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This Comeback Better Be Different, Tiger

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First of all, let me be the first to say that I am a HUGE Tiger Woods fan and want him back in the game; golf is much better off with him around. That being said, I am growing tired of the talk of his latest “comeback” already, and it hasn’t even begun. Will this really be the time he takes it slow and only competes when he’s physically ready? Or will he be 4-over par at the turn in his next outing and withdraw… then say he needs more time to heal and needs more reps, and then disappear for six more months?

Golf needs Tiger, but I’m not so sure Tiger needs golf any longer, nor do I feel that he is as invested in the sport as he was previously. And who could blame him? He’s made tons of cash, won a bunch of Majors, and has endorsements that will keep him relevant for many years to come. However, I think he knows that his quest for Jack’s 18 Majors is over… really over, and I think it has deflated him. And maybe he’s having fun just being at home, being a father, and being a memory.

This brings me back to my first thought; this comeback better be real and it better last. As usual, he’s cleared by the doctors, he’s back to hitting balls and posting videos, and he says he’s getting ready from a health perspective. But does anyone believe him 100 percent? I don’t. In my opinion, we’ll see the same thing as last time and the time before that; one bad tournament round and he’s out. The fact of the matter is that I don’t think he can handle being second best, or third, or 1164th (his current world ranking), to today’s players and I feel that when he comes back and cannot be the “old” Tiger instantly, he won’t be able to handle it mentally and emotionally. Therefore, I feel that if he cannot be patient, and come back this time at 100 percent, I feel the end of Tiger’s career is approaching quicker than most hope.

Also, from a professional perspective, let’s face it, Chris Como hasn’t had enough time to mold Tiger back into Tournament shape. Anyone can hit the ball well on the range — we all know that. Chris is surely doing the best he can with what he has been given, but he can only do so much if his player isn’t committed or healthy. Tiger’s all but lost his edge and he knows it, but can he deal with being just another good Tour player and not the best any longer? And put in the work required at the pace that’s necessary for his body? I don’t think he can.

So my message to Tiger is this: Be honest with yourself. Be honest with your message to your fans, but most of all DO NOT come back until you are ready. Missing a cut or two does not mean the comeback is a “failure” either, as long as you’re 100 percent committed to the game. We are tired of hearing “I’m back,” only to watch you leave again and again. No one will blame you if you say “enough is enough, my body can’t handle it.” In fact, we’d embrace you more if you just told the truth.

But until then, we’ll hope this time is different…

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction at Combine Performance in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 60 people in the world.

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62 Comments

62 Comments

  1. JuNiOR

    Oct 25, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Stay single keep hitting it hard with the midnite hostess at Denny’s new girl every night then be honest about it and you might be in the right frame of mind at that point to be a PLAYER again.

    But if making the cut is the ultimate goal, time to reevaluate the why’s, even if it’s for the all mighty dollar.

  2. Schwartzman

    Oct 21, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Everybody is an expert on golf, clubs, Tiger, politics, religion and sseexx.

  3. Someone

    Oct 21, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Who are you to make demands of Tiger? He has done more for golf than you have done in your lifetime. If Tiger wants to make an attempt to keep coming back, let him. It is his right and he has earned the opportunity to keep trying. Whether he wins or fails is a matter of him getting up there and trying, but not trying at all equals failure, especially when it is in his primary career. You are ridiculous for trying to put stipulations on an athletes comeback. How about we as readers demand your articles actually be written with some quality, tact, and validity? How about we demand that you stop coming back to post on this site until you post something of meaning instead of click bait. You are ridiculous for thinking that you have any stake in whether or not Tiger can come back to golf. He is a grown man and well accomplished in the field of golf, both on and off. Take some time to think about what you write next time. Don’t furnish your personal feelings in an article and try to brandish it as a material. The site isn’t asking for your personal feelings about the happenings of golf, it’s asking you to provide insight that readers can’t get since we all have lives that consist of more than golf. Your article should have been titled, “Tiger’s coming back, but here are a few things that could hold him back from success…” and then at the end you could add on your “personal feelings” about the situation. Other than that, this ‘article’ is a worthless rant with no real golf insight, just all personal feelings about tiger’s comeback, as if he owes you ANYTHING…

  4. Jose Canseco

    Oct 21, 2017 at 8:03 am

    He should just hang it up and admit to HGH and roids that made him, like me, in the 90’s.

  5. Mike

    Oct 21, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Hogan came back and he was really bad. Then again he was a real man

  6. Mr Muira

    Oct 21, 2017 at 6:41 am

    LOL!!!…Amuricans.

  7. Moses

    Oct 20, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    You’re starting to sound like Skip Bayless.

  8. Jack Nash

    Oct 20, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Why is Woods coming back?

    $Sponsors$

    • Schwartzman

      Oct 21, 2017 at 11:50 am

      Icy Hot Back Patches …… together with Shaq?!!

