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Opinion & Analysis

Why NCAA Division II, III and NAIA is a great option for women golfers

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This article was written in collaboration between Brendan Ryan and Estefania Acosta. To research more on the subject of college golf from these authors, please check out their book, The College Golf Almanac, that is now for sale on Amazon for $19.99.

Almost all junior girl golfers aspire to play for a team in college. However, many of these girls only set their eyes on the possibility of playing for a Division I team.

While being a Division I collegiate athlete is very impressive, players can often get the same, if not a more rewarding experience playing below the DI level. In my opinion, a junior player should never rule out the possibility of playing for a Division II, Division III, or NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes) college team. Even though the average scores may be higher in these divisions, players still get an opportunity to travel the country and play golf at a competitive level. And, as you will see in this post, these opportunities are much more abundant than you would think.

I took a look at the list of the 2016 Early Signees found on the National Junior Golf Scoreboard (NJGS). For this story, I will be examining girls that signed to DII, DIII, and NAIA schools and compare them with the National Junior Golf 2014 Class Ranking, as well as the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Using the data that I have collected, below is a bird’s eye view on what it takes to be recruited in these three divisions.

In 2016, 267 girls signed early to women’s teams, 39 of which signed to Division II schools. Thirty six of these girls were from the United States and six were international players. There were only three girls who signed to Division III teams and 11 girls who signed to NAIA teams, all of whom were from the United States. Because the number of girls who signed to DIII and NAIA schools was so small, I decided to average the NJGS rankings of DII, DIII, and NAIA early signees together. The average NJGS Ranking for these girls was 1343, which sets them out to have a scoring average of about 85. The average WAGR for the Division II early signees was 2158, meaning that international players held a scoring average of about 82.2. Therefore shooting in the mid-to-low 80s by the time a girl begins her recruitment process as a junior will give her a great shot at playing Division II, III, and NAIA golf.

Please note that these scoring and ranking averages are slightly skewed given the fact that 17 of the girls that signed to DII teams and 7 of the girls signed to NAIA teams were not ranked in either the NJGS or the WAGR

Golf is only one half of the student-athlete experience, however. After all, a player is always a student before they are an athlete. DII, III, and NAIA programs take this very seriously. Because there is less of an academic commitment as it relates to schools below the DI level, students have more of an opportunity to focus on their studies. Moreover, while it is of course expected that a player wants to be recruited to a team to follow her passion, a girl can use golf as a vehicle to get a better academic experience. The fact of the matter is that women’s DII programs can award 5.4 scholarships and NAIA programs can award 5 grants annually. So playing for a DII or NAIA school can make it a lot easier on the family finances. While DIII schools are not permitted to award scholarships, many of these schools are superb academic institutions. Mount Holyoke, Williams College, Ithaca College, Washington & Lee, and Washington University in Saint Louis are just a few colleges that offer Division III women’s golf. So if you happen to get contacted by a coach from one of these divisions, it is definitely worth taking a look at a school’s academic programs and standings before you before you cast it to the side.

All three of these collegiate divisions offer programs that are easier to play for than DI programs and still offer a superior level of play. Yet, despite the fact that there are 191 colleges with Division II women’s golf teams, 196 Division III women’s golf teams, and 138 NAIA women’s golf teams, many junior golfers believe that they are “too good” to play below the Division I level. As a result, they will earn a spot on a DI team, but remain on the practice squad for all four years.

Although it is indeed nice to say that you play on a DI team, being on the practice squad won’t necessarily make you a better golfer if you never actually getting an opportunity to travel. In his article on the NJGS website, Coach Brooks, a former Division II coach states:

“Competing is the key, and no player, regardless of team, will ever improve as a player if he is not a member of the team’s five-person traveling squad. Some Division I players, who face this exact situation, would be much better off as either Division II or Division III players.”

The fact of the matter is that players could probably get a more competitive college experience if they played for one of these schools. So don’t sell these schools short. You might be able to get a better experience at them than you’ve ever imagined.

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Estefania Acosta-Aguirre is a former college coach and player who has won an individual conference championship and two PGA Minority National Championship. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in International Business, and is a K-Vest, Flight Scope and Putting Zone Certified Coach. She is currently pursuing her masters in Sports Coaching at the University of Central Lancashire, as well as finalizing her second book due out in early 2018. You can follow her on Instagram at steph_acostacoaching

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Steve

    Oct 26, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    I believe its “athletic” and not “academic” typo

  2. Acemandrake

    Oct 15, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    “Because there is less of an academic commitment as it relates to schools below the DI level, students have more of an opportunity to focus on their studies.”

    Can someone explain this to me?

    Thanks!

  3. Walt Bismarck

    Oct 15, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Third wave feminism is cancer. Women belong at home with the family.

