Every young golfer practices "the putt." The one that will win The Masters. The putt that will make them the British Open champion. Every young golfer dreams.
One of those dreams is also to play college golf. Most junior golfers think it is as unattainable as winning a major championship. In reality, it is not. There are a few simple steps junior golfers and their parents should take to maximize the chances of achieving the goal.
- Make good grades. Poor or marginal grades are the biggest turn-off for college coaches. If there is doubt whether a prospective player can pass entrance exams or maintain good grades, the remaining steps here are of no consequence. Simply put, coaches will stop pursuing you or won’t even take a look.
- Practice with the right PGA Professional instructor. There are two main things to consider when choosing a golf instructor: 1) their ability to teach and improve your game; and 2) their number of contacts with college coaches. First, you are practicing to improve your game. The golf pro can be Tiger Woods, but if he can’t teach you how to play better, he isn’t the right choice. Second, professional instruction also accomplishes your second goal, getting noticed by college coaches. The instructor you select should be well-known and respected by college coaches, and have several contacts with both large and smaller schools. Interview and ask golf pros how many coaches they know and how well they know them. Talk to former and current students of the prospective pros about their teaching ability.
- Make known to the right people your intention to play golf in college. The most important people to inform of your intentions are your golf instructor and high school golf coach, if you have one. They are the two people with possible ties to and relationships with college coaches. They are also the people whose praise will carry the most weight.
- Play in junior golf tournaments. College golf, like every other sport, involves the pressure of competition. Coaches know that if a prospective player has been involved in competition and fared well, they have been exposed to tournament pressure. You don’t have to win tournaments, although that’s certainly preferable – you just have to play and perform your best. Good scores under tough conditions are one of the factors that get you noticed. Nearly every area across the country has a junior golf association or junior golf tour that conducts tournaments. Find those tournaments and play. College coaches will be watching your scores and remembering names.
To be sure, there are only a relative few high-profile, major college golf programs – not enough for every young golfer. There are lots of other NCAA Division I, II and III programs, as well as NAIA. Those often provide a good education, sometimes better, academic and otherwise. In the end, the important thing is playing at a school that provides a good education and improves golf skill. Remember, there is no professional "draft" in golf for which a college golfer needs to "get noticed." So a premier golf school is not as important as in other sports. If a college golfer aspires to the next level, it simply comes down to getting the ball in the hole in fewer strokes than the next person. First, follow the steps to becoming a college student-golfer. Worry about professional golf later.