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Do You Need Help with the College Admissions Process for Your Junior Golfer?

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Two months ago, I typed “college golf scholarship” into Google. When the results came up, I was shocked. All the easily accessible content, in my humble opinion, was misinformation or bad information. So, in short, the answer is “yes,” you need help. No wonder parents are going crazy; they crave information, but what is available is either incomplete or simply misleading. With all this misinformation, many juniors and their parents feel lost and think they need help in the process. This article is going to address the question and help provide you with the feedback you need to make the right decisions.

With a lack of information, many parents resort to the cognitive bias known as anchoring, which is defined as the use of irrelevant information as a reference for evaluating or estimating some unknown value or information. For example, you are at a junior tournament with your son who is 15. He places 6th, two spots ahead of a young man who you hear is attending Duke on a full ride. You share this data with your son and now he starts thinking about major schools like Stanford or UCLA based on one data point and some hearsay.

Before addressing the idea of help, I want you to know that I have done some data collection in preparation for this article. Based on speaking to 50+ families, they report spending an average of 60 hours on the process. My own experience suggests that this number has a large standard deviation depending on the student, their skills, the strength of the market that year, luck and their academic/athletic credentials. However, assuming it is close, you need to start by asking “do I or my young golfer have 60 hours?” Please note this assumes that the adolescence in charge has the personal responsibility to handle the daily emails, phone calls and texts from coaches on top of their current academic, social and athletic responsibilities.

Let me now introduce you to Dr. Richard Thaler. He is a current professor at the University of Chicago, as well as the winner of the 2017 Noble Prize in Economics for his contribution to Behavior Economics. Of his many contributions, the one that Golf Parents need to be aware of is the Binmore Continuum which suggests we do small stuff such as buy milk or eggs or gas often enough to learn to get it right, but when it comes to choosing a home, a mortgage, or a job, we don’t get much practice or opportunities to learn. And when it comes to something like the college decision, barring reincarnation, most of us do it once. Because learning takes practice, it is likely we are going to struggle with the nuances of the decisions which makes it logical to inquire about help on something so important.

Now let’s assume that you agree; we have a lot of bad information out there and you want help! How do you go about finding good help? Let me tell you that professional help is not cheap; someone with a background in the business should charge approximately $4000-$5000 for the process which should include an in-person evaluation, personal introduction to coaches and help through the process. When considering different candidates, parents and student athletes should consider:

  1. Why will this person make an excellent reference? Are they a skilled swing coach? Why will coaches value their opinion?
  2. Where does the person get their clients? Hint: the more diversity, the more likely the person is going to have strong connections
  3. What is their personal philosophy on education? Hint: A great answer would include sending your young golfer to a place they can acquire a variety of developmental assets across a broad spectrum of skills including leadership, time management and growing friends among diverse populations.
  4. What makes the person an expert? What have the accomplished this week or month? Who endorses them? Do they pay for the endorsements?

Above all else, ask about how the person will make introductions. As I demonstrated in my article last month on GolfWRX called “Stop Bothering Me! Why NCAA Coaches Already get too many emails,” coaches already get too many emails with a sizable percentage from “recruiting services.” Most of these emails, up to 90 percent, are simply deleted by coaches. So, make sure, anyone you work with can be personal introductions via phone or text!

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Brendan Ryan is a golf researcher, writer, coach and entrepreneur. Golf has given him so much in his life -- a career, amazing travels, great experiences and an eclectic group of friends -- and he's excited to share his unique experience through his writing on GolfWRX. He hopes you enjoy!

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1 Comment

  1. Nat

    Jan 6, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    Ive had two sons go through the recruiting process for football, and it is true. The second time I was much smarter and efficient in my time. O e of the best comments my oldest received (from a starting DE at Maryland) was to go to a school you could imagine be happy at if you never played a down. This decision, for most, is about School and education, not only about golf. If you’re a slam dunk PGA tour pro, you’re kidding yourself. I watched 3 star juniors grow up, and the least talented as a junior is now a PGA tour winner. So you never know. But the odds are not in your favor. So chose a school to get an education , and enjoy golf.

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WATCH: How to Pull a Shaft from a Composite Club Head

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10 Years Later: Why the assistant coach has made college golf better

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It’s been 10 years since the NCCA Legislation began allowing assistant golf coaches to perform on-course coaching in college events. Today, 94 percent of the top-100 men’s golf teams have assistant coaches, and the coaching pool is stronger than ever, with individuals such as Jean Paul Hebert (Texas), Jake Amos (South Carolina), Ryan Jamieson (Florida), Robert Duck (Florida State), Donnie Darr (Oklahoma State), John Mills (Kent State), Garrett Runion (LSU), Zach Barlow (Illinois), Bob Heinz (Duke), and 2017 Assistant Coach of the Year from Baylor, Ryan Blagg. The list includes a guy with 20+ PGA Tour experience (Bob Heinz), several former college standouts and some National Championship wins (Jean Paul Hebert – 1, Runion – 2, Amos – 2).

