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Golfer Parent: Demystifying College Recruiting for Women’s Golf

woman golfer in sunsetThis is a guest post by Chuck Self who has just been through the golf recruiting process with his daughter. You can learn more at his website Her College Success.

There has never been a better time for girls who wish to play golf in college. There are over 650 golf programs sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. But the recruiting process for the average high school varsity golf player is somewhat mysterious.

My wife and I recently went through the recruiting process for our daughter who played high school golf. She was not a highly ranked player in her state but she enjoys the game and wanted to play in college. Since she was the first high school athlete of our children, we were complete novices about the recruiting dance.

Here are some of the most interesting facts and experiences we came across:

1. “Average” high school golfers can play in college

College golf teams average seven members nationally, according to AthleticScholarships.Com. Therefore, there are over 4500 four-year college women golf slots available. This number does not include the growing number of community colleges with women golf teams. If you daughter consistently has 18 hole scores under 100, she can play college golf and, in some cases, be on the starting squad in her first or second year.

2. Your daughter should also participate in non-golf activities to be attractive to colleges

If a student is taking golf lessons, practicing between lessons, and playing rounds, it may be difficult to be involved in many other activities, even in the off-season. Almost all admission counselors will tell you that the quality of participation in these activities is more important than the number of clubs in which she is involved. Obviously, she should be a leader on the golf team. Your student should also attempt to lead on other school teams.?  If she does not have any additional athletic skills, being a team manager in another sport can present leadership qualities to a college.

Finally, short-term leadership opportunities work well also. Your daughter should apply to regional and statewide programs such as American Legion Girls’ State, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, and National Student Leadership Conference. If chosen, she will have an intense period of programs during the conference with potential follow-up. And she will not have to be President of a club throughout the school year while keeping her golf game keen.

3. Begin visiting colleges as a high school freshman

According to recruiting rules, coaches cannot initiate contact until July 1 after your daughter’s junior year. Before then, she can have an unlimited numbers of college visits and can call coaches. Take time in the freshman and sophomore years to visit colleges of all types: public and private; large and small; urban, suburban and rural; close to home and far from home; etc. Starting in the fall of her junior year, begin to make a list of schools that interest her.?  We found that five to ten schools was a good start. During her fall and winter breaks when the colleges are in session, attempt to visit as many schools on the list as possible. When scheduling the college visit, ask to have a brief meeting with the golf coach. We found that winter visits were the most fruitful since golf is a fall and spring sport and the coaches were more available.

When meeting with a coach, make sure the student understands that she is interviewing him/her as much as she is being interviewed. Good coaches want students that fit well academically, socially and athletically at the school. After the initial small talk, your daughter (not you or your spouse) should ask questions of the coach. They should center on the following subjects: needs of the team, coaching style, proper preparation for college golf, balancing academics and golf, and on and off-season time commitment. And make sure she sends a thank you email to the coach after you return home.

4. Statistics are available to determine your daughter’s likely placement on the team

Since golf is an individual sport it is easier to get a sense of how competitive your daughter will be on a school’s team. Almost all colleges provide team and individual statistics on their websites. You will need to adjust your daughter’s numbers before comparing them to the school’s statistics. Although she will improve her scores before joining a college golf team, she will find the more intensive practice and tournament schedule grueling in the beginning. Also, the courses played in college will be longer and more difficult than her juniors and high schools courses. Thus, most experts believe that you should add five strokes to your daughter’s consistent score to get a true picture of where she will fit in a program.

Only the four best scores out of five players entered count for the team score in a tournament. If your daughter’s adjusted scores would rank her in fourth or fifth place on the team and she is committed, it is likely she will eventually contribute to her team’s success.

5. Average players may receive partial scholarships

For the schools that give scholarships, the equivalent of five to six can be offered at the maximum.?  These can be broken into partial scholarships. Thus, an NAIA college can award 3 full scholarships, 3 half scholarships, and 2 quarter scholarships so that the combined total is 5, the maximum.?  NCAA Division 1 allows 6 scholarships and Division II has a maximum of 5.4 scholarships for women’s golf.

It should also be pointed out that a strong academic student makes it easier to be admitted to the school of her choice and gives a coach the confidence that she will be able to maintain academic eligibility while she plays. This factor can increase or decrease a student’s athletic aid offer. Academic strength should be the number one goal of every college bound high school student.

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