Tennis: US college courts beckon pair

The paper trail they've created is enough to plaster a court, but hours of filling in forms is about to pay off in spades for Tauranga Lawn's Jacob Carey and Jamie Yates as the pair prepare to leave next month on four-year scholarships to US universities.

Yates, 18, is heading to the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, while 17-year-old Carey has a scholarship to play and study at Bluefield State College in West Virginia, a few states north.

The pair were farewelled recently by a crowd of several hundred at Tauranga Lawn, playing an entertaining three-set exhibition match umpired by club coach Luis Luna that Yates won 6-4 1-6 6-3.

They are part of a growing number of domestic sports stars chasing an education and sporting success in the US.

Lawn's Heidi Stewart leaves next month on a scholarship to Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, while schoolgirl volleyballers Andrea Tauai, Melissa Cairns and Alyse Barclay are also preparing to leave.

Middle-distance runner Julian Oakley, now at the world junior athletics championships in Barcelona, has scored a scholarship to Providence, while hockey international Jess Chisholm is off next month to California's famed Stanford University.

Yates, a former 12s, 14s and 16s national champion, said the US college pathway was becoming increasingly attractive, particularly after Mt Maunganui's Austen Childs won through to tennis' NCAA final two years ago.

"Austen blazed a bit of a trail for the local players, although there's always been quite a few Kiwis going over, particularly for tennis," said Yates, who will stay with Katikati's Jacob Darling during his first week on campus. Darling is in his fourth year at South Carolina Upstate.

While the Lawn duo are well credentialled on court, the amount of paperwork needed to secure their scholarships, as well as strict rules around maintaining their amateur status, has been overwhelming.

Pre-acceptance SAT testing and background checks were just the start of the process, with Yates, who has done all of his secondary schooling at St Peters in Cambridge, setting everything up himself. Carey worked through Auckland-based company Play Atlantic, who specialise in helping athletes find scholarships.

"It's a huge process and pretty mindboggling at times, and I still haven't finished," Carey said. "The paperwork goes on for months and they certainly make it hard for you - neither of us are allowed to play in any tournaments until we leave."

Carey finished his secondary schooling in Palmerston North and made up his mind last December he wanted to go to university in the US after finishing his NCEA exams a year ahead of schedule.

"I was unsure what I wanted to do, whether to stay and train in New Zealand, attend university here or try the American route."

Play Atlantic's Sheridan Adams sorted out several options for Carey before he opted for Bluefield State College, which this year was ranked 43 in the country in the NCAA division two.

"The US system is perfect for Jacob," Adams said. "Not only will it allow him to develop his tennis amongst other great athletes and in fantastic facilities, but it also provides a fallback of a world-class education.

"Receiving almost a full scholarship that cover all of his costs, he can concentrate on tennis and studies. It's the perfect transition into the senior ranks."

Yates, who made the quarter-finals of the 18s singles last year and counts as a highlight playing junior Davis Cup for New Zealand across the Tasman two years ago, forged his own path, putting together a detailed academic and sporting CV and video highlights package and sending it to dozens of universities. He heard back from eight, with four keen to sign him. He will study commerce for the next four years.

Carey almost left New Zealand a winner, fighting through to the final of the 16s nationals this year in Blenheim against Alex Klintcharov before cramping badly and withdrawing with the decider locked up at a set each.

While a pro career beckons them, with Yates considering cutting his teeth in Europe after his college career, Carey isn't looking much beyond the Allegheny Mountains separating West Virginia from Washington DC.

"It's definitely a stepping stone towards the pro ranks but at the moment I'm not looking further than what's ahead. Four tough years of college tennis and study means it's up to me to make the most of the opportunity I've been given."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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