“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” — Mark Twain
If you have desires to play collegiate golf, go for it. Listen to Mr. Twain above and don’t let anyone deter you. College is a time in any young person’s life to explore, learn and experience. There are few better ways to achieve this than through the athletic realm– specifically college golf.
In fact, I played college golf. From 2008-2012, I played for the University of Sioux Falls Cougars golf program under the keen eye of talent scout Ken “Sid” Kortemeyer (hi, Sid!) and golf coaches Jenny Coluccio, Brett Coluccio and Ryan Jansa.
Based in the heart of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, my USF golf team played tournaments throughout the Midwest, while traveling each of my four years during spring breaks trips throughout the nation. We hit Phoenix, Pinehurst, central Missouri and the entire Tucson, Arizona area. The memories are abundant.
During my time at USF, I traveled to over 40 events, played in an NAIA National championship (2011), competed at both the NAIA level (2.5 years) and NCAA Division II levels (1.5 years). I also, developed relationships that will last me a lifetime. College golf was a blast– an absolute blast.
So if you’re considering the prospect of playing collegiate golf, here is a list of things to consider to prepare you for the next level of golf. I’m telling you…if you consider all 8 of these elements, you’ll make a fantastic decision for your future (and golf future).
[And honestly, I lucked into a good majority of these….]
1. Go to a school where you can play
This is perhaps my most stressed component in the college golf search.
If you’re a player who’s won numerous junior events, competed nationally/globally and possess a consistent under par scoring average, find a top tier school and enroll. You may be in stiff competition for a place on the traveling roster early on, but those schools will give you a great opportunity for improvement, facilities and exposure.
If you are anyone else, I’ll tell you this: go somewhere you can PLAY!
The purpose of playing college golf is playing college golf. It is better to play 35-40 events in 4 years of college at a lower level school than it is to ride the pine for 1, 2 or maybe 3 years before seeing time in live events. That time hitting balls and chipping with the team will eventually lead to rust competitively. The only competitive play you’ll get will be during summer events. You’ll enter those events lacking a competitive sharpness needed to excel and perform.
Not playing competitive events will stunt your development as a player.
Whether its a great Division II school in the south, a Division III school close to home with a great program or a smaller Division I school which occasionally gets to play against the big boys, take a look at the roster and the program. Compare your scores against the players competing on those teams.
If you have your eyes set on a particular level of collegiate golf, maybe sitting and waiting your turn is the best option. Learn what it will take to play at that level and set up a specific plan for achieving your goal. Do your research and strive for greatness. Remember the Mark Twain quote at the top of the page? I don’t mean to be a detractor of dreams, so if you have dreams of playing at a certain school or for a certain program, know you may need to make sacrifices.
But at the end of the day, go to a school where you can crack the top-5 and play. You’ll make those fantastic memories in the process.
2. Do your research and REACH OUT to coaches
Here is a moment where I will be vulnerable with anyone reading. This is an email I found in a draft from 2007 where I was reaching out to golf coaches to play college golf.
Hello, this is Troy Klongerbo from Duluth. This is the email you requested regarding my scores and such from the past and upcoming summers.
On average, I am the #2 player on my high school team but I have a tendency to fluctuate anywhere from #1 to #4. My scoring average for last spring’s season was 81.5 including low’s of 75 at the Northern Invitational at the Quarry, 76 at Grand National, 78 at the Northland Invite at Northland CC and numerous 79’s. I played throughout the summer in Junior Tournaments and adult tournaments. I played in the Pine to Palm in Detroit Lakes for the past two summers and many area/local tournaments. Next year I plan on playing in many more tournaments including the Pine to Palm again, the Resorters in Alexandria and the Birchmont in Bemidji, championship flight in all. Also, I will still play in all the area tournaments. My summer schedule involves golf, golf, and more golf. I expect to improve a lot over the next summer but we can get into golf more when we meet again.As for your team, I still have many questions about the tryout process and the form in which the team operates. I also would like to look into the application process and I have questions about when I should think about applying. I appreciated your phone call and look forward to hearing from you again, Coach Kortemeyer.Sincerely,Troy Klongerbo
The email above is poorly written, contains mediocre golf scores and has some gimmicky little quotes from 16-year old Troy. But the point of me sharing this is to show the value in reaching out to coaches. Unless you’re a top tier player or play in a smaller state where coaches can be more intentional, you will not receive many natural looks from coaches.
Make yourself available to them. Give them your name, address, contact info and any golf information you have. If you have scoring averages or tournament results, send them! Coaches want to see that you place a priority on your golf game. If you have goals, state them. Coaches want a student who is focused on goals and has aspirations.
