No matter when you started playing or what golf course you grew up on, every junior golfer dreams of being the next Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus. For most, the second step in the pursuit of PGA Tour immortality is collegiate golf. But before one can step into the realms of college golf and achieve the title of college golfer, he or she must first become a college recruit.
Oh the joys of the recruiting process. Top junior golfers are bombarded with letters, phone calls, e-mails and text messages from college coaches hoping to convince them to come to their school. How does a junior player know which college is right for them? Where should they spend the next four years of their life? For many junior golfers the answers to these questions can seem evasive and intimidating. The recruiting process is very important, but it is not meant to be as daunting as a climb to the top of Mt. Everest.
For 2008 Rolex Junior All-American Crawford Reeves, his college decision came down to four factors: location, tradition, facilities and head coach. “I had always been a Clemson golf fan. The school’s location was great, I knew I liked the coach, and the facilities were great,” Reeves said. “I knew if I could get something that great and that close to home, I was going to take advantage of it.”
John Brooks, the former Head Golf Coach at the University of North Florida from 1990-2003, now operates the Red Numbers Golf program. His program helps families navigate junior golf and manage college placement. Brooks acknowledges that the recruiting process is a complicated one. Brooks believes there are two keys that go into a junior golfer selecting the right college. “Campus visits and meetings with golf coaches are the key steps in this complex process,” said Brooks, who believes juniors should look for schools where they will have a realistic chance at playing in tournaments. “I also encourage these college prospects to target schools where they could see themselves fitting in even if they did not participate in golf.”
The NCAA forbids coaches to make contact with players until after their sophomore year in high school. However, when the time comes, letters and emails begin flowing in from everywhere. Reeves said, “I got some letters and emails from schools. It was interesting to see some schools let me know if there was anything they could do to get me there, they would do it.”
The recruiting process can be hectic, but Reeves advises junior golfers to enjoy it and take it as a challenge. “Look at is as a fun thing and not something with a lot of pressure that comes with it. Make it as fun as possible, not stressful,” said Reeves. Many juniors decide to commit to a school early. Reeves was one of them. “I’m glad I did commit early because I started playing my best golf after that. It took all of the pressure off me,” he said.
Once in school, Coach Brooks says the most common problem facing the golfer is time management. “Being away from home for the first time creates a new set of responsibilities and makes effective time management essential for the student-athlete to succeed in their classes and with their collegiate golf career,” he said.
For Brooks, the main piece of advice he can give junior golfers who are transitioning to the college game is to retain the strong support team they built while playing junior golf. “Remember the key principles and values that your parents and instructors have taught you as a junior and continue to focus on them throughout your college career,” Brooks said.
Reeves is currently wrapping up his freshman campaign at Clemson. He has played in 10 of the team's 11 tournaments this season. When it comes to collegiate golf, Reeves says there is not much difference from junior golf. “Overall, it’s just golf. You’ve been doing it your entire life so just keep on doing what you’ve been doing,” said Reeves.
When asked if he could describe the life of a collegiate athlete, after a long pause, Reeves said, “It’s the most fun, busiest, and rewarding thing you could do. It’s also a privilege.”
– Jonathan Goldman contributed to this article