To celebrate International Education Week, WRUF is publishing profiles of UF student-athletes all week.
“Straight away when I met my coach I knew how serious it was,” Quentin Debove said when recalling his first visit to the University of Florida. “It’s just something that I’ve never seen before … a different atmosphere. I’ve been on the French team for like ten years, but it’s just next level compared to what we have back home.”
Originally from Paris, Debove always knew he wanted to play college golf in the United States. Debove explained that in France, playing sports and studying at the same time is not really an option. School days in France are longer and studying from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. leaves little time for sports practice.
That was Debove’s main motivator to come to the United States. UF provided an even balance between rigorous academics and sports.
The road to UF
With his father and sister also being golfers, Debove says he was “pretty much born with a golf club in my hands.” In reality, he started playing at the age of two and never stopped.
“It might not be the most intense sport physically,” Debove said. “But it’s just so tough mentally—that’s just pretty much why I play the game.”
Debove joined the UF men’s golf team in 2019. Several universities had contacted him, including the University of Central Florida, but he ultimately chose UF because he felt the atmosphere surrounding the school and its golf program was next level.
“There’s so much pride by being a Florida Gator,” said Debove. “Everyone is so involved and giving 100% all the time.”
Bridging the gap
J.C. Deacon, the Gators’ head golf coach, was instrumental in recruiting Debove and helping him feel at home at UF.
“If I need to call him … I can call at three in the morning which is something that I’ve just never experienced before,” Debove said.
Other Gator golfers were also essential in bridging the 4,000 mile gap between Gainesville and Debove’s hometown of Paris. Nearly half of the UF men’s golf team is international with seven of 15 members coming from varying countries outside the United States, including Brazil, France, Guatemala, China, Italy, England and Wales.
Debove’s teammate and former roommate, Brazilian Fred Biondi, describes the French player as “very motivated.”
“One of the hardest workers I’ve ever met,” Biondi said. “He’s always in the gym, always working out, always practicing and doing everything right … As a person too he’s unbelievable, great family, great personality, just a really nice person to be around.”
The hardest part about moving to the United States for Debove was the language barrier.
“When I came here my English was very bad, I mean, I thought it was very good, but it was very bad,” Debove said.
Whether it’s working out, working on their English, or navigating life in a new country far from home, the international students on the golf team share a special bond.
A season for the books
As a freshman, Debove was named to the SEC First-Year Honor Roll and the SEC Spring Academic Honor Roll despite the season being cut short because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic then led the Parisian to redshirt the COVID-ridden 2020-2021 season.
He played his best season so far last year, when he averaged 72.7 strokes per round.
Now a junior, Debove is looking to improve again this year and he is off to a strong start. He led his team to win the season opener at the Fighting Irish Classic, tying at fifth place thanks to two career bests: he shot five under par in his best round and seven under par to finish the tournament. The junior held the medalist lead at one point; he was tied fourth in the field with 13 birdies.
Debove’s success is largely due to his mental strength, which is often overlooked in sports.
To further improve their mental toughness in a sport known for its long competitions (ten-hour tournaments are legion), the Gator golfers have been working with a psychologist and dietician. Keeping their heads in the game is key in allowing them to accomplish their goals for this season.
“[We’re] definitely gonna want to win the SEC and then the NCAA,” Debove said. “It’s probably one of the best teams we’ve had since the last time we won the NCAA in 2001. We just have to work really hard … hopefully we’ll grab the title and run it back next year.”
In 2023, the Gator golfers want to compete for the national championship. Debove and his teammates have their sights set on the SEC Championship first, beginning on April 19 in St. Simons Island, Georgia, the NCAA Regional Championship starting on May 15 and the NCAA National Championships from May 26.