  9. Garry Pierce

    Oct 20, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    who is this BOZO? Looks like he is trying to ride TW for 15 minutes of fame. How tRumpian of you Tom.. you’re fired

  10. moses

    Oct 20, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Tiger doesn’t owe you a F’ing thing. He can attempt to come back as often as necessary and as long as his body allows it. If his body won’t allow it then that’s just the way it is. Tiger gets to ride off into the sunset any which way he sees fit.

    • Jacked_Loft

      Oct 21, 2017 at 6:32 am

      +1. What an arrogant article. Famous comebacks: Nikki Lauda, Lance Armstrong, Bobby Baun, Jack Youngblood, Michael Jordan…just to mention a few. Remember that Tiger fractured his Tibia and then went out and won the 2008 US Open? 91 holes on a bum leg, and you’re telling him not to play games with his comeback?

      • Jose Canseco

        Oct 21, 2017 at 8:05 am

        But Armstrong was juiced. As was Eldrick.

    • Dr Troy

      Oct 21, 2017 at 9:53 am

      Well said, Moses.

  11. RP Jacobs II

    Oct 20, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    “All but lost his edge” ????????

    That edge went out the window the evening that he pasted the fire hydrant.

    The aura of invincibility was gone and with it the “edge.”

    In my eyes he was the Greatest Player ever and the second Greatest Champion.

    Excellent article and thoughts!!

    Very Nicely Played?????

    Cheers????
    RP

  12. Robert Parsons

    Oct 20, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Nobody scripts comebacks like we do. Period.

  13. Milton

    Oct 20, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    I always find it interesting when a person says “let me start off by saying, I’m a big fan of ____” before they rip the person their a big fan of a new one. I like TW, he brings an exciting element to golf. He has the 2nd most majors of anyone that played the game. At his best he revolutionized the game. However I’m not a Tiger fanatic. I like anything that helps our game. My only concern is that the writer of the article acts as if Tiger owes us something. As is TW owes it to us to come back healthy or not come back at all. If he comes back and fails, at least he tried. If he comes back and wins, well cool good for him. The guy says I’m a big Tiger fan then literally rips him to shreds.

    Thats not what we typically do in golf, but sadly it’s becoming the norm.

  14. Jay

    Oct 20, 2017 at 11:08 am

    The tough part about the Tiger comeback is that he’s admitted numerous times that he’ll never be able to practice the way that he used to when he was at his peak. So, in that sense, the old Tiger is definitely gone for good. However, if he can have sustained health (physically and mentally) for a 4-5 year period, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d win again because he’s just that good – and if he can do that, he can win majors again for sure.
    BUT, I think we’re fooling ourselves if we think this latest surgery is going to magically fix everything – unless his swing is built to protect his back, he’ll continue to have issues and will fall into the same pattern.

  15. Darryl

    Oct 20, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Quick straw poll, how many people on this site will quit the game if Tiger doesn’t return? The result is how badly the game of golf needs him.

    • Andrew

      Oct 20, 2017 at 11:55 am

      They left already. Your idea is correct regardless. Any industry that devolves into relying on the shallow wants of the cool kid bandwagon is already dead. Golf didn’t stoop that low but it tried thanks to the ignorant hype of a few clown children who make a living in golf but never took a real economics class. The game of golf transcends any 1 man, even 100 men, and thank God for that.

  16. OB

    Oct 20, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Washed up, finished, kaput, gonzo, no good no mo’ …. believe it

  17. jgpl001

    Oct 20, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Tiger was one of the greatest ever and he took golf to a whole new level. This comeback though is nonsense and will not happen. Age and time away means the world of golf has moved on. Even back at full fitness he wouldn’t make a cut on the web dot com tour

    Very sad, he had an astounding career, but he just needs to leave it so now and stop the nonsense

    • Garry Pierce

      Oct 20, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      who are you to decide what TW does? How about you quit posting!

  18. 8thehardway

    Oct 20, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Tiger wants to be golf’s Eldrick (then Elder) Statesman. The job’s open and it’s the perfect role to counterbalance his past, regain role-model status, offer an enduring mea culpa for those into moral judgements, be a hero to his kids and elevate his status beyond the sport the defines him… in all, a very satisfying arrangement.

    There won’t be a lot of tournaments, and the early ones an indication of conditioning more than competition, but the prospect of another Jack-at-the-1986-Masters performance will start gaining traction, which is another way of saying sponsors will shower our Arnie-Jack amalgam with endorsements.

    The quest for Jack’s 18 Majors isn’t a thing anymore… he can’t sell it and nobody’s buying it; but the optics of immortality has more than one focal point and he’s a consummate lenscrafter.