    • Genn

      Oct 15, 2017 at 5:34 pm

      Most ‘female’ pro golfers are trannies …. believe it

  4. M. Vegas

    Oct 15, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Everyone belongs where he/she will be appreciated and valued….
    Let’s stop the bullying

  5. 2putttom

    Oct 15, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    “many junior golfers believe that they are “too good” to play below the Division I level. As a result, they will earn a spot on a DI team, but remain on the practice squad for all four years…”

    This is fact based on my interactions with junior golf programs. Better to compete in a field/division where you’ll get noticed rather than be an egg in a carton.

    • ActualFacts

      Oct 15, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      @2putttom – Very well written… I don’t have anything constructive to add.

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Opinion & Analysis

Prospective NCAA Golfers, are you ready for September 1? Here’s what you should be doing

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In June, I reported changes to the NCAA rules, including new legislation that prevented college coaches from contacting a prospective student athlete before September 1 of their Junior Year. With September 1 just around the corner, the question is: are you ready?

If not, don’t worry. As always, I am here to help you understand the college landscape and find the best opportunity to pursue your passion in college! Here’s what you need to know:

Be Prepared

Over time, you are going to hear from some coaches. It is important that students are prepared to talk to coaches. Before speaking to a coach, it is important to do research about their institution; what are the grades required for admissions? How many players are on the team? How much of the student population lives on campus? Know the basics before your conversation.

It is also important that you are ready to answer a couple questions. Coaches are very likely to ask, why are you interested in my school? Tell me about your grades or academic interests? Or, tell me about your golf game? Be honest and remember a passion for the game goes a long way.

Coaches are also likely to ask if you have any questions. Having a couple questions written down is important. If you are not sure what to ask, here are some questions I recommend:

  • What is your coaching philosophy?
  • What is your favourite part of coaching?
  • What type of student best fits in at your university?
  • What type of athlete best fits in?
  • What are the goals for the golf program?
  • How do you determine who play play in your top 5 at tournaments?
  • Do you ever take more than 5 players to a tournament?
  • What access does the team have to golf courses?
  • Is it expected to have your own vehicle?
  • Do you do any technical swing work with the players?
  • What is your greatest strength as a coach?
  • Do you offer academic support, such as tutors for students?
  • What percent of teachers have terminal degrees?
  • How does my major (X) impact golf? Can I do it and golf?
  • Do you support graduates in getting jobs?
  • What success do people have getting jobs?
  • What success do people have getting into grad schools?

Know the Numbers

With only a couple weeks before September 1, I would recommend you take time and see where you (or your son and daughter) stands on websites such as Junior Golf Scoreboard or Rolex AJGA Rankings. Now that you know the number, consider in several previous articles I have presented how rankings related to college signings. My analysis of the numbers demonstrates that, for boys, the average Division I player is ranked approximately 300 in Junior Golf Scoreboard in their class with a scoring differential of about .5. The average Division II player is ranked about 550 in their class. For girls, it appears that ranking is less important, but there is a strong relationship between scoring differential and college signings. Girls that sign at schools within the top 50 have scoring differentials of at least -3 or better, while the average for any Division I player is approximately 5.

Keep in mind that when you search on Junior Golf Scoreboard for yourself, it will show your ranking overall. This number is going to be much lower for your ranking in your class. Without a subscription, you will not be able to find your exact rank, but I would generally say you can cut the number by about 50 percent to give yourself a fair gauge. So if you are 3750 overall, you are likely close to 1875 in your class.

For many members of the junior class reading this article, they may see that their ranking might be significantly higher than these numbers. Don’t panic; the rankings are over a 1-year period. After a year, old scores drop off and new scores can be counted. Also, on Junior Golf Scoreboard, your worst 25 percent of rounds are not counted. So, you have time to continue to work on your game, improve your ranking and get the attention of coaches!

Do your research

Now that you have an idea about your ranking, start researching. Where did players of similar rank sign last year? What is the rank of that school? What schools are ranked about the same? Answering these questions will require some time and two resources; Junior Golf Scoreboard and Golfstat.com. To find out where similar players signed from last year, go to njgs.com, then under the tab “rankings & honors,” the bottom option is college signees. Click there, and then you can order the signees based on class rank by clicking on “scoreboard class ranking as of signing date.” You will notice that last year, players ranked about 1800 in their class signed at such schools as Kenyon, Glenville, Southern Nazarene, Central Alabama Community college and Allegany college. Pretty good considering these schools have produced a president of the United States (Hayes, Kenyon), and a 5-time Major Championship participant (Nathan Smith, Allegany).

Now that you have a list of schools where similar students have signed, look up the golf rankings of these schools on golfstat.com. The rankings of schools are under the “rankings” tab on the home page and segmented by NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA.

First find out where the school is ranked and then consider schools ranked 5-10 spots ahead and behind that school. Are any of these of interest? Any where you think might sound interesting? Take time and build a list, then send an email to those schools introducing yourself, along with a swing video.

