Senior Eli Cole did not have many division one offers coming out of high school.
He had never heard of TCU, and TCU had never heard of him.
Nonetheless, he is a senior Horned Frog golfer, ranked at No. 81 in the nation, and as graduation is coming up, he plans to continue playing in Japan.
Cole’s college golf career was not simple. He said he had to practice and work hard to make the team. Once he had a spot, he suffered a season-ending injury and was forced to use a redshirt senior year to recover.
As a senior in high school, Cole sent multiple emails to every golf coach he could, but he did not receive many responses from schools except for Rice University and the University of San Francisco.
“I wasn’t really at the level where you need to be to be recruited by a lot of division one programs,” Cole said. “But I really wanted to play division one, and I really wanted to play for the best team that I could.”
Head golf coach Bill Montigel made a recruiting trip out to California around the same time, but not to meet with Cole.
Montigel was out west trying to recruit one of Cole’s best friends who was a highly ranked junior golfer, only to find out the player had chosen a different golf program.
Cole shared the same swing coach as his friend, and Montigel did not want to waste a recruiting trip. So he asked the coach if there were any players he could recommend.
The swing coach told Montigel that he had a hard working candidate for the Horned Frog program and recommended Cole.
“Coach came out and met with me just randomly,” Cole said. “I didn’t really know anything about TCU. But he’s kinda a good talker, so he convinced me I had to take a visit out here.”
Montigel said that whenever he finds somebody that works really hard and has a good attitude, they always seem to get better, so he began recruiting Cole.
Cole and his father came out and toured the campus and surrounding area. It was not long before Cole knew TCU was the program for him, and he became a Horned Frog.
As a collegiate golfer, Cole said he did not compete in every tournament.
During his freshman year, the golf team had a lot of good players, including some who were All-America selctions. Cole said he was lucky to have the older guys there. They showed him how to act, how to practice and how improve his game.
“I just got better sort of through osmosis and paying attention,” Cole said.
Cole began to break into the lineup his sophomore year. He was on the bubble of being the fifth and final player to compete in tournaments. He also worked with a mental coach who helped cut four to five shots per round off his score.
“He mostly helped me mentally to get organized to figure out what I should be doing on the course and how I should be thinking,” Cole said.
Cole’s junior year was when he began playing every tournament.
“It was good for me to get to go to all the tournaments throughout the whole year,” Cole said. “And learn the day-in and day-out stuff of what it takes to manage school, golf and everything like that.”
He became comfortable playing college golf as a junior. Cole also grew closer to his teammates and began adjusting to taking harder classes for his mathematics major.
Cole’s comfort in his game helped him become a leader on the team, as well.
“I started to become a more instrumental part in the team,” Cole said. “As opposed to a guy that is learning, I was sort of the guy who was teaching.”
As his senior year of golf approached Cole said he felt all his hard work had paid off, and he was competing at a high level.
Before his senior season, Cole ran into a drawback. While playing soccer back home in California, he broke his leg in two places at a friend’s birthday party.
Cole’s parents suggested he quit golf and focus on school, but the determined golfer did not have that kind of attitude.
“The minute it happened, I just started thinking how long it was going to take me to get back to playing,” Cole said. “Even though a lot of people told me it would just be a couple months, I knew it wasn’t because my leg was in two pieces.”
After the season ending injury, Cole relied on friends and family to keep his spirits up while he was stuck in a bed. He also spent his immobile days watching highlights of golf tournaments.
“I took that period to try and do some research to figure out what I needed to do better,” Cole said. “I knew once I got back, I wasn’t going to have a lot of time to get back to where I was. So I needed to be doing stuff while I was injured to help improve because I wanted to come back as quickly as possible for me and for the team.”
Teammate and fellow senior Daniel Jennevret said Cole has the best work ethic he has ever seen, which is why his game has improved during his time at TCU.
Cole’s rehab did not go according to plan, and two more surgeries were needed to correct the healing. He is now 100 percent healed, other than having a rod in his leg.
During rehab, Cole went to several tournaments on crutches and practiced putting and chipping before he was cleared to play.
“Everything he does has a purpose,” Jennevret said. “And that is to become a better golfer and person.”
One of the best things Cole said he did during his year off was to watch sophomore Julien Brun play and ask questions about his approach to the game. Cole believes Brun, who is currently ranked No. 5, is the best amateur golfer in the world.
It took 11 months before Cole could play a full round of golf while walking and carrying his own bag.
Cole returned to the golf course at the U.S. Amateur Championships in August 2012, where he qualified for match play in the round of 64.
“I had a feeling I was going to be better because of all the stuff I had learned throughout the year,” Cole said.
Breaking his leg forced Cole to focus on the little details that most players overlook and helped him learn what good players do that he did not know before such as having a good game plan and staying levelheaded throughout.
“He used his redshirt year to rehab and worked really hard,” Montigel said. “And actually I think it was a blessing. It made his game a lot better.”
Cole said he loves his team this year. He said every player is the nicest person and everyone is playing exceptionally well.
“We have a chance to win the national championship, which has always been my dream,” Cole said. “So everything is coming along as I could of dreamt it.”
After graduation and his last season of college golf, Cole said he plans to go play on the golf tour in Japan.
“They have a really good tour where you can be successful,” Cole said. “And I think there are a lot of endorsement opportunities waiting for me over there if I play well because there aren’t too many white kids who know how to speak Japanese.”
He has been learning Japanese in school for the past eight years.
Montigel said he has no doubts that Cole will make it on the Japan Golf Tour next year. Cole’s phone is all in Japanese and the coach knows people will love him over there.
“He’s worked incredible hard to get to where he is at,” Montigel said. “He’s the absolute perfect guy.”