  19. The dude

    Oct 20, 2017 at 5:47 am

    Great Article Tom!…..it’s what almost everyone is thinking… I’ll bet he doesn’t play though…his swing kinda sucks…and his short game peaked 13 years ago… his ego won’t allow bad play…which is inevitable. I predict a showing at the masters followed by a withdraw….citing back issues of course

  20. MB

    Oct 20, 2017 at 3:00 am

    How many millions is he going to make just from appearance fees? That’s all he’s getting ready for! Lets admit it. He’s not going to be playing the Sr circuit, so he’s going to try to collect as much as he can while he’s still able to swing a bit. For the good players and competitive players who were successful during and post-Woods era of extra dollars it may have been nice, but for the rest of us, it was like watching a bus load of unruly children got dropped off and ruined it for everybody else sort of thing, out there on the courses, that had to also had to spend millions more in maintenance and rules keeping, as well keeping the peace about the place as these unruly beginners and non-golfing beer-guzzling poorly behaved behemoths tore up the place.
    It’s best if he just didn’t play but started hanging out with Deepak Chopra and brought about enlightenment and peace to the world on the whole and the world of golf behavior.

  21. TexasSnowman

    Oct 20, 2017 at 12:37 am

    Tiger as we knew him is Not coming back. If everything goes right for him on this latest comeback (doubtful), he will return, suffer no major injuries and be a top 40 player. He could win a few tournaments and maybe even catch lightening in a bottle and contend in a major or 2 for old times sake. Odds of this actually happening: ~10%. More likely, his body will not cooperate and he will officially retire and play an occasional tourney for nostalgia value.

  22. JD

    Oct 19, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    I normally completely enjoy Tom Stickney columns but not this one. Story has been written 100 times, part of me suspects it was only written because of the amout of clicks anything about Tiger gets.
    Here’s my opinion:
    The man has done enough to shoot whatever he wants, wherever they’re lucky enough to have him. It’s not even a debate, at this point it’s like getting a chance to watch Nicklaus or Palmer. How he plays is beside the point, that he’s playing is enough. Ratings will go way up because he’s maybe the best to ever play and he makes people excited about the game. He’s Tiger Woods.

  23. Walt Bismarck

    Oct 19, 2017 at 7:37 pm

  24. prime21

    Oct 19, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    This comeback better be different? Or else what? You’re going to write a nasty article and follow that with some advice on how to fix his swing? Tiger has 100% EARNED the right to do whatever the heck he wants as it pertains to playing on the PGA Tour and if it weren’t for him, it is highly likely that your business would not be as good as it is if he were to have never played the game. Show the man the proper respect and wish him Good Luck, then stop watching if you already think you know how it is going to play out. But please, do not try to tell Tiger friggin Woods what to do or how to do it, you simply have no right. I realize you’re a big WRX Superstar now, but I think telling Tiger how he should handle his comeback takes arrogance to a whole different level, does it not? I often give you “Likes” for your instruction pieces. If they would create a new vote, this one gets an “EPIC FAIL”!

  25. UnclePhil

    Oct 19, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Comeback?! Comeback to what?! 2001? Or no, maybe 1996 for you nostalgic clowns! 2005? Ain’t nothing comin’ back!! Maybe my latest driver will get taken back if it continues to act a fool! Ceremonial golfer at best, tourney host the most. Dude, hit da bricks, take care of your kids my friend!

  26. TeeBone

    Oct 19, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Totally unfair. Tiger was healthy enough to play in his recent comebacks, but re-injured his back under the stress of tournament competition. He didn’t just “quit”. Besides, these guys are independent contractors. They only get paid when they perform. They don’t owe anybody anything.

  27. henry

    Oct 19, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    I agree w everything you said – except that golf needs Tiger. Yeah he might make the casual fan who only knows who Rickie and Jordan are watch a tournament here or there, but unfortunately most of those people have forgotten about Tiger. The PGA Tour is in the best place its been in quite some time.

    • prime21

      Oct 19, 2017 at 7:23 pm

      Seriously? Check the ratings from Tigers last two tournaments and compare them to any event thereafter. The reality is that Tiger STILL moves the needle better than ANY player on Tour and will continue to do so until he decides to pack it in. Does the PGA Tour NEED Tiger? No, it doesn’t. It is strong enough to exist without him, but only because of him. Is the PGA Tour better off when Tiger is present, absolutely. Whether you like him or not, Tiger is still THE MAN and there is nothing you can do about it!

    • Jay

      Oct 20, 2017 at 11:20 am

      The tour is DEFINITELY not in “the best place it’s been in quite some time” – no way. As much as the TV folks like to ingrain that in us to change perception – it’s all fraudulent. Ratings are down, sponsors are bailing, and if the trend continues, I’m pretty sure we’re getting to the point where purses will decrease, the TV $ will decrease as well, and tournaments may be eliminated. None of the top young golfers really move the needle, honestly. They’re all supremely talented, but they don’t bring in casual fans, period. All hard core golf fans (WRXers) will always watch no matter who is playing, but this isn’t about that. If golf is truly going to “grow the game” as they claim (or even just maintain), it needs an epic Tiger comeback or make some drastic changes to the game as a whole.

