Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tips for Prospective Collegiate Golfers

It’s about that time of year again where junior golfers are thinking about college golf. Here’s an overview of some basics to college golf.

UNDERSTANDING DIVISIONS

Here are the different divisions of college golf:

Division I: Men’s teams are permitted 4.5 scholarships in total. Women’s programs are permitted 6.0 scholarships. Typically the men’s teams have 9-10 players on a team and they give roughly a ½ scholarship to each player. Women’s teams have 6-7 players and they usually get 90-100% scholarships. However, the men’s teams usually find ways to give some free financial aid. I know when I was in college, it came out to roughly 65-70% of tuition, room and board was paid for. For the girls teams, they will come away with their entire schooling paid for.

Division II: Men’s teams are allotted 3.6 scholarship and women’s teams are allotted 5.4 scholarships. The format of the team’s is generally the same although there’s a tendency to get less money because the school’s budgets are smaller. Typically, D-II schools are ‘satellite’ schools. For instance, University of South Carolina is headquartered in Columbia, SC. That is a D-I school. University of South Carolina has a satellite branch in Aiken, SC. USC-Aiken is a D-II school.

Historically Black Colleges: Historically black colleges do have golf teams and do offer scholarships for players who are not African-American. In fact, most golfers at Historically Black colleges are Caucasian. Sean Foley played on scholarship at the Historically Black College, Tennessee State.

Division III: Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships. However, there are plenty of D-III schools who have a sizeable budget set aside for the golf team and provide a good atmosphere for competitive golf. I know that the University of Rochester golf team used to have frequent access to practice and play at the world famous Oak Hill Country Club.

NAIA: These schools offer limited money for scholarships, if any money at all. They generally consist of very small schools with very minute budgets for the golf team. However, they can also provide a great atmosphere for competitive golfers to grow their game.


TRANSFERRING

One of the advantages of college golf for the student-athletes is that transferring is much more common than people think and in other sports like football and basketball. It’s not uncommon for a golfer who wants to go to play for a big school like Wake Forest, but initially can only get into a smaller school like UNC-Wilmington. But after a year or two of good golf and good enough grades, they end up transferring to the bigger and more prestigious Wake Forest if the coach wants them.

GRADES AND TEST SCORES

More often than not, coaches will always preach grades and test scores. However, I think that leads to some misunderstanding for prospective players. We have to remember that college golf is not a money making venture for schools, unlike college football and basketball.

Because football and basketball make schools money, schools often times lower their academic requirements for those athletes to be allowed into their school. In golf, a golfer does not have exceed a school’s academic requirements. But, they have to meet the same requirements that the average student at the school has in order to be accepted.

Thus, if a golfer is the next Rory McIlroy and wants to play at Duke, they will not be accepted unless they can meet Duke’s minimal academic requirements for non-student athletes. It simply does not matter how great the golfer is.

However, if a golfer does meet the academic requirements and the golf coach wants the golfer on his team, he will likely be guaranteed entrance into the school and will not have to meet all of the extra requirements that some schools demand like writing an entrance paper as to why the school should accept you, getting references, etc.


RECRUITING

Once again, because golf is not a money-making venture for schools the recruiting aspect is different from recruiting in football and basketball (and to a lesser extent other sports like baseball and lacrosse). The student-athlete in golf has to do their fair share of taking the initiative and letting schools that they are interested in about their game, academics, and interest in their team and institution. Once that is done, the coaches who are interested in you may ask for more information and want to be kept up-to-date on tournament scores.

From my experience, most recruiting is based off of the results in AJGA and IJGT events. Those are events where the competition is stronger and for the most part, most coaches do not care how well a golfer does in local high school events; even if the golfer wins their state high school championship.

Lastly, having a reputable golf instructor can help as well. The instructor does not have to be Hank Haney or David Leadbetter. But, if the instructor has a good track record of producing quality college golfers, having them put in a good word to college coaches can be the key to getting a scholarship.


WALK-ONS

For the life of me, I will never quite understand this. But, most coaches I have seen have zero interest in golfers ‘walking on’ the team (golfers who make the team via tryout, but are not on scholarship). So if you are thinking of going to a school that you like and you believe you can make the team as a walk-on, guess again. And if not having the opportunity to make the team as a walk-on would sway your decision of going to the school, you should consider other options.


CHOOSING A SCHOOL

There is an abnormally high rate of change in majors in college. I personally started off as an Accounting major. Then I switched to Business Administration and eventually went to Marketing with a minor in Applied Mathematics. I would highly recommend thinking out AT LEAST 2 majors you may be interested in and seeing if the school has both of those majors. That will offer the student some flexibility because it would be difficult to be at the school and on the team the golfer wants to be on, but in a major they do not want to be involved with.

I would also seek out former players of the coach and ask for their honest opinion of the coach. In fact, if I had a child I would probably not allow that child to go play for a coach until I got some sort of references from a few former players. While there are many reasons to go to college and a particular college and they should not be limited to just the golf team you desire to play for, the fact is that the golf team and the golf coach will be a major part of the student-athlete’s life for the next 4 years. For better or for worse, it’s important that things go well for the student-athlete on the team and with the coach. While there are many tremendous college golf coaches out there, there are just as many that are a completely different person once you come on to their team. Like this former coach here (warning, NSFW):



It’s also important that if the student-athlete wants to be in a particular major that the golf coach and the school be willing to accommodate this. When I was in school, there was a physiology course that I could pass, but I could be certified for because you could not be certified if you missed 1 class, for any reason. Thankfully, that was not required for my major. You will hear from time-to-time how a golfer cannot be a student-athlete and be in a certain major. Many times this is true, but it depends on the coach and the school. I know former Ohio State star, Craig Krentzel, graduated with a degree in Advanced Molecular Genetics. Former Florida State football star, Myron Rolle, went on to be a Rhodes Scholar. So a golfer can possibly be an athlete and major in a very difficult course of study, if the school and the coach will allow it to happen.

From there, it’s up to the golfer to gauge what school fits them by balancing out the academics, social environment and the golf team. But I hope this was some help to prospective collegiate golfers. As always, the sooner a golfer can be committed to focusing on getting a college golf scholarship, the better position they will be in to do so. And there’s no reason why they cannot have the time of their life being a student-athlete while reaping the benefits of college and college athletics.



3JACK

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