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Balancing act

Dunlap's scores low on course, high in classroom

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 22:02

Dunlap photo 1

Tanner Garza -- THE BATTALION


Regarding the balance between athletics and academics, the popular verdict is that many collegiate athletes are incapable of handling the rigors of high-caliber academics imparted at tier-one universities.

That’s why sophomore business administration honors student Ty Dunlap stood out against a majority of the country’s collegiate talent — dropping birdies for the Texas A&M golf team last postseason while maintaining top-notch grades.

“He’s just an all-around athlete, but he’s still a great student,” said A&M head golf coach J.T. Higgins. “He was our ‘low-man’ at every tournament in the postseason. He was our best player at the conference tournament and nationals.”

While Dunlap’s balancing act between golf and honors academics may seem routine now, the sophomore braved rough stretches at Mays Business School last year as a freshman.

Entering the golf program in the fall of 2011, Dunlap immediately matched stride with heavyweights on the team, taking up a contributing role early and holding it. The quick assimilation to his sport, however, came at a price in the classroom during his freshman year.

“I think it was pretty tough for him last year as a freshman when it came to balancing academics with golf,” Higgins said. “He had a lot of demands on him — he played in every tournament. He missed a lot of school and he had to learn the skills to balance both of those things.”

With the golf team traversing the country during the course of each semester —from the Florida coasts to the shores of Hawai’i — Dunlap’s time focusing on schoolwork was limited to short spans between tournaments.

Instead of falling into the stereotypical college athlete mold, he  worked with coaches, academic advisers and professors to develop a routine to assist him in equalizing his on-the-course golf skills and academic pursuits.

“I just want to excel at both — academics and golf,” Dunlap said. “I don’t want to be the kid that’s a good student and just a so-so golfer, or vice versa. I try to work hard at both. I go to class when I’m in town, but, otherwise, I’m out here on the course. As long as you let the teachers know that you take school seriously, they’re more than willing to work with you.”

The new regime paid off, resulting in Dunlap maintaining the required 3.5 business honors GPA while also playing the best golf of his collegiate career. During the three-tournament 2012 postseason stretch, the sophomore proceeded to lead the Aggies to their first conference title in a quarter century, draining a crucial two-foot putt to seal the victory.

Rooted behind Dunlap’s ability to balance his academic and athletic prowess has been the evolution of his independence and self-regulation. According to principles expressed by Eric Newman, a business honors academic adviser, this development has led to the sophomore fitting in well with the demanding program.

“A majority of our [business honors] students don’t need a ton of guidance, especially the athletes,” Newman said. “They’re trained early on that they need to get out in front of things and work with them early. Ty is a great kid and he works hard. He does what he needs to do in the classroom.”

Ranked No. 25 by Golfweek, Texas A&M will challenge Southeastern Conference powers in its first SEC tournament, starting in April. Dunlap looks to drive the Aggies to their second consecutive league title, hoping to “leave the program better than where he found it” — his favorite coach Higgins saying.

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