      • henry

        Oct 20, 2017 at 12:48 pm

        I guess im just stuck in my own mind of how awesome the tour is right now – im one of the obsessed that watches every tournament. And golf-wise, the tour is in a fantastic spot, but I guess that doesnt always equate to the bigger picture of the tour’s success. Cheers.

        • Garry Pierce

          Oct 20, 2017 at 5:09 pm

          awesome in parity? tour sucks. They need an ALPHA male. The group has no BAD GUY or Good Guy. I have a hard time calling Phil a good guy with his MAJOR moral character flaws. He should be in prison for insider trading. But Phil squeals and rats out a guy

  28. farmer

    Oct 19, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    The notion that Tiger is going to rework his swing for the next three or four months and then roar back into competitive golf like it’s 2013 is absurd. He will be 42 before the “real” 2018 season starts, coming off a year layoff, with multiple back surgeries since his last relevant year. What has been released tells of him working out twice a day, now he will start also doing serious swing work, this is the same path he’s been down before. There will be tremendous buzz when he reappears, a boost to tv ratings, but he’s going to have to show something for it to last.

  29. MW

    Oct 19, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Golf doesn’t need Tiger. It’s doing just fine without him as it has with all the greats once they leave. Certain people such as the author of the article seem to need him, but golf is bigger than any one player. If he comes back, great, if he doesn’t, that’s fine too. You have to accept that one day he won’t be able to compete again, and that may be now, and other greats will come along. If you can’t accept that you better end up finding another sport. May I suggest bowling?

  30. Methislife

    Oct 19, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Golf is loosing money and more importantly it’s loosing participants. Tiger can only help spark more people’s I treat in golf. If you think otherwise… you a fool. Tiger is the reason money is in golf and that’s pure fact. Tiger brings the numbers.

    Now, will tiger actually come back to being anywhere close to top 10 player? Could happen, would be awesome if happened, but will most likely not happen…

    Saying tiger past off course actions have ruled out any support for his return is funny. He didn’t cheat the game, he cheated his wife… boo hoo, he got divorced and she got a lot of cash. You all are a new breed of internet fools. Not angry trolls but self righteous attention seekers. I bet you all are the ones who complain about minorities at the course ha. You know it’s true. Deep down.

    • Guia

      Oct 19, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      Your mother raise anyone who isn’t a troll?

  31. Mike

    Oct 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Pat Perez has won 3 times all in the fall or in Jan/Feb Camryn. He also never had the mental issues of Eldrick.

  32. M. Vegas

    Oct 19, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Golf needs a guy that hits 5 wood off the tee, pulls it left of the green or air mails it, putts cuz he can’t chip, 2 putts for bogey, and then withdraws when’s he plus 6 thru 8….
    Yea we need that

  33. Derek jacks

    Oct 19, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    What a dumb post! Woods doesn’t owe anyone anything as far as golf so don’t get the ultimatum that things be better this time around. Who r u????

  34. Chip

    Oct 19, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Sorry his body can be as predictable as he wishes, Tom.

    • Mike

      Oct 19, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      You’re right, it’s just his physical issues keeping him from being the Tiger of old. Nothing mental going on there.

  35. Bruce Ferguson

    Oct 19, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    With all the young talent on the tour these days, I’m not optimistic over Tigers return. One thing for sure, if he ends up being frustrated on the course, I don’t want to hear cursing, or see spitting on the green or slamming a club in the ground. Be the man . . . count to ten, relax, regroup, focus.

  36. Andrew

    Oct 19, 2017 at 11:01 am

    I was a Tiger fan, then I grew up and learned to be honest. Golf suffers when he is around now. He is a disgrace as a man and a person. Shame on the sell-outs who ignore his history of womanizing and phony remorse. You’re just as phony as Tiger.

    • hays

      Oct 19, 2017 at 11:26 am

      I’m so glad you know the guy on a personal level. you say you “grew up”…doesn’t sound like it

    • golfreality

      Oct 19, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      you left out drug addict

  37. Philip

    Oct 19, 2017 at 10:46 am

    I think you have it backwards … golf does not need Tiger – sponsors and OEMs liked the increase in revenues associated with Tiger, however, the system of golf is adapting quite well. On the other hand, I think Tiger needs golf! It is his entire life – if he was more balanced during his peak then he could walk away feeling complete … unfortunately, that isn’t what has happened and even if Tiger walks away officially – I don’t think in his head that he would truly be okay with that. It is what it is.

