DURHAM, N.C. - Augusta State's top golfer won't be leaving school early for a shot at the pros. Just the opposite is going to happen.
Jamie Elson, a junior from Warwickshire, England, confirmed Saturday at the NCAA Championships that he will be redshirted next season, making his senior year on the golf team the 2002-2003 campaign.
"It was my idea," said Elson. "Me and coach (Jay Seawell) had a lengthy discussion about it last fall. We think it's the best option."
Elson led Augusta to a seventh-place finish in the NCAAs, which concluded Saturday at Duke Golf Club. It is the highest finish in six trips to the national tournament for the Jaguars.
Though Elson finished tied for second place individually and shot a course-record tying 7-under-par 65 in the second round, he believes he must improve to be a successful pro golfer one day.
Specifically, Elson, who is the youngest player on the traveling team at age 20, wants to strengthen his 6-foot, 150-pound frame.
"I need to do that, definitely," said Elson, whose birthday was May 23. "I need to hit it farther. I don't hit it as far as some of the guys out there. To be successful as a professional, I'm going to have to hit it a little farther. Getting stronger, I think is going to make that extra little bit of difference. I need to improve my game, not only to get on the PGA Tour, but be successful."
That's saying something, because Elson is ranked 19th in the latest MasterCard individual rankings and is a second-team All-America selection after breaking his own single-season scoring record this year. Elson was a third-team All-American last year, the first Jaguar to make an All-America team.
"Jamie is one of the top 10 to 15 players in the entire country," Seawell said. "We're going to miss him next season, that's for sure."
By redshirting next season, it will give Elson a shot of making two Walker Cup teams on the Great Britain/Ireland side. The biennial matches will be played this summer and again in 2003. He already has been selected to play for his homeland in the Palmer Cup matches June 26-27 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.
Because Augusta State doesn't start its fall season until September each year, Saturday's round was Elson's last one as a Jaguar for nearly 15 months.
"I don't like to think about that too much," Elson said. "After I holed out on the last hole, I was quite emotional for a while.
"I'm still going to be part of the team next year," Elson said. "I'm sure after all my hard work next year, I'll be that much better for the team in my senior year."
Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.
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