, Brun duplicated the trick of winning the first time out this fall. He took the Carmel Cup, a combina-tion medal-match play event at Pebble Beach and Bayonet Golf Club in Septem¬ber. This was his fourth win in just 14 col¬lege events, but it pales in comparison to what he did later this fall on the pro circuit in his homeland.
Brun shocked the European pro game when he became only the sixth amateur to win a European Challenge Tour event, claiming the Allianz Golf Open Toulouse Metropole. The Challenge Tour is the second-tier professional tour in Europe that is the equivalent of the United States’ Web.com Tour. Brun posted three con¬secutive rounds of 67, and then held off a challenge from Italy’s Matteo Delpodio to win by a shot at 13-under par.
It was a very mature performance by the 20-year-old Brun, despite never feel¬ing completely confident about winning until the final putt fell. And it means he is eligible to play the Challenge Tour in 2013, thus creating an attractive option for the young Frenchman. But he has to turn pro to exercise it.
Brun hails from Antibes, France, which is much closer to Monaco than it is to Paris. He was a standout on the European amateur scene, winning the European Na¬tions Tournament in Spain in 2011. He ar¬rived in America ranked 37th in the world, but today finds himself ranked No. 6 after a T4 finish at the World Amateur Team Championship this month in Turkey.
A very good student, Brun speaks Eng¬lish well, with a French accent that TCU coeds are likely find enchanting. He was recruited to TCU by Coach Bill Montigel, a 25-year veteran who has had success in recent years recruiting on the global fairways. His current roster reads like a United Nations roll call, with France, Swe¬den, Canada and Brazil all represented. There is good reason for this.
TCU is a small private school with a high-end tuition ticket and high-end admissions and performance standards. It doesn’t offer the kind of practice facili¬ties that have become almost mandatory in today’s college game, and it doesn’t have an on-campus golf course. The school is located in the heart of a college golf hotbed, but Texas is a crowded one; TCU is surrounded by at least four big-time Division I programs, and that doesn’t include the ones just across the Red River in Oklahoma.
Montigel’s answer to these challenges is to recruit internationally. But his re¬cruits have to speak English, they have to be able to compete academically, and they have to fit in his style of coaching. Coaches tend to speak in platitudes about their players. But never have I heard a coach speak as passionately about a player as Montigel does about Brun.
“He has great commitment to improv¬ing. He has a great work ethic. He is a tremendous kid,” he said.
You can tell by the look in Montigel’s eye that he knows he has a special player in Brun.
France has been working hard to claim a spot in the global game. Recently, it was awarded the 2018 Ryder Cup, golf’s big¬gest show. Brun is a product of the French Golf Federation’s development efforts, a program that is relatively new. The fact that there are five Frenchmen playing in the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational this week suggests that the French are on the right track in developing golfers for the global game.
Brun’s first golf hero was Tiger Woods; French kids today may soon look up to Brun and his fellow TCU teammate, fresh¬man Paul Barjon, also from France.
Brun is one to keep an eye on. But don’t look for him to turn pro anytime soon, despite the attractiveness of that Challenge Tour spot. He told me he came to America to get a college degree and to grow as a golfer; despite the whispering in his ear about dollars and euros by agents far and wide, Brun intends to do both.
How refreshing in American college sport.


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