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Archive for Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Newest KU golfer has Olympic-sized hopes

August 22, 2012

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The excitement that has swept across Kansas University generated by Diamond Dixon’s Olympic gold medal in the 4x400 relay inspires the question who else on campus might participate in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro?

An early prediction: Stan Gautier.

Who? If Gautier recaptures the magic he had working for him four years ago, the day soon will arrive when nobody will be asking that question.

A native of Paris, France, Gautier is a sophomore transfer from Arizona State, where he played for Tim Mickelson, Phil’s brother. At the age of 15, he won the French national amateur championship, the same year he won the Under-16 European championship. He was on the European Junior Ryder Cup team.

Gautier started attending the Hank Haney Academy in Hilton Head, S.C., at the age of “11 or 12,” making annual trips for lengthy stays at the academy. That’s where he met his swing coach of the last seven years, Josh Nahm, formerly a top instructor of Haney’s. Hired by former long-time Alvamar pro Randy Towner, Nahm now instructs at Firekeeper, the beautiful nature hike of a golf experience in Mayetta, across the street from the Prairie Band Casino.

New KU golf coach Jamie Bermel can thank the school’s women’s coach, Erin O’Neil for having Gautier, all 5-feet-9 inches and 132 pounds of him, on his team. O’Neil hired Gautier’s swing coach’s wife, Katy Nahm, to be her assistant. Having the chance to work with his personal swing coach was what motivated Gautier to transfer to KU.

“He was probably the No. 1 junior in the world,” Josh Nahm said. “They have a federation so it’s not like here where golf is basically individual. They moved him into the adult federation and had him traveling all over the world at the age of 15, 16 and basically just burned him out.”

His mother noticed her son’s passion for his passion had left him, so she decided to have him spend a year at the Hank Haney Academy, where he had spent month-long stretches a few times a year.

Nahm called him the “hardest worker I’ve ever seen.”

“I met him seven years ago and I did not like him at all at the beginning,” Gautier said. “I hated him. I had another coach and I liked him and he showed up and

I was like, ‘Why do I have to change coaches? I don’t want to change coaches.’ He was so big. I wasn’t sure I was going to like him. After a week of working with him, I knew I never was going to have another coach.”

Gautier said he thought he would enjoy the climate in Arizona in comparison to his much colder hometown of Paris. For competitive reasons, he didn’t.

“When you don’t work when it’s perfect weather, you feel bad about yourself,” he said. “And here, when it’s cold, and you work hard and you’re by yourself, you feel good about yourself. When you play well in the cold you get more confidence out of it.”

Gautier manages to hammer consistent 280-yard drives out of his slight frame.

“He’s the worst putter I’ve ever seen, until you have a competition,” Nahm said. “Then he makes everything.”

Gautier stated representing France in the 2016 Olympics is a goal.

“We have some good players coming,” he said of France. “I’m going to have to get a lot better.”

And he’ll have to do it on American fare.

“I like the food here,” he said, then paused and smiled. “But not as much as back home.”

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