College Golf: A Few Things to Consider
I still remember getting the phone call from Eastern Illinois University in the early spring of 2000. They wanted me to come play golf for them, and, they wanted to pay for my education! It was a pretty exciting day for me and my parents, all our hard work was paying off and now I was going to get to play NCAA Division I golf!
That was over 15 years ago and I will never forget the feeling I had when my letter of intent came in the mail. Fast forward 16 years (yikes, how did that happen) and I am working with and coaching some of Saskatchewan’s best junior golfers. I am watching young hopeful golfers work towards being recognized by NCAA golf programs and going on school visits. After going through the ranks of college golf, albeit a few years ago, there are a few things I would like to pass onto potential college golfers (and all athletes).
1. A “Full Ride” isn’t exactly “Fully Paid”
If you are lucky enough to get a scholarship, full or partial, consider yourself extremely lucky! Tuition costs are going up every year in Canada and the United States and with the current currency exchange between the Canadian Dollar and the US Dollar, heading South of the border is becoming quite expensive. Any amount of scholarship money is a bonus and comes from putting the work in both athletics and academics. But, keep in mind that there will be other costs that will likely not be covered by a scholarship.
One of these main costs will be travel. You will likely want to come home at some point (your parents will miss you). When I was attending Eastern Illinois University, I flew home for Christmas and drove home in the spring for the summer, then drove back in the fall. The cost for me to come home was more than a tank of gas! Even if you have a full scholarship, be prepared to budget money for traveling to and from school to home.
Make sure to ask exactly what your scholarship money covers in term of tuition and room and board. Sometimes there are fees that get charged after your initial enrollment that may not have been covered. Ask for a detailed list of what is covered and what isn’t.
Be wise with those financial aid cheques. In my 3rd year, I decided to move into an apartment off campus with another teammate. Since my scholarship covered room and board, they sent me a cheque in the amount of one semester! (That was the biggest cheque I had ever seen written to me at the age of 19). I was a very responsible young woman, but, it was a lot of money. I prepaid my rent for 4 months! It was tempting to want to spend that money … but, it would have been a tough phone call home asking for rent money when I had a scholarship! Lesson here … be wise beyond your years.
2. Your Education is Important!
How many times have you heard this in your life? I loved school (and golf). I was competitive in most things I did, school included. Getting high grades was just as important to me as low golf scores were. You will be reminded that you are a “student-athlete” over and over in your college career. Our golf team had certain academic goals we were required to meet every semester, basically as a team our coaches wanted us to have a certain combined grade point average, and we were in competition with the other school teams. Whether you love academics or not, you will be expected to work hard in the classroom as well as on the golf course. If you let your grades slide even a fraction, it could jeopardize your playing and practice time. Remember, they will care what your grades are so put the effort in!
3. Be Prepared to Practice
This sounds like a no brainer! “ Of course I’m going to practice”, you say to yourself. Right? Well, Be. Prepared. To. Practice. Any NCAA athletic team is going to have set practice times and usually scheduled training regimens, like a weightlifting program. Golf is no different. Practice will likely be 5 days a week, with an optional extra day on your own (NCAA has rules about how many practice days a sport can have in a given week). There will also be off course training which might include a sports psychologist and you will more than likely be required to work with the strength and conditioning coach 3-4 times a week. This may seem pointless that I am stressing this, but, there are some kids who head off to play college golf with no idea of how many hours they are actually going to be spending “practicing”. Make sure you know what your coach expects in terms of practice before you agree to play. Ask what a typical practice schedule would look like and how an “in season” day vs an “out of season” day would compare.
4. The First Semester (or year) is going to take some Adjustment
Golf is a tough game to play on any given day, but it’s even harder when you’re adjusting to a new place, new living arrangement, new friends and a full course load of university classes. My first semester of college golf was both exciting and frankly, frustrating. My parents dropped me off in Charleston, Illinois at Eastern Illinois University where I knew no one, and for the first two weeks, I wasn’t even sure how I was going to get to practice since I hadn’t even met any of my teammates. My golf game was struggling, I had never played on Bermuda grass in Tennessee before! But, I eventually figured it all out. By the 2nd semester and spring golf season, I was much more comfortable and confident on the course. It could have been easy to just say “this is too hard” and give up … but, I really wanted to play college golf. Keep this all in mind, there will be an adjustment period … some might adjust sooner than others and that’s ok. Don’t get down on yourself and just keep working hard. And, no matter how excited you may be to leave home, you will get homesick!
These are just a few tips that I picked up on my way. They apply to student athletes attending Canadian universities as well. Just remember, you can never ask too many questions!
PGA of Canada – Saskatchewan Zone Professional Amanda Minchin is a regular contributor to the SaskGolfer community. For help with your golf game, contact Amanda via her website at www.amandaminchin.com