About 15 years ago, I was a competitive junior golfer with aspirations of playing collegiate golf. I had won some junior tournaments, possessed a strong work ethic, and had no doubt in my own mind that I had what it took to compete at the next level. I was also lucky to have parents who were always supportive but never overbearing. My grades and test scores were solid. I was ready (or so I thought). Why weren’t coaches knocking down my door to recruit me? What more could I possibly need to get recruited?
Boy, was I naïve! Little did I know how different college golf recruitment REALLY was.
After taking a gap year to work tirelessly on my game under the tutelage of Bill McInerney, I committed to play at Johnson & Wales in North Miami, Florida under the legendary coach Dave Adamonis, Sr.
He was an old school kind of coach. He was tough but fair, and he knew how to push buttons at just the right time to get the most out of his players. I spent 4 great years playing college golf, getting my degree, and learning a lot about college golf.
Since my graduation from Johnson & Wales, I have spent time as a professional golfer, Head College Golf Coach, and now I am a Golf Performance Coach at KOHR Golf Academy. I have often thought about where I would have ended up, had I known everything that I know now. Fortunately, I don’t think I could have found a better school, for myself, to learn as a student-athlete.
My experiences as a junior player being recruited, as well as college coach looking to add quality student-athletes to a successful program has taught me about the entire process from both sides of the table. Choosing the right college is very important but it is also a daunting experience. Just like the game of golf, having a game plan is critical to getting started on the right track.
HERE ARE 7 IMPORTANT STEPS TO PLAYING COLLEGE GOLF:
Step 1: STOP STRESSING!
Step 2: Work hard in school.
“How are your grades?” Without fail, this will be one of the first questions asked by any college coach. Yes, tournament scoring average is important, but coaches won’t waste their time talking to you if your grades aren’t up to par. In order to compete at the next level, you’ll need to take care of business in the classroom first. Being a student-athlete at the next level is a huge responsibility, and in my opinion, any coach worth playing for will hold this as their top priority.
Step 3: Surround yourself with a positive supporting cast.
Golf instructors/coaches, fitness coaches, mentors are all irreplaceable. Parents, don’t worry, you play an important part as well!
Step 4: Build an organized game plan.
Sit down with your supporting cast to map out efficient practice plans, workout routines, and develop a thoughtful tournament schedule. Play in local events, compete on regional golf tours and mix in a few at the national level. Not every event on your schedule needs to the most expensive or a big-time national event. Compete in as many events as you can and start developing that tournament resume!
Step 5: Play with better players.
One of the best pieces of advice I received before going off to college was to seek out the best players and emulate their approach. Observe how they practice. Ask questions. Annoy them. Play with them.
Step 6: Manage your expectations.
Set attainable goals. Make mistakes, but learn from every one of them. You’re not going to win every tournament you play, you’re not even going to play great in every tournament. Ultimately, your ability to respond to setbacks will determine your success.
Step 7: Have fun.
Golf is not a job; it’s just a game!!! It is disappointing when you see players and parents treating it like a job. If you are willing to work as hard as you can and have fun with what you’re doing, everything else will take care of itself.
Stay tuned for my next blog. In a few weeks, I will address even more steps to becoming a successful collegiate golfer.
by Coach Chris Hawley