In the 10 years since the expanded role of the assistant golf coach, the National Championship has still been dominated by major conference schools, with only three non-major conference schools earning a spot in match play (Kent State 2012, and Augusta State in 2010, 2011). Of course, Augusta State went on to win both of its appearances in match play, earning back-to-back national championships under Coach Josh Gregory.

One of best examples of the success of assistant golf coaches is Chris Malloy at Ole Miss. Malloy, a graduate of Ole Miss, began his coaching career as the women’s assistant golf coach at Florida State. Shortly after, he was working with both programs and had an immediate impact, which included helping the men win their first ever ACC championship. Shortly after, Chris took over as the men’s golf coach at University of South Florida, transforming the team into a National Contender and a top-30 ranking. Today, at Ole Miss, Chris has done the same thing, transforming a team and a culture in three years, earning a spot in the 2017 NCAA National Championship at Rich Harvest Farms.

Another great example is Sooner coach Ryan Hybl, who in 2017 lead his team to the NCAA National Championship. Hybl, an outstanding player at Georgia, then was an assistant with the program from 2005-2009. The system continues to work as three notable assistants made moves this summer; Jim Garden from OU to Coastal Carolina, John Handrigan from UF to Notre Dame and Dusty Smith from Vanderbilt to Mississippi State.

Although to date, mid-major teams have not fared consistently on the national level. The system of assistant coaches has proven to be an excellent tool in broadening the pool of candidates. Last year’s National Championship featured six mid-major schools with half being wily veterans, and half being a product of the assistant coach route; Michael Beard of Pepperdine served as the assistant at Arizona State; Bryce Waller of University of Central Florida served as the assistant at the University of Tennessee; Bryant Odem of Kennesaw State served as the assistant at the University of Wisconsin. It will also feature teams like Oklahoma State, Baylor, Virginia, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Purdue, which have coaches who have benefited from their experience as assistant coaches in their roles with these programs.

Practice Facility at the University of Central Florida

Practice Facility at the University of Central Florida

The pool of candidates for coaching positions today is deeper than ever. Athletic Directors are blessed to be able to interview several good candidates for almost each job. The result for the players are fully engaged coaches who bring passion and desire to improve each of their programs.

Bowen Sargent, the current head coach at University of Virginia and former assistant coach at the University of Tennessee under Jim Kelson, started coaching when the rules only allowed one coach. In the 10 years since the rule change, Bowen believes “it’s a positive change for sure. Having two coaches allows for a better student-athlete experience and for them to have more access to their coaches.”

Coach Bowen Sargent of UVA, along with former players Denny McCarthy and Derek Bard at the US Open

Coach Bowen Sargent of UVA, along with former players Denny McCarthy and Derek Bard at the U.S. Open

The diversity among coaches is also greater. Today’s juniors have the option to play for a skillful player such as a Mike Small at Illinois or Casey Martin at Oregon, or Doug Martin at Cincinnati, or even a world class instructor like Bryce Waller at UCF, Ben Pellicani at Limpscomb or Casey Van Dame at South Dakota State. Waller, an excellent instructor himself, has lead UCF to three National Championship appearance in 7 years. Likewise, Ben, a Golf Digest top-40 under-40 instructor who spent several years learning from Mike Bender has been instrumental in transforming Limpscomb into a national contender, participating in their first ever National Championship in 2017. Lastly, Casey who spent several years under Jim Mclean, then as the assistant at University of Tennessee, has transformed South Dakota State Men’s and Women’s Golf, with both teams currently ranked in the top-100 in the country.

Ben Pellicanni of Limpscomb University helping to read a putt

Ben Pellicanni of Limpscomb University helping to read a putt

Athletic Directors are also starting to put more funding towards golf resources. The result has been an explosion of golf-specific training facilities across the scope of college golf. Many mid-major schools have top-notch practice facilities, including places such as University of North Texas, University of Richmond, University of Central Arkansas and Illinois State to name a few.

Golf facility at the University of Central Arkansas

Golf facility at the University of Central Arkansas

The tremendous pool of coaching candidates has also benefited other levels of golf. For example, 2014 Assistant Coach of the Year Chris Hill is now the head men’s and women’s golf coach at Concordia University, a Division 3 School near Austin, Texas. In his two years as coach, he has already lead the program to seven tournament titles.

As time passed, I believe that we will see a change at the NCAA Championship and it will include a growing trend towards mid-major universities not only earning spots at the National Championships, but having success like Augusta State. The person at the head of one of those programs is likely to have come from the assistant coach ranks and should be thankful for the rule change, which lead to these opportunities.

Please note: As of writing this article, only 6 men’s teams in D1 do not have assistant coaches. They are UTEP (51), McNeese (84), Nevada (88), Richmond (89), Cincinnati (92) and Tennessee at Chattanooga (96).

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