Do your research. As you accumulate this information, your answer and college golf candidates will start to become more clear.
3. Playing professional golf doesn’t require playing at a top tier collegiate program
If you’re bored, cycle through this list of PGA Tour players. Here, I’ll supply you a list here. Take note of their colleges. Sure, a lot of them attended Arizona State, Clemson, South Carolina, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma State, UCLA or any other number of great programs in the nation.
But you know what will surprise you? A lot of guys went to smaller schools and got to the Tour the unconventional route.
The odds of playing on the PGA Tour is a long-shot, let’s face it. But if you dream of playing on the PGA Tour, go for it. Shoot for it, literally. If you are willing to make that commitment, I fully support it.
But a lot of players play on the PGA Tour after not playing at high-level collegiate programs. Remember, you can improve and blossom as a player during the ages of 18-23. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the only way to the PGA Tour is through a big-time college golf program. Playing at a high-level after your collegiate years has to do with what you put into your golf game, not where you take your game.
[TIP: If you’re serious about playing at the next level, work to search for a school in the southern climates. It doesn’t need to be a top school again, but that 12-month golf season will help.]
4. Find a school with a great coach
Maybe I’m getting redundant on this point (see number 2), but at the end of the day, find a coach that cares about you.
When you have coaches that care, like I did, they will care about more than your scores on the golf course. They will be concerned with your education. They will want to know about your family. They will listen if you have any problems with your teammates or people at the university. They will be there to assist you. Early on, they will be your main confidant.
Great coaches come in a variety of packages. Knowledge of the golf swing is valuable, but is not the main asset in a strong coach. Preferably, you will seek a coach who cares about you, has a well-rounded base of golf knowledge and has a network of connections to get you in touch with to improve your golf game.
Be deliberate in your search for the right coach, but remember, coaches move too. Don’t make it your main decision initiative, but definitely have it as a factor.
5. Play in the summer!
A lot of kids play summer junior events. But for as many that do, there are just as many that focus on their high school events and spend the summer at the lake, playing pick up sports with friends and train for other sports.
If you want to play collegiate golf, find summer events and compete in them.
College coaches will care more about these scores than they will about your high school events– outside of maybe your state championship. Playing in the summers will give you the opportunity to meet other juniors, compete on different courses and test your game in a complete fashion.
The more often you place your golf game under the gun, the easier it will be hone in on your areas of improvement.
Also, summer golf is pretty fun….
6. Look into your education
If you don’t know what you want to do with your life, taking time to complete general courses is fine. The college journey–despite going by fast– still has plenty of time for quality decision making. As you search, seeing particular programs may peak your interest in a focus.
If you know your focus, look at the educational offerings your potential school has. If they don’t have your desired focus, consider finding a school with that discipline. Remember, there are only 125 PGA Tour cards. More than likely your ticket to a job will be in the degree you earn. Use your talents in golf to leverage an opportunity in your education.
7. Consider the dollars and cents
Again, the top-tier golf prospects will receive a high number for compensation. Sometimes a full ride is even in the books.
But for everyone else, there may either be available only a partial golf scholarship or no money at all. This is where working hard in high school to earn academic scholarships come into play. Once you receive FAFSA information, use that information to determine out-of-pocket expense. The number for your out-of-pocket expense should be something to consider. There is an entire world full of scholarship opportunities to help whittle this number down, so find them!
At the end of the day, if you’re able to play four years of collegiate golf, compete in events, travel, earn a diploma and find yourself four years later with minimal debt, your pursuit will be a grandiose success.
8. Play other sports
Consider this quote from Coach Chris Wilson:
“…I also look for good athletes. If they play other sports on the varsity level, I’m interested. I can’t teach athletic ability and if a see a 2- or 3-sport letterman I know they’re an athlete.”
You’re young. Play sports and have fun with your buddies. You’ll develop skills in these other sports that will translate back to golf. Here’s an article from USA Football. If they support the playing of multiple sports, the golf community will embrace it too.
Through other sports, you’ll find yourself getting stronger (which helps with golf), smarter (which helps with golf) and more disciplined (which helps with golf)– all benefits. The only thing to stay on guard with in my opinion would be baseball. I played baseball, and loved it, but note the different swings required for baseball and golf. If you want to play college golf, stay disciplined in your techniques around your golf swing. Baseball can be a little extra fun on the side….
If you don’t want to play other sports, this isn’t an imperative point, but if you play other sports, I would encourage you to continue to do so.
Good luck in your search….now get out there, hit some golf balls and do your research!
Follow me on Twitter @troy_usgolftv or email me firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!