Print Edition: June 17, 2015
Aaron Pauls is a UFV golf alumnus, now a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) studying kinesiology. After representing Canada at the 2014 World University Golf Championships in Switzerland, Pauls has been selected this year to golf at the Summer Universiade in Gwangju, South Korea. He is one of three golfers (the other two of whom, Russell Bowie and Dylan Cave, are from Ontario — Mississauga and Kitchener, respectively) chosen to play for Canada at the Universiade. This year Pauls was also awarded the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Academic All-Canadian honours for excellence in athletics and maintaining a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
So, in a little under a month you’re off to South Korea! Are you worried the jet lag will affect your game?
Haha, no, not really. We’re there for six days before it starts, so that shouldn’t be an issue.
How do you prepare for a big competition like this?
Most of it is mental. Everyone practices a lot and they do what they can to get their games in shape, but what I noticed last year — playing for the Canadian team as well — was that people are representing their countries. It’s not just universities anymore; it’s a much bigger scale, and sometimes that can get in the way of what you’re doing, is focusing on things like that.
You’re one of three Canadian golfers going to the Universiade. What does that mean in terms of your career?
Well, this is kind of a last university thing for me. I’m doing graduate school right now, so golf, after this, is on the backburner for a while. I really don’t know down the road what happens, but for right now I’m just kind of focusing on this one event and trying to do what I can to make it a success, for myself and obviously for Chris [Bertram], who’s the head coach.
You’re in Gwangju for six days before the competition. Are you doing any touristing while you’re there, or will it mostly be about golf?
We’re going to get in on July 2; we’re leaving here on the first, and we’ll travel from Seoul on to Gwangju. Then the opening ceremonies are that night on the third, so me and Chris will be part of that. The next day we’re actually going to fly out to a little island called Jeju and spend a couple days there, checking it out and maybe relaxing a bit before we get back to Gwangju on the sixth. Practice rounds and stuff like that on the seventh, and on the eighth we get going with the event. We might check out a couple other events along the way and see what is going on with other sports, but that’s kind of our plan for the first bit.
Where do you hope to go with your master’s degree?
I would like to be a professor at a university — that requires a PhD, so I will do that after I’m done my master’s and go from there.
What has your academic experience here at UFV been like? Are there any professors or classes that really stuck with you or set you on the path?
You know, when I first got to UFV I absolutely hated school, and I was going to quit after my first semester. But Chris talked me into coming back and — oddly enough — doing more schooling after UFV. There’s teachers who have had an impact, but Chris has had the largest impact — you know, he kind of set me up on this too, UNLV, and got that going. So a lot of it is due to him. I mean, I’ve worked hard for my time at UFV, but going to graduate school is pretty cool, so that requires kind of knowing somebody, if your grades aren’t the top of the line, applying to schools like UNLV.
Were you able to get any extra funding because of your involvement with Athletics, to go to grad school, or … ?
I do actually have funding, but it’s strictly academic. There’s nothing athletic to do with it when I’m down at UNLV, which is kind of cool because I’ve done the athletic stuff for a while now and to kind of switch over into academics and get scholarships that way is rewarding to me.
Is there any advice you would want to pass on to UFV athletes as you’re graduating?
Something I always tell the guys on our team is that you may not be at the top school or where the best players are, or where they have the most money, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t improve the program, whether it’s basketball, soccer, golf … you can always, obviously, enjoy your time. It was probably the best time of my life playing at UFV, going to school. So to look at it as, “Oh, I’m not at the best place and this kind of sucks,” is a poor attitude because there’s so much you can do. Had I gone anywhere else or done something else I would never have been able to travel to Switzerland and play for a Canadian team or travel to Korea and play for a Canadian team, or win a bunch of stuff playing for UFV, travel all over Canada, see our country, meeting the people I’ve met and having the friendships I have. So I would say just to look at it as a chance to improve something — your program, your game, whatever it is you decide to do academically — that’s kind of what I tell our guys as much as I can.
Good advice. Is there anything you would have done differently?
No, I don’t think there is. Like I said, when I first got to UFV I had a really bad attitude about it and I was kind of sour to be there, like I wasn’t as good as other people going to other places but, you know, looking back at it now, I wouldn’t be where I am, and I love where I am in life, and a lot of that is just due to UFV and the people I’ve met there and the experiences I’ve had playing golf, and schooling. So, there’s really nothing that I would change.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.