  38. Malcolm Herbert

    Oct 19, 2017 at 10:39 am

    I agree with 99% of the article, but strongly disagree that golf needs Tiger and tiger doesn’t need golf. I think golf does not need tiger at all. I agree that it’s better off with him, but the game is healthy enough and we have enough young and exciting talent that golf will be more than ok if we never see tiger touch a club again. Also, I do think that tiger thinks he needs golf. There are things in using life that are more important, like his kids and health, which suggest he doesn’t need golf, but tiger thinks he needs golf. He can’t walk away, it’s become a part of him that he can’t live without. Every time he leaves, he comes back as quick as possible- often too quick- and seems like he takes the first chance he can to come back. While I hope he can separate his life from golf to the extent that is healthy when it isn’t necessary, it seems like golf is always the first thing on his mind, and who can’t blame him. But it feels like he needs golf, and I know, while golf wants him and could use him, we don’t need him.

  39. Andy c

    Oct 19, 2017 at 10:30 am

    Golf does not need Tiger….it existed before Tiger and will exist after Tiger, The business of golf ie. those that make a living from the game may need him but the game of golf does not.

    • xjohnx

      Oct 19, 2017 at 10:43 am

      You’re right from an overall standpoint but, I think the interpretation is that golf has been suffering over the last few years and needs a shot in the arm. There is not one single person on this planet except Tiger that can really bring that in the direct way that Tiger can. Nobody is saying golf is going to become obsolete without Tiger, the point is golf needs Tiger RIGHT NOW.

      • Philip

        Oct 19, 2017 at 10:51 am

        Okay, so golf gets a quick shot … and then what? It does not address the long term. Hey, I enjoyed Tiger’s aggressive shots as much as anyone, but if he does that he likely won’t last one tournament and how much fun would it be for everyone to have a “safe” Tiger constantly in the top 10 – nipping at the more aggressive players and occasionally winning a tournament here and there.

      • Andrew

        Oct 19, 2017 at 11:13 am

        Golf is doing just fine now and does not need a shot in the arm, John. Tiger is less of a shot in the arm and more like a black eye. Golf suffered long-term because of Tiger. He represented a loss of decency and integrity that takes a generation to heal. Golf is better now without him and healing properly. The Tiger bandwagoners who don’t love golf or deserve it are gone, off to the next cool thing. Good luck and good riddance.

        • Dr Troy

          Oct 19, 2017 at 2:32 pm

          Andrew- Golf is doing fine now, yes. However, if you dont think for a second that TW will not entice more people to watch more golf, then you are young and naive sir. Obviously, you have a disdain for him and thats your choice, but there are a TON of Tiger fans that will watch regardless. Most could care less of his personal life, as so many stone throwers on here obviously do. And as far as a “black eye”, how about you ask some TOUR pros how much extra money is in their bank accounts because of Tiger. The sport of golf has no black eye, nor really ever did(I think you are confusing it with the NBA). Your reference to “healing”?? Really?? What happened, did we all go through mental and physical torture?? Ok…Sure.

        • Snowflake

          Oct 20, 2017 at 12:30 am

          You probably don’t think you’re a racist. MAGA. Ignorant.

          • Mat

            Oct 21, 2017 at 12:45 pm

            Based purely on what’s written above, I don’t think he’s racist either. You must put in a lot of time in the gym to be strong enough to walk around with that enormous chip on your shoulder.

          • LD

            Oct 22, 2017 at 9:27 am

            I agree with Mat. Care to point out his “racism” in his post? Astute user name, BTW. Absolutely perfect.

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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Opinion & Analysis

Oh, To Be An (Oregon) Duck

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A few weeks ago I flew into Eugene, Oregon on a mission. I’d come to work with one my students who is a member of the Duck’s varsity golf team. I had never been further south than Seattle or further north than Monterey, so this part of the world was new to me.

What I did know was that the Bandon Dunes area had become a destination for some of the greatest golf in the world, rivaling other famed resorts around the country. The resort is just outside the quaint town of Bandon, which is a good two-hour drive from Eugene. The resort’s four courses — Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails, Pacific Dunes, and Old McDonald — each have their own personality, but at the same time they have one thing in common: the four architects that designed them took full advantage of the natural topography, deftly weaving holes in and out along the Oregon coastline.

I was looking forward to playing two of the courses before leaving: Pacific Dunes and Old McDonald. You may find this hard to believe, but those two rounds would be my first and second of the year after a busy summer season on the lesson tee. And for that very reason, I had no expectations other than to make a few pars and enjoy the scenery.

After retrieving my luggage from the turnstile, I made my way toward the exit with luggage in tow. My rental car was just across the street in an open-air lot and as I pushed through the airport doors, I was greeted by a gust of wind and a spray of rain. “Welcome to Eugene,” I thought to myself.

The sudden burst reminded me of playing in Scotland, where the rain gives way to sun only on occasion. I surmised that the weather in the Eugene would be similar. “Don’t forget your rain suit,” a fellow professional reminded me when I told him about my trip. As it turned out, that was good advice. He had been there before around the same time of year. “You’ll be lucky if you get one good day out of three,” he said.

