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Big city, bright lights - and golf - for Josh Hayes

The lure of New York City has enticed many an out-of-towner to the city that never sleeps.

Sudbury golf prospect Josh Hayes is just the latest.

The 17 year-old grade 12 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School confirmed earlier this week his intentions to attend Wagner College, a private liberal arts institution with an enrollment of roughly 2200, located on Staten Island.

"I preferred a smaller style of school," suggested Hayes. "Wagner has more of a family feel to it, you're going to know all of your professors. Then you look at the training facilities, with four home courses."

It was, however, an academic bonus that likely sealed the deal. "I'm taking Business at Wagner, and the options that this school offers in terms of internships are crazy."

Following in the recent footsteps of the likes of Ward Kyle, Tristan Renaud and Evan MacLean, Hayes had been scoping out the options for the past few years, not an easy task when you consider that there are nearly 300 Division I NCAA schools that offer men's golf programs in the United States.

It's a process rendered that much more challenging living in northern Ontario. "In Canada, you kind of have to make your name known, you're kind of going after them, a little more," said Hayes. "Then, it's about what fits you - what kind of style of school am I going to like."

Piling on top of this already tricky territory was Covid-19. "I did not do an official visit, given that the whole of New York State is pretty much on lockdown," acknowledged Hayes. "That's kind of an unfortunate side of things."

"But the virtual tours looked awesome, and what the coach (Nick Drago) had to say, I was interested in."

Competing in the Northeast Conference (NEC), Hayes will have the chance to fine-tune a skill-set that would see him claim the city high-school crown on three separate occasions, as well as registering a very solid showing at the 2019 Canadian Junior Boys Golf Championship in New Brunswick.

"My short game is obviously a strength of mine," he said. "To get to the next level, it's about gaining a little more distance, hitting more greens in a round." Four times a week workouts at 6:00 a.m. will be complemented by a surprising amount of time on the course, as the Wagner College Seahawks benefitted from a golf season that ran all twelve months of the year in 2019.

"That's not regular, usually they get 11 months in," said Hayes. "Although the weather is not great for those 11 months - it's not like I'm going to be in Florida - but the average for January is about five degrees celcius."

"You still get to play golf, whether the weather is perfect or not."

There is no doubt that Josh Hayes would like to take his golf talents as far as he possibly can. This route, thankfully, also allows for a solid post-golf transition, when needed, for the local athlete.

"You ask yourself what is the golf program going to offer, how is it going to make me a better golfer and better person?" suggested Hayes. "But the second thing is it golf doesn't work out, am I going to be in a good position, going forward, to succeed in life?"

Despite the promiximity to Manhattan, Hayes is confident that he will be able to strike a nice balance, with no plans to have access to a car during the school year. "Being on Staten Island, you have to take a ferry to get to Manhattan," he said.

"The campus is kind of self-contained." As excited as he is to get started, set to report hopefully in mid-August, Hayes thanked those who helped make it all possible. "You can't do this alone, this has been very much a team effort, with family and friends," he said.

"My mom and dad have travelled everywhere with me, funded my dream from the start. And Ward, Tristan and Evan have been role models, helping me get to this point" - the point at which the next stop is none other than New York, New York.

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