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College golf: What you really need to shoot to play in tournaments

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No doubt the greatest part of the collegiate golf experience is traveling, which provides amazing bonding, as well as access to some of the greatest courses in the country!

However, getting on the bus at most schools requires some good scores! How good? I collected data from 25/50 Men’s Division I programs on the subject and found that on average these teams report playing qualifying from an average distance of 7,072 with a course rating of 74. They report that on average they play four rounds of qualifying, and the winner of the qualifying averages 67.2, while the fifth player usually has an average of 71.3. This means that for a four-round qualifier, the last person to qualify must shoot 4 under, while the winner shoots about 20 under. Pretty darn good!

According to Tennessee Head Coach Brennan Webb, whose team started the season with two victories, “If you are going to be a successful golfer at any level. you have to be good at qualifying. That includes every level of professional golf. It is what makes golf the purest sport there is. There is no draft to the PGA Tour. Learning that skill in college will be very valuable to you as your career progresses. Every successful program I have been a part of utilizes qualifying as a major part of the growth process of their players.”

Players at other levels also face very strong competition in qualifying. For example, at Emory University, the No.1-ranked team by Golfstat at the end of the fall, the team usually qualifies at either Smoke Rise of East Lake CC. Both courses have slopes of at least 135 and play between 6,800-7,100 yards. In six rounds of qualifying in the fall, the best player averaged 72.15, while the fifth player averaged 73.5.

The story is not much different at the NAIA level. According to Coach Sikorski at Ottawa University in Arizona, for the first event of the year they played five qualifying rounds with the top three performers shooting 8 under or better. The fifth man for the five rounds was 2 under, and the team currently boasts 12 players with a stroke average of 75.22 or better.

According to Andrew Danna, now at LSU but who last year coached the NCAA Division 2 Champion Lynn Fighting Knights, “we had a tremendous group of talented athletes at Lynn, including seven players in the top 750 in the WAGR. The players were very driven, and the results showed daily with qualifying often below par.”

These numbers demonstrate clearly how good college golfers are day to day on their home golf courses. At the highest level, the best college players are approximately +6 handicaps on their home courses, while players who are on the cusp of traveling have handicaps of between +1 to +3. At other levels, including DII, DIII and NAIA, the competition really is not that much easier with many coaches reporting players routinely winning qualifying with between -6 to -15.

When considering these scores, it is important to remember that scores are likely to be the lowest in the fall for two reasons; it has the best weather and many players are coming off three months of summer golf where they don’t have the demands of schools. Together, these make players the most prepared and it is the reason why we often see very low scores in September.

For junior golfers in the recruiting process, understanding the qualifying process is extremely important. This includes not only what type of scoring maybe required but also the way coaches prefer to qualify which can range greatly. For example, some coaches might simply allow the lowest five scores from a certain number of rounds to travel, while others might use the point system which solely relies on their discretion has one simply rule: if they point to you, you are going to the tournament.

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Brendan is the owner of Golf Placement Services, a boutique business which aims to apply his background in golf and higher education to help educate players, their families and coaches about the process! Website - www.golfplacementservices.com Insta - golf.placement.sevices Twitter @BMRGolf

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1 Comment

  1. Bob Bigonette

    Feb 20, 2019 at 7:03 am

    Your research is in accurate and misleading and painting a really bad image for aspiring young golfers. Simply pu,t your sample size is way to small . Do the work next time.

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Opinion & Analysis

This could be Rickie Fowler’s year to get the major monkey off his back

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When Rickie Fowler first emerged on Tour, he was supposed to take the game by storm. The golf media raved about his talent and ramped up the potential of a “big two” that included him and Rory McIlroy. Fowler and McIlroy were supposed to compete as the sole forces in golf, like the Tiger and Phil of a new generation.

However, golf never goes according to a script, and it particularly hasn’t for Rickie Fowler. At age 30, and without a major, momentum has slowed behind Fowler despite him having five PGA Tour and two European Tour victories on his resume. Commentators, who were once sure that Fowler would be a golfing great, now doubt his winning abilities. However, I have a feeling that 2019 may be Rickie’s year; and by the years’ end, we will all be speaking of him in a whole new way.

After finishing in the top five in every major in 2015, a major win looked very close to the grasp of Rickie Fowler. But, it hasn’t been that smooth sailing for the 2010 Rookie of the Year. Majors have evaded Fowler’s grip thus far despite his best efforts, and some good tries. He finished one shot short of eventual winner Patrick Reed in last year’s Masters, despite shooting twelve under par on the weekend; a great example of many near misses for Rickie.

With every miss, the tag of being “the greatest golfer without a major” is packed more and more into the identity of Fowler. But, that tag shouldn’t necessarily by an insult. Players like Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson have all received the same designation in the past. Each man has had his record questioned, and his ability to win examined, but every man has since won a major and will no doubt make their way to the hall of fame. Fowler will do too, and 2019 will go some way to helping his cause.

Fowler’s game looks to be in great shape, and vastly improved from previous years. Statistically, Fowler’s most significant improvement this season has been in his putting. He is eighth in the strokes gained-putting category, a marked growth from 43rd in that section last year. With great putting being the games most sought after skill, and a much-needed attribute for a consistent winner; it is interesting to see just how good Fowler is in that area. He is also third in scoring average, 33rd in driving distance and sixth in the birdie average category. It seems that Fowler is acing the test in all of the most crucial statistical areas. His game is in excellent shape, and everything seems to be pointing in his direction.

