Let’s Agree to Disagree; We’re Home Together
"We fight all the time, and we're very competitive with each other. I think that's why we're so close."
That's a simple quote, but it wasn't a simple answer. Two people said it, but the voices were almost simultaneous as if being sung by a duet the likes of Donny and Marie Osmond.
These were brothers, Ryan and Leon Fricker, completing the sentence about how they treat each other. The two are golfers from Ivybridge, England. It's a town located approximately 293 kilometers (182 miles) from London. You know the place...a community about 14.5km (nine miles) east of Plymouth. Its early history is marked by its status as an important crossing-point over the River Erme on the Exeter-to-Plymouth route.
Still not quite sure where it is?
Well, it is home to these brothers. These sibling rivals. These similar-looking, tall gentlemen that eventually made a decision that would not come easy. It was a decision to not only attend college, but attend it "across the pond."
"Tiger Woods was my favorite golfer, and I knew he went to Stanford," says Leon, two years younger than Ryan. "I grew up and thought about it more and saw that some of the top amateurs at universities were invited to play in PGA tournaments. From that point, it became more realistic for me to come to America for school at a university."
That's easy for Leon to say, but not Ryan.
This time, there's no duet on the song for how they came to their decision on coming to America...to Florida...to Bethune-Cookman University.
"Alex Clapp, who is on the golf team at Bethune-Cookman, called me one day and asked if I'd be interested in going to college in America," says Ryan, notably more reserved and quiet than Leon. "It was a year after I graduated that I thought 'I really would like to go to college'. But Leon, he always knew he wanted to come to the States, since about the age of 12 or 13, maybe."
The first thing the two don't agree on.
The two brothers knew it was far from home to come to the United States for school and remain away from home months at a time, playing a sport that features different obstacles than in the United Kingdom. However, they did not know they would attend the same school.
"I really didn't want to go to the same school as my brother in the beginning," states Leon. "I wanted to start on my own. But then, I suppose, it's hard getting over here. My father had already done the work to get Ryan here. So, I thought it best to just do the same thing again."
So, they agreed on something. Taking the path worn before you is easier than molding your own.
However, being on your own and away from the brother you fight with a lot, and the family you love so much back at home, does bring that nagging feeling of emptiness. Even with school work, golf and the Florida weather to surround you daily, there's still a bit of being "alone" that plays on you when you're not with your biggest rival and best supporter for months at a time.
"I guess there was some being homesick at first," states Ryan. "I was fine to start because my dad was over here with me for about a week. When my dad drove off and said he's going back to England, that's when the emptiness set in a bit, I suppose. Now I'm here for four or five months until Christmas, and I knew it was time to grow up."
But remember, Ryan took a year off school at first. So, he's 20 years-old and on his own in a foreign land, literally, and having some adult knowledge of the world to rely on. He admits that if he were 17 or 18 years of age, things might have been a bit different.
Now for Leon and his trip to the States.
The exact same airline. The exact same scenario with his father coming over and assisting with his move. The exact same feeling of being dropped into a foreign land. Just not the same empty feeling. This feeling was that of excitement and adventures the likes of which any good Englishman would love to experience out on his own for the first time.
"When I was 18 years-old, I went to Tenerife [Canary Islands] for a month, but I didn't speak to my parents once," expressed the admittedly independent Leon. "Then again, it was probably easier for me when I did come to Bethune-Cookman because I had Ryan and some of the other English boys and guys from Ireland on the team over here as well. Being away from home though, it doesn't really bother me at all."
So, the two brothers disagreed on whether or not to attend college in the United States. They disagreed on attending the same school. They disagreed on the feeling of being so far from home. Now, they finally agree to the fact that new-age technology has allowed them the chance to stay "closer" to home without being home at all.
The invention of Skype and Face Chat (iPhone) and other apps that work on computer and mobile devices allows these two siblings to stay close with family and friends back in the United Kingdom, while also being close with fellow Bethune-Cookman golfers from the UK.
