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Opinion & Analysis

Should high school golf performance matter more to college coaches?

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Recently, I was at a college, speaking to a coach and asked him a question: How much do you follow high school golf compared to major junior golf tours? The coach didn’t hesitate and responded by saying that he really didn’t consider high school golf almost at all while he considered two-day tournaments on major junior tours important.

Not surprising. But is this a good assumption?

To start, I did a survey via Facebook in which I invited college coaches to respond to three questions about high school golf. They were

  • Is high school golf an important part of development for junior golfers?
  • Do you seriously consider high school golf as part of the recruitment process?
  • Will you attend at least one of your high school state tournaments this year?
  • Would you encourage a player, who is not recruited, to participate in high school golf?

In 24 hours, 86 coaches responded to the survey. Here are the results

  • 60 percent of coaches thought that high school golf was an important part of development
  • Only 37 percent of coaches considered high school golf as part of the recruitment process
  • 70 percent of coaches will attend at least one high school state tournament this year
  • 87 percent of coaches encourage a player, who is not recruited, to participate in high school golf
    Next, with the help of National High School Golf Association (NHSGA), I wated to check out the numbers; what is the REAL quality of high school golf?

After an extensive search and examination of the data between 2016-2018 found:

  • Based on 487 results, 71.2 is the average score for a boy’s high school state champion
  • Based on 342 results, 74.7 is the average score for a girl’s high school golf champion
  • The lowest scoring differential for a boy’s high school event was Logan Mccalister from Oklahoma with -19.5 in 2015/16 when we shot 62,66,66
  • The lowest girl’s scoring differential for a girl’s high school event was Sophia Yoeman from Minnesota with -13.21 (63,66)
  • The lowest single round by a boy was Frankie Capan in 2017/18 – 59 at the par 70, Tucson National from 6,382 yards
  • The lowest single round by a girl was Sophie Yoeman with 63 at Sand Creek in Jordan, MN a par 72 measuring 5,463 yards

When reviewing this information, keep in mind that while the average winning score in AJGA Open events is close to 69 for boys and girls, the average winning scores in AJGA previews for boys was 72.81 from 6,484 and 75.6 from 5,610. Based on this data, it means that the high school state tournament is comparable to somewhere between an AJGA Open and a Preview, with scores better than a Preview but not quite as good as an Open.

For the first time ever this summer, there will be a National High School Invitational. The event, hosted by the National High School Golf Association, will be held June 26-28th at The Disney Golf Resort and Falcon’s Fire Golf Club in Orlando featuring 124 girls and 224 boys.

To receive an invitation to the event, a player or team must win their state championship golf tournament. 2019 will mark the inaugural NHSGA Invitational Tournament.

“It’s exciting to bring together the best high school golfers from across the country for a single tournament. All players in the tournament will represent their state, not their division or their school. Public or private. Large or small. This event will bring together a diverse, talented group of champion caliber golfers and give high school golfers a chance to showcase their talents on a national stage. It’s about time high school golf gets some love!” said Chris Noble from the NHSGA.

Without a doubt, high school golf lacks the sexiness of other organizations. In my experience the rounds are very long, there are no snacks and often the courses are, well not the best. These are three things that certainly make high school golf challenging, however it has one good thing going: it is completely inclusive. High school golf is not perfect, but in my opinion and based on the numbers, I think that junior golfers and college coaches should consider the numbers and ask themselves, is high school golf more important than I previously thought?

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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

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Jason Black

    Nov 5, 2018 at 9:56 am

    What level of coaches responded to this? I would be that NAIA and DIII coaches would look more at high school tournaments then the others or they use a recruiting site.

  2. Ronald Montesano

    Nov 5, 2018 at 5:44 am

    If your intent was to give a data series that doesn’t take into account the camaraderie, maturation, and pride elements of high school golf, you succeeded. All that you listed, is available in Junior Tour events. High school golf is about so much more than the numbers. A valuable study might have included asking college coaches one question: does team coalescence matter in high-stakes college golf? If the answer is year, follow it with this one: do you actively recruit team golfers, or individual star, hoping that one way or another, they will gel? Read Don Crosby’s book “Tiger Woods made me look like a genius,” to get an idea of how the great one impacted, and was impacted by, high school golf. Crosby was Woods’ high school coach.

  3. Red Wing for Life!!

    Nov 4, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Love that Sophie and Frankie are from MN. Way to represent the north! I went to high school with Sophie and she is an awesome person and player.

