One of Kingston’s up-and-coming junior golfers is taking his game south of the border.
Ashton McCulloch, 18, has signed with the Michigan State Spartans and will join the NCAA Division 1 team next summer.
The Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School student could have gone to a southern U.S. school to escape the northern winters, but he said in an interview that Michigan State was the perfect fit for him.
“Michigan State has a large budget due to their football team and basketball team being so good — it brings in so much money to the program — that we travel south often and the indoor facility is unreal,” McCulloch said on Wednesday after spending a week training with the Canadian junior golf team in Victoria, B.C.
“I started talking to schools about two years ago after some good results in some big tournaments.”
McCulloch went on his five NCAA official visits, where the costs were picked up by the schools. He also checked out the University of Florida, Brigham Young University, Cal State-Fullerton and the University of Arizona before deciding on Michigan State.
“It just felt like home at Michigan State. It was a place I wanted to be,” he said. “The coaches treated me like a priority on the team, that I can come in and play right away and make a big difference.”
He said he also felt good vibes from players on the golf team and other students at Michigan. He also saw a lot of similarities between the city of East Lansing, Mich., and Kingston.
“It’s not a smaller city, but it has a good mix of rural and city, so it just seemed like a great place to live, and the education there is very good,” he said.
McCulloch will be studying applied engineering, a mix of business and engineering, and he’ll be able to earn a dual degree.
Despite the pandemic cancelling some junior tournaments, McCulloch still had a solid golf season.
He finished first in British Columbia’s Future Links Fall Series in late September, after earlier that month losing in the final match at the Kingston City Men’s Golf Championship to Jamaal Moussaoui. McCulloch was the defending champion.
McCulloch’s game looks effortless at times, with long drives usually landing in the middle of the fairway, accurate approach shots followed by numerous birdie opportunities on the green.
He attributes his success at golf to lots of practice and preparation.
“That’s my game. I do make it look easier just keeping the ball in play, hitting greens and making the putts I should.”
Over the summer, he finished sixth at the Golf Ontario Junior U19 Championship at the Saugeen Golf Club in July and placed fourth at the Ontario Men’s Amateur Championship at the Otter Creek Golf Club south of Woodstock.
McCulloch set a course record with a 66 at Black Bear Ridge near Corbyville in a men’s professional tournament this summer, played in a PGA Canada Mackenzie Tour event, won the Ontario Tour Junior Super Camp and won a Hurricane Tour event at Cataraqui Golf and Country Club, his home course, in early October.
McCulloch will be heading back to Victoria to join the Canadian junior team late this winter and will train until the end of June before heading out for Michigan State.
“I’m really excited about where Michigan State and Team Canada can take my game and hopefully progress me to the next level,” he said.