Throughout my seven years as a Division I college golf coach and now 9.5
years as a college golf consultant, I’ve been continually asked by parents and
junior golfers, “Does high school golf matter in my son’s/daughter’s quest to
play college golf?” Surely you’d get varying opinions and perspectives on this
topic from junior golfers and parents. I can’t speak for all college coaches,
but I will provide my opinions on the topic and tell you what I share with my
own clients regarding high school golf. Ultimately, each individual must decide
for himself what is the best decision for his particular high school experience.
Personally, I have great memories of my high school golf team experience and
will fondly remember my teammates, the van rides, matches against our rivals and
other players (Dave Stockton, Jr., OD Vincent, Brandi Burton), my coach’s (rest
in peace, Coach Sage) stories, and the bond that we all shared during my four
years on the team. My coach was not an advanced golfer, but he loved the game
and wanted us to have a great experience. My high school experience only
enhanced my golf journey, and like anything in life, it is what you choose to
make it. That three- to four-month period each spring in high school was a time
I looked forward to and remember distinctly. The high school golf season length
still provided me ample opportunities to complement my junior tournament
schedule with outside junior/amateur events that would allow me to compete and
gain the necessary experience against a more regional and/or national field.
There is no arguing that competitive junior golfers need to complement their
high school golf experience with junior tournaments and, for some, amateur
events. It’s important and essential that college coaches are able to evaluate
you in multiple-day tournaments and competitive fields outside of high school
golf. However, as a former college coach, I viewed high school golf as a
positive for junior golfers and wanted to share some of my reasons.
- The high school golfer learns the value and aspects of being on a team.
Although golf is an individual sport, a golfer’s performance will impact the
team score. In college, a golfer is one of approximately ten teammates, so each
player has a role that can greatly affect the team. There are a myriad of
activities that include and require teamwork and cooperation (team competitions,
team building, community outreach, fitness trainings and practice, alumni/donor
functions, etc.) in college. These are traits that can be well established
through a high school golf team experience and better prepare a junior golfer
for all aspects of college athletics.
- High school golfers have the opportunity to represent their schools and
communities, participate in team rivalries against other high schools, and
manage the responsibilities of being high school student-athletes representing
something bigger than the individual. This experience is also a great prelude to
what being a college student-athlete is all about, and it’s fun to play for your
school, teammates, and community.
- There is an opportunity to learn from a varying number of mentors,
administrators, teachers, and coaches through a high school golf team experience.
- The high school golfer learns how to coexist and communicate with other
personalities on the team, as well as with the coach. It’s also an opportunity
to learn leadership skills and set an example for the next class of players.
This same hierarchy is seen in the college team environment as well.
- In college, a player is not always going to be able to practice, train, and
rest on his own schedule. The coach will dictate these activities, much like the
high school golf experience. In most cases, the coach determines when a player
trains; hence, a player learns how to make the most out of the practice time
required by the coach and how to utilize his practice time when the opportunity
is available to practice on his own.
- Playing high school golf simulates the balance of having school in the
morning and golf practice/matches in the afternoon. This time management skill
is one of the most important aspects of being a successful college
student-athlete. Learning and practicing the balance between academics,
athletics, and social activities in the high school environment can be used as a
positive foundation to what is required as a college student-athlete.
High school golf can provide a plethora of benefits to a young junior golfer
and, if approached with the correct mindset, a lasting and memorable experience.
As established, it is essential that a junior golfer aspiring to play college
golf compete in junior events outside of the high school season. However,
competing on a high school golf team will not be looked at negatively in the
eyes of a college coach. Instead, playing high school golf will provide an
opportunity to learn how to become a team player in an individual sport.
Road to College Golf