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Plan Early
By Anne Marie Goslak

 

I was told once that everyone in this world can fit in one of two categories. Some people are “Dream Makers” who help others achieve their goals. Some people are “Dream Breakers” who either serve as the voice of reason, or just simply cast their cloud of pessimism.

As one might imagine, I most enjoy being in the “Dream Maker” category. I have been fortunate enough to help dozens of young people earn golf scholarships. It is gratifying to see someone’s dream come true and know you played a small part in helping them achieve it.

Unfortunately, last week, I was the “Dream Breaker”. A young lady and her mother came for a golf lesson.

“My daughter wants to play college golf, maybe at Wake Forest, like you did. Her high school coach says she has a lot of talent.” Said the mother as the young girl beamed with pride in the chair next to me.

It took me 30 seconds and two practice swings to recognize that this young lady was NOT going to play golf for Wake. She was in the 11th grade and had just picked up the sport a year ago. She showed a lot of natural talent and clearly was a hard worker, but the truth was, she missed the window of opportunity. Even if she started shooting even par now, colleges need to see long term success in national competitions. High School golf matches do not count.

The road to college golf begins in the 8th or 9th grade, if not sooner. Many Division I schools will make their decision about who will get a scholarship by the 11th grade.

There are specific steps a player must make to have a chance to play golf at the college level. Here is some basic advice.

Start early. Get your child golf lessons when they are 8-9 years old. By 9-12, let them play in a few local tournaments. By the time they are 13, you need to see if they are ready to make a serious commitment to focus on golf.

It takes a minimum of 3-6 hours a day of practice during the summer to really take your game to the highest level. By the time they are 14, they need to have a practice routine, start working on fitness and diet, and begin working on the mental side of the game daily.

At age 15, the tournaments should be a combination of local and state, with two to three national events. Now is the time to contact every college in your region of interest. Send an introductory letter, a golf resume and maybe a video of your child’s golf swing. Keep a file of every school you contact.

By 16, I’d begin making visits and narrow down your search to 15-20 schools. Write to those coaches when your child does well in a tournament. Send the coaches your child’s tournament schedule and invite them to watch your child in competition. If you really like a college program, consider making a road trip to watch their team play. You will learn a lot about a coach by seeing how he interacts with his players.

By age 17, you should be ready to visit 5 schools and make your selection by the start of your senior year, at the latest.

The road to a college scholarship in golf is a long one. Start it early and understand the level of dedication required. It alters the college experience significantly. If you combine how many parties, football games and homecomings I attended while at Wake, you can count them on one hand. It is a 40 hour a week commitment. However, I was fortunate enough to travel and have experiences that others may never have. It is a trade off. Just know that going in.

The young lady was obviously upset when I explained that if she was not on the coach’s radar by now, she was not going to play for a Division I school. We created a plan so she might consider Division III, which worked out well anyway. She wanted to be a forensic pathologist. We found a small school that specialized in just that. If I can help her get her scores down to the mid 80’s, she will have a chance at receiving a $5,000 scholarship to a $13,000 a year school. It may not be the dream she wanted, but it was a compromise. Four years ago, we might have had a chance. Dream big, but plan early.

-Anne Marie Goslak