As I drove through the area to my hotel, what struck me the most were the large hills that commanded the landscape and the thick white clouds that seemed to cling to them like giant cotton balls.  I found a comfortable hotel just outside Eugene in the small but quaint town of Cottage Grove. In charitable terms, you could characterize my hotel as “a tribute to the past.”

I woke up at 6 a.m. the next morning, dressed and made my way downstairs to the lobby. The rain had continued through the night and as I prepared to leave the hotel,  it started to come down even harder. I stood in the lobby, waiting, while listening to the rain drops pounding on the roof,  a steady beat at first, then rising and falling like a conga drum.

I’d agreed to meet my student at 10 a.m. for a practice session and then he was slated to play nine holes with the team later in the afternoon. Based on the weather, I was concerned that the day might be a total rain-out. What I didn’t know at the time was that the school has a portable canopy that allowed the team, rain or shine, to practice on natural grass. I ran to my car ducking rain drops. The forecast called for a chance of sun in the afternoon. And this time the weather man was  right.

That afternoon I was invited to watch my student and the rest of Casey Martin’s boys play a quick nine holes at Eugene Country Club, the team’s home course. The layout is one of the most unusual that I’ve ever seen with giant trees bordering every fairway. The tips seemed to stretch up and up into the sky, piecing the low-hanging clouds above, as if they were marshmallows on a stick.

The Ducks have fielded a strong team the past two years, winning the NCAA Division 1 Championship in 2016 and then finishing second this year. A good deal of credit for that accomplishment goes to Casey Martin, who has coached the Ducks since 2006. For those who are too young to remember, Casey Martian was a teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford University. He later competed on the Nike Tour. Casey earned his PGA Tour card in 1999 by finishing 14th on the Nike Tour, but his earnings through the 2000 season were not enough for him to retain his card, relegating him to once again to playing on the development tour. He played sporadically up through 2006. The following year, Casey assumed the job of Head Coach, which brought him back to his native Eugene.

In earlier years, Martin’s play career as a professional was hindered by the fact that he could not play 18 holes without a golf cart due to a birth defect in his right leg. The PGA Tour Board ruled against his use of a cart, maintaining that the physical act of walking was considered an integral part of the competition. Believing that he was in the right, Casey filed a suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. His case made its way to the Supreme Court where he won. As for his competitive record, by his own admonition, he is disappointed that he didn’t play better as a professional. A primary focus of his coaching then, as he conceded, is to teach his players not to make the same mistakes he did in his own career. What struck me as unique was the passion and intensity with which he coached. I would venture that it’s the same level of intensity that he brought to the golf course when he competed.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a closed-door, defensive-team practice at Duke University with Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) on the floor. He had divided the team into two groups with one at either end of the court competing against each other. His legs straddled the center line as if he were Colossus with his head swiveling back and forth as if on a stick. The impression was that he saw everything and be never missed anything. And then when he saw a player make a mistake, he would blow his whistle sharply. The players would immediately stop moving as if they were frozen in place. And then, in peg-leg style, he would hobble across the floor favoring one leg over the other. He was clearly in need of a hip replacement at the time.

I’ve had both of my hips replaced, so I could easily imagine the pain that he was experiencing as he peg-legged it from the center of the court to either end. I suspected that he had decided that surgery would have to wait. The season was just a few weeks away, and given that his team was largely composed of freshman, he could not afford to miss a day. Casey Martin doesn’t blow a whistle, nor does he run a defense practice, but as he climbs out of his cart, deftly working his way to a vantage point where he can see his players from every angle, I’m reminded of the halting walk of Coach K.

There is something else that these two man share in common — an intense desire to win. They settle for nothing less than great. And when you look into their eyes, you can see that there is an intensity that burns from within that is vastly different from the man on the street.

As you might remember, I was scheduled to play a round on Pacific Dunes and another on Old McDonald. The two courses are both spectacular layouts with ocean views. And the weather… I drew two perfect days, defying the odds my friend had laid down. It was sunny and 65 degrees with just a hint of wind. How did I play? Let’s just say that I made a few pars. What I found was that striking the ball well is no guarantee that you will score low on these courses. The green complexes are diabolical. The best advice I can give you is to throw you scorecard away. You’ll enjoy yourself more.

The next morning, I was on an early morning flight back to Minneapolis only to discover that we were experiencing Indian Summer with temperatures 20 degrees warmer than usual. But as Minnesotans, we all know what is waiting for us just around the corner.

I’ll leave you with this thought. After watching Casey Martin and the players on his team play and practice, I’m sure of one thing. And that’s when next year’s NCAA Championship comes around, Casey Martin will have all of his Ducks in a row.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Kids Are Alright: Spike in Junior Golf Participation a Good Sign for Game’s Future

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This week, eight 10-player All-Star teams representing regions from across the country will converge upon Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., to compete in the 6th PGA Junior League Championship.