The two have Alex Clapp from Somerset, England - home to a former women's golfer for the Wildcats in the form of Becky Dowell (2005-08), as well as Matthew McKnight from Lisburn, Northern Ireland. Then there's B-CU female golfer Jennifer Hide from Norfolk, England.
"I talk with my parents a lot on Skype," states Leon. "They might as well be in the next room. I miss my friends more than anything because they're mostly at university in England now. We can still chat and stuff, but I miss going out with them more than anything else."
That does come in handy when going home only happens twice a year. They know that fact clearly. The two almost immediately said it in unison when asked how often they go home.
However, that's the end of this particular agreement.
Leon admits his fondness for the States, and said he will probably stay. As for Ryan, he's not as confidant that he'll stay after graduating from B-CU.
"I will probably go home, I think," admitted Ryan. "The plan is to play on the [PGA] Tour, but you never know about the future. It just depends on how things turn out."
Now time to agree again, even if only for a quick moment.
Time to talk about what keeps them rivals more than ever, and the biggest reason to come to the United States...Golf. They love to play golf and love to play against each other's score. They love the sibling rivalry in sports that drives them to be better, and drives them to play harder. More importantly though, it drives them to support each other more than ever.
But even in golf, a foreign land is just that...Foreign.
There are differences between playing an international sport with the same set of rules that have stood the test of time and goes back more than a century. The brothers agree that playing in America is far different than in the United Kingdom.
In unison, once again, they state the biggest difference.
That's the difference between England and the United States, at least to the Frickers. The courses may all look nice and have a certain ambience that makes them challenging, but the grass plays different "across the pond".
"It's the grass," says Leon. "I think everything else is better. It's just playing on the grass here is so much more different."
"The grass is thick and tough and hard to predict," interjects Ryan. "In England, it's just different. Before [Leon] got here, I told him that he was going to struggle with it for at least a month."
To Leon, a traveler of sorts, he figured the grass would not be as difficult as his brother predicted. In essence, he disagreed.
"I figured after playing in Spain, and they have different grass too, that I would be alright with it," stated Leon. "[Ryan] told me to just get out here, and I played - and it was not as easy as I thought at all."
Neither of them, at first, knew what to expect at Bethune-Cookman University. They were here to play golf on a terrain that was considerably different, and go to class. They didn't expect a professional atmosphere that was provided by B-CU head coach Loritz "Scooter" Clark and the entire athletics department. Actually, the professionalism of the entire school.
"I didn't expect everything to be so professional," admits Ryan. "The weight room and training program in the mornings. The classrooms. Going to tournaments and everything is planned out so well. The schedule with Coach [Clark]. Also, just watching the other sports, I didn't expect the big crowds at games.
"I went to a softball game, and I didn't expect it to be played in a proper environment, but it was. It's nice. It's really good here."
That's where the agreement ends.
When asked about playing together, the two admit that playing golf together doesn't bring them closer because they're so competitive. They don't want to agree on it bringing them together as a team because they're always playing against each other - even when they're playing for each other.
"I wouldn't say that it brings us closer being here at Bethune-Cookman and playing golf," says Leon. "I would say that it's a good thing because we're competitive. It doesn't make us closer because we argue. However, it's not as bad as it used to be."
That is probably good for Coach Clark.
"We fight and then an hour later we're fine," states Ryan. "We've always been very competitive."
It's that competitive nature that makes the Bethune-Cookman golf program an elite program and a contender every year for the PGA National Minority Collegiate Golf Championship. Now, thanks in part to a pair of fighting, agreeing to disagree brothers, the program is escalating even further.
Whatever they agree or disagree on, the two brothers from Ivybridge - our old sweet home we spoke of earlier, Ryan and Leon Fricker are away from home. Yes, they may have the internet and apps to chat with friends and family back in England. They may follow in the footsteps of the greatest golfer in their lifetime - Tiger Woods. They may even have two trips to England a year.
Whatever the case may be, the two brothers have family in each other. They have "family" with fellow United Kingdom natives Clapp, McKnight and Hide. They have the game of golf and classes. All of that ties into one thing that brings "family" together like none other - they have Bethune-Cookman University as a "home" in their foreign land.