Outback Attack: Australian golfer Daley finds success in the Heartland


Senior golfer Sam Daley works on his swing at practice on April 14.

Mike Randleman

Four years ago, Sam Daley couldn’t have told the difference between Iowa State and Ohio State. Cyclones, for all he knew, were just extreme weather events.

He may have lacked the parochial knowledge about his future school, but all the aspiring professional golfer from Wynnum, Australia, needed to commit to Iowa State was the strong personal connection he formed with ISU coach Andrew Tank.

“I looked into it and looked at a few universities but it didn’t really go anywhere,” Daley said of the recruiting process. “Tank was really keen and it went from there. We kept talking, skyped a couple times. He came out and watched me play at events, and we had a face-to-face meeting. He’s a nice dude, Tank.”

In 2011, Tank already planned to recruit in Australia and had Daley on his radar, but he came into some luck in ramping up his recruitment.

John Hemstock, a former player of Tank’s in his time as assistant coach at the University of Minnesota, happened to be the assistant club professional at Daley’s home course, Wynnum Golf Club.

“John was someone I know and I trust who was able to say that Sam was a good player, a good kid, someone to look at,” Tank said. “I think likewise he was able to tell Sam and his family a little bit about me. So I think that was helpful to kind of get it going.”

From that point on, Daley was sold on Iowa State, and more specifically, on Tank.

“I came over here and I knew Tank,” Daley said. “I had never heard of Iowa. I pronounced the s’s in Des Moines. I just threw myself in the deep end, but I’m so glad I did it.”

Daley was also fuzzy with the names of his future teammates who joined him in his recruiting class.

“I thought there was one guy coming in called Scott Duncan,” Daley said with a laugh in recollecting his combination of Scott Fernandez’ and Duncan Croudis’ names. “I didn’t know who they were. I still call [Fernandez] Duncan sometimes just to mess with him.”

Regardless who was joining him to play at Iowa State, Daley knew he was headed to Ames, albeit with some uncertainty as to when his collegiate career would begin.

Initially, Daley planned to spend a year attending college in Australia, but the prospect of immediate playing time and the ability to jumpstart his progression as a golfer was enough for him to “suck it up,” as Daley described it, and head to Ames right away.

“I hit the ground running and just got into university life and everything was great,” Daley said. “It just went by really quick. The first year was good, second year was a bit of a struggle, then after that it just kept getting better and better. Now it’s really sad I’m leaving, really.”

Daley is not the only one lamenting his impending departure.

As a four-year starter, Daley was part of a recruiting class featuring redshirt junior Collin Foster and senior Scott Fernandez that helped lift the program to a perennial NCAA tournament team, one that was no longer stymied by the disadvantages that come with being a northern program.

From his boisterous personality off the course to his on-course career that has produced five top-10 finishes, including placing runner-up at the 2014 Big 12 Championship, Daley has left a legacy at Iowa State that will prove difficult to replicate.

“He’s charismatic, for sure,” Foster said with a grin. “He’s a natural leader and he’s always fun to be around. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in a truly bad mood. He’s a spark for this team and he’s certainly going to be missed.”

After his career comes to a close next month, Daley has his immediate post-graduation sights set on giving it a go as a professional in Australia and Asia before attempting to qualify for the Web.com Tour in the U.S next year.

“I’ll probably pursue it for the next three to five years,” Daley said of his professional golf plans. “I’ll work my ass off to get where I want to go.”

As of Wednesday, Daley checks in as the No. 402 amateur in the World Golf Rankings and the No. 407 golfer in the Golfweek NCAA individual rankings.

He is a fixture in the ISU record books, where he is in the top five in low 18-hole round, low 54-hole tournament and career stroke average, but lacks the elite pedigree of the prototypical professional.

Whether his golf dreams come to fruition or he decides to put his degree in finance to use, the fun-loving Aussie will be content with wherever his journey takes him.

“If golf doesn’t work out, as long as I can look myself in the mirror and say I gave it everything I’ve got, then I’ll be happy with everything,” Daley said. “I’ll have a good life regardless of if I’m playing golf.”