The teams – New Hampshire (Northeast), California (West), Georgia (Southeast), Ohio (Mideast), Illinois (Midwest), New Jersey (Mid-Atlantic), Arkansas (Mississippi Valley), and Texas (Southwest) – will be divided into two divisions where they will face off in round-robin, 9-hole matches using a two-person, scramble format of play. Teams are captained by PGA/LPGA Professionals.

Since the PGA of America launched PGA Junior League in 2012, participation has skyrocketed from about 1,800 players the first year to a record-setting 42,000 boys and girls age 13 and under participating on 3,400 teams across the country this year.

“Junior golf is a key priority of the PGA of America and we recognize that increasing youth participation in the game is essential to the future of our industry and sport,” said Suzy Whaley, PGA of America Vice President and PGA Director of Instruction at Suzy Whaley Golf in Connecticut.

“PGA Jr. League is a fun and welcoming opportunity for boys and girls of all backgrounds and skill levels to learn, play, and love golf under the expert instruction and guidance of PGA and LPGA Professionals. It’s team-oriented and kids wear numbered jerseys. It’s transforming traditional junior golf and the numbers prove it.”

Whaley believes the team concept and scramble format are major factors in PGA Jr. League’s rapid growth over the last five years. In fact, she says, the program is re-shaping the golf industry’s view of the way junior golf is typically learned and played.

“Other youth sports have been utilizing the team format for years and it’s a natural fit for golf,” said Whaley, who has taken three teams to the Jr. League Championships. “The scramble format provides for a low-pressure environment. We’ve created a team atmosphere that has broad appeal. Parents and kids enjoy being a part of the community that PGA/LPGA Professional Captains create. In this team setting, older, more experienced players mentor the younger, beginner golfers. There’s no pressure on any one player, and it’s great to see kids pull for one another versus the individual focus generally associated with golf.”

“It is a program that creates a family-centered atmosphere that encourages mom, dad, brothers, sisters, and grandparents to become involved, as well. During PGA Jr. League matches, the parents are part of the match keeping score, posting photos on social media and encouraging all players. PGA Jr. League grows lifetime interest in the game across multiple generations.”

Matthew Doyle of the Connecticut team gathers for a photo with team captain, Suzy Whaley during session three for the 2016 PGA jr. League Golf Championship presented by National Rental Car held at Grayhawk Golf Club on November 20, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Traci Edwards/PGA of America)

Fourteen-year-old Cullen Laberge from Farmington, Conn., is a student in the Suzy Whaley Golf program and has competed at the PGA Jr. League Championships for Team Connecticut. Laberge has been playing for four years and says his Jr. League experience really sparked his interest in the game and his desire to become a better player and ultimately a golf teacher one day.

“It has taught me so much about golf, while keeping it fun and interesting,” Laberge said. “The thing I enjoy the most is playing competitive golf without the stress that tournament golf can sometimes bring. No matter age or skill level, Jr. League keeps it fun and no matter how a player is playing there is another player to pick them up. That national championship was the best experience of my life. It was like I was playing on the PGA Tour. I loved the amazing competition; those players were good.”

And it’s not just golf’s executives and Jr. League participants who have taken notice of the program’s growth and the ultimate importance that growth represents for the future of the game. PGA and LPGA professionals including Rory McIlroy, Ricky Fowler, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie have all joined as ambassadors for the program.

“I want to do everything I can to be a positive influence on kids who are interested in the game and serving as an ambassador for PGA Jr. League is a great fit,” said Wie. “There are so many lessons that kids can learn and that adults can reinforce through the game of golf – good sportsmanship, honesty, integrity, work ethic. Golf can help you learn how to react when things don’t go your way which I think is a really important skill to have in life.”

“Golf can definitely mirror life. You can work incredibly hard and still fall short, but how do you bounce back? How do you overcome a mistake or a bad break and still succeed? It’s important for kids to grow up with a good work ethic and the right attitude to face challenges. Golf is a great game to teach those lessons.”

Copyright Picture : Mark Pain / IMG (www.markpain.com)

Wie says the more inclusive and welcoming the golf community in general can be, the better.

“Especially as a young female, I have experienced plenty of times where I did not feel welcome or felt like I had to prove myself more than the guys did,” Wie said. “Golf is a game that should be available to everyone and I think it’s important to make it accessible to kids whether they are a future tour pro or a future 20-handicapper.”

The folks over at the USGA know a thing or two about growing the game and making it more accessible and they should, they’ve been doing it since the association’s founding in 1894.

The inaugural three USGA championships – the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1895 – did not have age limits, each simply aiming to identify the champion golfer. In 1948, the USGA held the first United States Junior Amateur solely open to players under the age of 18 and just one year later the association conducted the first United States Girls’ Junior Championship.

In addition to helping fund The First Tee, LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championships, the USGA recently introduced its “For the Good of the Game” grant program to promote a more welcoming and accessible game at the local level with millions of dollars offered to local communities to build programs.

