Getting a college scholarship is far from a gimme. But it’s a tap-in compared to landing on Tour. According to the Junior Golf Scoreboard, of the 2,150 junior golfers graduating high school in 2007, roughly 25 percent have been offered some financial support from a university. Says Mac Thayer of the JGS, “You figure roughly one in four of these kids are getting some kind of ‘come play for me’ money.”
Under NCAA regulations, college coaches are not allowed to make contact with a golfer until July 1 of the player’s junior year in high school. After that, the coach can only make contact once a week. Young players and their parents are allowed to initiate contact with coaches at any time before then, but coaches are not allowed to return calls or reply to letters until after July 1 of the player’s junior year.
So, what are the top college coaches looking for in a recruit? “Heart and commitment and lot of other things you can’t see in a swing,” says Rick LaRose, the men’s golf coach at the University of Arizona. “If a great swing was the indicator of great talent, then everyone on Tour would win.”
“So much of it comes down to the kid’s will and desire,” agrees Dwayne Knight, the UNLV golf coach. “I’ve seen great players come from the academies, but also great players who were homegrown. Neither path necessarily dictates where you’ll end up.”