Rickie won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February in spite of a rag-tag final round. Most impressively, Rickie rescued his final round in Phoenix by birdieing two of the last four holes. Fowler’s ability to shoot a final round 3-over-par 74 at TPC Scottsdale demonstrated immense courage. Perhaps that newfound courage stems from his many near-misses. Some see the fact he is without a major at 30 as a curse, but it may be a blessing. We saw in Phoenix how Rickie now has the skill to keep his ailing rounds alive and to resurrect them when they look dead. It is now becoming clear that Fowler’s near misses have made him stronger and a better all-around golfer. He may not have the wins to date that most expected, but he is better off for it.

Rickie’s career bears comparisons to Justin Rose, a player who had struggled and often limped through his career when many thought he would be flying. Like Fowler, Rose learned from his mistakes and has achieved his best results in his 30s. Among many victories, Rose has a U.S. Open Trophy, an Olympic gold medal, and a FedEx Cup in his 30s. Fowler should take heed of the World Number Two’s achievements and be encouraged that he can emulate or even surpass them.

With the Masters on the horizon, don’t be surprised to see Rickie at the top of leaderboards and winning serious golf tournaments. Fowler is a better player than he has ever been, and after a great start to the year, he will surely rise to the occasion this season.

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Podcasts

Mondays Off: Apologies for bashing Rory (and answers to all your questions)

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We were wrong, Rory can close the deal! So we apologize for that and take a little credit for the win! Then we dive into your questions and talk about golf carts in ponds, driver advice, and everything else!

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy returns…

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…and it’s great to be back.

This column marks the return of “The Wedge Guy” to the golf landscape. Many of you might know I wrote a bi-weekly column under this moniker from 2003 until 2010, when my life got much too busy with the introduction of SCOR Golf, and then compounded by leading the effort to resurrect the Ben Hogan brand to the golf equipment space. With the demands of those two start-ups, there just wasn’t enough bandwidth to give my best to the writing that I like so much.

But after two-plus years of “semi-retirement,” I am excited to be resuming my pontifications on the game of golf and all it embraces. This will now be a weekly column on GolfWRX, a site I respect as a leader with meaningful and enlightening reporting on our great game.

My singular goal for this column is to engage each other with thoughtful dives into any aspect of the game that interests us, as well as those topics and questions that confuse or confound us. Nothing is off limits, and I invite all of you to submit questions or topics for me to address in future columns, as well as to join the dialog after each column. You can direct those questions and suggestions to me at Terry@TheWedgeGuy.com.

As you would expect, I am always drawn to the nuances of scoring – chipping, pitching, putting and overall wedge play. I love the strategic and tactical side of the game and have always been a student of the game, from history to architecture to instruction, with the latter being a favorite topic. I will gladly and freely offer the insight and objectivity that a lifetime in the game and over 40 years in the industry have provided me.

For those of you who don’t know me very well, let me give you a brief tour of my lifetime in the game and this industry.

In all honesty, I don’t remember life before golf. I feel blessed to have been raised on a little 9-hole golf course in south Texas, by a father who loved the game and was good at it. We also had a wonderful golf professional, Carl Gustafson, who gave a whole generation of us a sturdy foundation in the game.

I should also add that I was that inquisitive kid who usually took his toys apart to see how they worked. It helped that I was at my father’s side when he built custom rifles, reloaded ammunition, refinished gun stocks, and took our fishing reels apart each season to thoroughly clean them. Regripping golf clubs and taking care of our persimmon woods was regular duty.

A few years after college (BBA Marketing, 1974, Texas A&M), I joined an advertising agency and called on the Ray Cook putter company in San Antonio. That set me off on this 40-year journey in the equipment industry. I had the thrill and honor to work with some great craftsmen who willingly shared their knowledge; I was a sponge for learning all about golf clubs and their function. I designed my first putter in the mid-1980s and dove into wedge design a few years later. I patented a sole with two bounce angles in 1993 and have incorporated that design into wedges for Merit Golf, Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, and Ben Hogan. History will show that I was pushing the CG in wedges higher before anyone else and that I pioneered progressive weighting in wedges with the SCOR line in 2010 and the TK wedges by Ben Hogan in 2014.

At SCOR, we were the first to put huge emphasis on wedge-fitting and how important the shaft was to that process. We built “scoring clubs” in every loft from 41 to 61 degrees to allow infinite precision in gap management and fitting. At Ben Hogan, I expanded that every-loft concept to two sets of irons – the FT. Worth blades and PTx models (though that company later abandoned that concept) as well as the VKTR hybrids.

These days, in semi-retirement, I fish much more, but am still exploring how I might make an impact on the industry by pushing the envelope. I am very excited about this new gig and interacting with you all regularly.

So, welcome to “The Wedge Guy.” Let’s get started sharing information that I hope will help you hit better golf shots more often and put lower numbers up on your scorecards.

Next Tuesday, I plan to write about wedge shafts and why they are so important. Hope you tune in and sound off.

Until then…

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