Have a Plan

Regardless if you are a Junior in High School or a Senior in High School, come September 1, remember that there is still time and regardless of what people say, coaches are always looking. For High School Juniors, it is likely that next summer will have a critical impact on your opportunities in college golf, so what can you do over the next 9 months? Where are you missing out on the most shots? Take time, talk to people and develop a plan to give yourself the best chance to succeed in the future. And then, put in the time!

For Seniors, although many might be in your ear saying it’s too late, don’t listen to them. You still have some time. Take a careful look at how you can use the next 2-3 months to improve and prepare for events such as the AJGA Senior Showcase in Las Vegas. Remember that data suggests that up to one-third of players sign in the late period (for all levels) and up to 60 percent of players who compete in the AJGA Senior Showcase in December in Las Vegas, go on to get offers.

As always, if you have any feedback on this article or a story idea, please feel free to reach out to me! I always love hearing from people and helping them connect with schools that meet their academic, athletic, social and financial needs! Best of luck to you, or your son/daughter.

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TG2: Would you rather have Brooks or DJ’s career? 30+ more AMA-style Instagram questions

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Brooks Koepka vs. Dustin Johnson? All-time favorite driver? Poker chips as ball markers? Editor Andrew Tursky and Equipment Expert Brian Knudson answer 30+ questions from the @tg2wrx Instagram. They also discuss Joe LaCava (Tiger’s caddie) paying off a heckler to go away.

Enjoy the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Wyndham Championship

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After one of the most exciting Sunday’s of the golfing year, attention now turns towards the race for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and the quest to attain a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup. For the former, this week’s Wyndham Championship is the final opportunity for players to work their way into the top-125 in the FedEx Cup standings and earn a spot in the opening event of the playoffs. Despite many of the world’s elite understandably taking this week off, there are some big names in action here in Greensboro, with Hideki Matsuyama, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Webb Simpson all setting their sights on winning at Sedgefield Country Club this week.

Sedgefield CC is a relatively short par-70 golf course. It measures just over 7,100 yards, and it’s a golf course that doesn’t particularly favour the longer hitters. The rough is playable in Greensboro this week, and like most years at the Wyndham Championship, expect players who have their wedge game dialled in to thrive here at this event.

Last year, Henrik Stenson put on a ball striking clinic, posting 22-under par to win the title by one stroke over Ollie Schniederjans.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Webb Simpson 12/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama 16/1
  • Henrik Stenson 18/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello 22/1
  • Brandt Snedeker 22/1
  • Shane Lowry 25/1
  • Billy Horschel 28/1

It’s been a bit of a disappointing year for Daniel Berger (35/1, DK Price $9,300), but the Floridian showed some very promising signs at last week’s PGA Championship. After opening his PGA Championship with a very poor round of 73, Berger then shined over the next three days. The American posted three consecutive rounds under par, two of which were 66 or better. It was enough to give Berger a T12 finish and plenty of momentum heading to Greensboro this week.

In St. Louis last week, Berger lead the field for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, gaining an impressive 8.5 strokes over the field. It was the second best performance with his irons in his career, and at Sedgefield, Berger is going to have hole after hole where he can attack pins with his precise iron game. The two-time winner on the PGA Tour has had a quiet year, but in a weakened field, with plenty of question marks surrounding those at the top of the market, he has a superb opportunity for win number three here in Greensboro.

A T31 finish at the PGA Championship last week means that Chris Kirk (80/1, DK Price $7,500) has now made the cut in his last ten events. From these ten events, four have resulted in top-25 finishes, and Kirk has been hitting the ball particularly well as of late. Over his previous 12 rounds, Kirk ranks fifth in the field this week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 10th in ball striking and eight in Strokes Gained-Total.

Kirk will cost you just $7,500 on DraftKings, and looking at some of the players that are more expensive this week, he appears to be a bargain. Kirk is three for three in cuts made at the Wyndham Championship in his last three visits, and the four-time PGA Tour champion looks in excellent shape to mount his best challenge yet in Greensboro. Over his last 12 rounds, Kirk leads this week’s field for proximity to the hole, and on a golf course where flushing short irons to close range is going to be key, the American looks to offer some of the best value around this week.

With 17 out of 19 made cuts this year, and arriving off the back of a T12 finish in his last outing, Rory Sabbatini (75/1, DK Price $7,100) looks undervalued once again on DraftKings this week. Over his previous 12 rounds, Sabbatini ranks 24th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and 10th in Strokes Gained-Total. What’s more, is that Sabbatini is coming to a golf course that he has played very well in the past. In his last two visits to Sedgefield CC, the American has finished in the top-10 twice, with his best result coming last year when he finished T4. Coming off a strong showing in Canada, and with his proficiency in making cuts and excellent course history, Sabbatini looks a great DraftKings option here this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Daniel Berger 35/1, DK Price $9,300
  • Chris Kirk 80/1, DK Price $7,500
  • Rory Sabbatini 75/1, DK Price $7,100
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