On a summer afternoon in England last year, it only took 100 yards for Chris Roake to know something wasn't right.
"I got into the car and drove on the wrong side of the road for about 100 yards." he said. "I soon realized this when I saw another car coming towards me."
The Americanization of an English kid. Roake, an Augusta State sophomore golfer, is from Buckinghamshire, England. He, along with John Wells (sophomore, East Yorkshire) and Robert Duck (freshman, North Hamptonshire) make up the English triumvirate on the five-man team.
With the three Englishmen as the team's backbone, Augusta State returns to the NCAA Division I National Championships today for the first time since 1995.
"It's just a reward," Duck said. "We've had our ups and downs this season with Enrique (Penaredonda) getting cancer and stuff like that. We've given it 100 percent and now we just have to dig a little deeper and give it one more go. Hopefully we can bring back the trophy. We all know we can."
Duck's confidence -- and talent -- is what the Jaguars lacked the last couple of years as they sat home instead of making any postseason runs. He has been the surprise this year averaging 72 in 10 events with five top-10 finishes.
"He is so intelligent and so mature," Jaguars golf coach Jim Kelson said. "He's exceeded my expectations. I don't know if I've ever had a freshman average under 73."
Wells has also been steady with a 73.45 stroke average. He finished second to teammate Vaughn Taylor in a sudden-death playoff for the Cleveland Golf-Augusta State Invitational in April.
Roake had a good fall season and ended with a 74.17 average, but has struggled recently finishing as the fifth golfer in the past four tournaments. He did, however, shoot an even-par 210 in the Gator Invitational to lead the Jaguars past the University of Florida by a stroke.
"At the start of the year I was using Mizunos and just made the recent change to Ping," Roake said. "I wish I would have made it slightly sooner. But the clubs have had nothing to do with my sort of lack of good golfing recently."
Nonetheless, Roake and his fellow Englishmen are enjoying a dry heat this week in New Mexico instead of struggling with the humidity here.
"Summer in England, we'll reach probably 75 to 80 degrees. It never gets as hot as it does here and it's never as humid. I'm glad I'm going home for the summer," Wells said.
But he has a couple more weeks of school before that. Just more time Wells will share in his apartment with Roake and Duck repelling the Southern twang.
"With all three of us living together, I've kept the accent that I didn't want to lose," Roake said.
The three golfers had different reasons for coming to America but the main draw was Kelson himself.
"Jim Kelson came over to England to recruit lads for his program," Duck said. "He seemed like a great coach full of enthusiasm. He's a coach I've gotten along with. From stories I've heard, you've got to get along with your coach."
Another reason was the opportunity to play college golf.
"Sports are so popular in the college scene in America," Wells said. "In England, it's not recognized."
Neither is the flop shot, but junior Jaguar Jeff Keck fixed that.
"They've learned how to hit the flop shot more from us," he said. "I've learned from them a little bit more on the knock-down shots, the three-quarter shots."
Unlike sudden departures of promising freshman foreign players the past two years, like Craig Williams and David Park, Duck seems content in Augusta.
"It's a fantastic little town," Duck said. "It's relaxed and full of people who are interested in what you are doing. Everybody plays golf. It's a very friendly city with a great atmosphere. I love it, I really do."
And in Augusta, Chris Roake is always on the right side of the road.
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