“The greatest misperception is accessibility,” says Beth Major, Director of Community Outreach at the USGA. “Two-thirds of all golf courses in America are open to the public. Kids and parents still believe it is a country club sport and we need to change that.”

Founded in 2013 as a joint initiative between the USGA, the Masters Tournament, and the PGA of America, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free nationwide junior golf competition for boys and girls ages 7-15 aimed at growing the game. Participants who advance through local, sub-regional and regional qualifying earn a place in the National Finals, which is conducted the Sunday before The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Drive, Chip and Putt qualifying is offered in all 50 states and participation in the event has increased each year.

“We have a great partnership with our friends at the PGA of America and the Masters Tournament,” Major said. “Our leaders realized that by pooling our resources at the national level while activating at the local level, we could quickly scale the program and get more kids involved.”

“Going into our sixth year, it is amazing to see how far the program has grown and the entry point we’ve created together to keep our youth engaged. We look forward to continuing to evolve the program to welcome more youth to the sport.”

The USGA, in partnership with the LPGA, the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America, and the PGA TOUR, founded The First Tee in 1997 specifically to answer the call for diversity and inclusion. The program has welcomed millions of new players to the game in the past 20 years by focusing not only on teaching golf skills but life and social skills such as etiquette, honesty, respect, confidence and responsibility.

Founded in 1989, the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program is aimed at girls ages 6-17 and has played a critical role in not only welcoming girls and women to the game, but perhaps equally importantly keeping them in the game.

“Statistics continually show us that the social aspects of the game drive girls and women to play golf,” Major said. “That sense of camaraderie and building friends greatly outweighs their need to compete at the entry level. LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, quite simply, has made it fun and cool for girls to play – and play together. And the results are astounding. We have traced more than 100 girls who started in an LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program that played in a USGA championship last year. They have not only introduced the game to girls and young women, they kept them in the game, and that is very exciting and inspiring.”

One company is tackling growth of the game from another angle – the equipment side.

Since its very beginning back in 1997, U.S. Kids Golf has been focused on its mission, “To help kids have fun learning the lifelong game of golf and to encourage family interaction that builds lasting memories.

To that end, the company began developing youth clubs starting out with just three sizes and one product line initially.

“Over time, through watching youth golfers, we came to realize that we were not serving them as well as we would like,” said Dan Van Horn, U.S. Kids Golf founder. “Looking at how the best players in the world – LPGA and PGA Tour – are fit for clubs, we discovered the proportion of their drive length to height was from 60-70 percent. From that we created what we term the ‘2/3 solution.’ Simply put, for every 3 inches a player grows, we offer a set that has a driver that is 2 inches longer.”

Importantly, it is not just the length of the clubs that increase as the player grows but also the overall club weight, grip size and shaft stiffness. At the same time, the loft on woods decreases providing additional distance.

“One of the key benefits of correctly fit clubs that are lightweight is the ability for players to learn a correct and powerful swing at a young age,” Van Horn said. “Clubs that are too long and/or heavy slows the golf swing itself and creates bad habits that are difficult to change later in life.”

Beyond the importance of young golfers needing properly fit equipment, Van Horn believes strongly in the need for juniors to compete in tournament play to facilitate aspirational goals and to measure progress. Going hand in hand with this is proper instruction from coaches who understand how young players learn and develop.

“After a few years of producing equipment, we realized more needed to be done to serve our market so we formed a nonprofit foundation,” Van Horn said. “Immediately we created our World Championship in 2000 so that young golfers would have an aspirational goal, much like the Little League World Series is to baseball players. We also realized that golf professionals and coaches lacked an organized incentive-based learning program to truly engage players in the game so we created one that same year.”

A longtime proponent of having players play from appropriate yardages, U.S. Kids Golf developed the Longleaf Tee System which uses a mathematical formula to “scale” any golf course for up to eight different tee locations per hole so all players have options based upon how far they carry the ball with a driver. Yardages start at 3,200 yards for 18 holes and increase up to Tour distances of 7,400 yards.

“What we need is a focus by all golf facilities and coaches to provide quality, enjoyable experiences to our youth,” Van Horn said. “This means incorporating game-based learning with a measurable, learning program so that players and their parents know how they are progressing. And, of course, shorter tees need to be available so we can get kids on a ‘field’ that fits them like other sports. There’s no question it can be done.”

The National Golf Foundation’s annual report for 2016 revealed that participation in junior golf programs remained steady at 2.9 million likely due in part to the success of the programs mentioned above and others just like them. Importantly, the number of female junior golfers has increased to a third of all participants and the number of non-Caucasion players has risen to a quarter, four times what it was a couple of decades ago.

While time will ultimately judge whether these programs and offerings serve not only to retain current players but continue to attract new ones, the state of junior golf in the country appears strong and on the right track for now. 

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