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Opinion & Analysis

GolfWRX Book Review: Phil by Alan Shipnuck

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The most awaited golf book of 2022 is titled “Phil: the Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized) Biography of Golf’s most Colorful Superstar,” featuring a look at Phil Mickelson’s life and times. Alan Shipnuck, long a respected writer in the golf interweb, has produced another long-form contribution to the vast library of golf tomes. Early leaks did nothing but heighten the anticipation of the residents of golfdom for the book’s release. Shipnuck wrote for GOLF Magazine for years, before heading out with other proven and decorated scribes to form The Fire Pit Collective. His place at GM reveals how he was able to get close to Mickelson and his inner circle. Before we continue on with the book review, it’s important to determine how Shipnuck and I have a cosmic bond. It is summed up in two words.

Bob Heppel

Bob Heppel was the guy who stood me up in the fifth grade, swim locker room. I swung and bloodied his nose. I was more stunned than he was, but I retired as a fighter with a debatable record of 1-o. Alan Shipnuck tells a similar story in the introduction to his most recent literary effort. No kindred-spirits malarkey here; the type of coincidence that the cosmos allow on occasion.

How does the book read? Well, it has an element of stream of consciousness, combined with a heavy reliance on anecdotal sequencing. It is necessary to stack story after story, to connect the dots of a sometimes-indecipherable image. That’s Phil, to a T (or a P.)

Back to me for a moment. I received the digital copy of the volume about three weeks before the release date of the paper edition. On Friday the 13th, I finally opened the PDF. As I held the PgDn button on my laptop, stopping intermittently to catch up, a random turn of phrase caught my attention:

a man’s man with big calloused hands and the briny demeanor that came from having been at sea for weeks at a time. 

It takes a special awareness of how language intersects with life to string words like that together. Those words describe one of Phil Mickelson’s grandfathers. Shipnuck gives us so much information on Phil’s ancestor that we forget for a moment, that this is a book about Phil. This is a good thing, because we need to learn about the others that helped to forge the Phil Mickelson from whom we cannot avert our eyes.

The chapter in the book that will most ally you as a Mickelson sympathizer is, predictably, the one about Winged Foot and the 2006 USGA Open. The one that will most distance you from Lefty, is the one that begins around page 150, concerning his gambling habits. The section that will have you question golf administrators in general is the one about the 2014 Ryder Cup. In other words, there are a lot of chapters that expect the reader to suddenly jump up and scream at anyone who will listen, You won’t believe this, but …

At times throughout the reading of this book, you feel like a student in a statistics class. The author presents anecdotal evidence in tens and twenties, and you try to determine if Phil Mickelson is enviable or pitiable; sincere or counterfeit; ultimately, good or bad. And then, Shipnuck delivers a knockout punch in which he melds the detached storyline of wealthy professional golfers with the reality in which the rest of us live. Shipnuck resists the temptation to offer too many of these body blows; the book is, after all, about Phil Mickelson.

At about the midway point of the book, it is revealed that Mickelson might have something of a James Bond complex, a need to put himself at greater risk than before, to determine if he can handle the pressure. This notion explains a purported interest in gambling, or a suggested enthusiasm for abandoning the US PGA tour in favor of mideast money; the latter would be the straw that broke the back of Mickelson’s most loyal sponsors.

Without giving too much away, nor attempting to drive the reader toward any sort of conclusion (which would probably have been impossible, in hindsight) there are two, late-volume sequences that lead us toward an understanding of Phil Mickelson and of Alan Shipnuck’s intent:

even Mickelson’s failings feed his image as an uninhibited thrill-seeker

This is the image that he has cultivated over the course of a lifetime. It is the gift that his parents and his grandparents bequeathed to him.

In his public statement, Mickelson allowed that his comments were “reckless” but couldn’t resist making himself both the victim and the hero of his narrative …

This statement reveals the cleverness of Shipnuck’s efforts. He allows the readers to determine which one Mickelson is. My guess is that the readership will be split down the middle. As if I needed to tell you, go buy this book. You’ll enjoy revisiting the glory days of the southpaw, but be warned: you won’t feel the same about him when you turn the final page.

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Opinion & Analysis

Viktor Hovland can dominate if he addresses this key weakness…and it’s not his chipping

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Ahead of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, the expectations for star Viktor Hovland are sky high. Hovland is a native of Oslo, Norway but played his college golf at Oklahoma State University before turning professional in 2019.

During Hovland’s time as an amateur, he won the 2018 U.S. Amateur and earned invitations to the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open the following year. He became the first player to win low amateur honors at both the Masters and U.S. Open in the same season since 1998.

As if expectations for the 24-year-old weren’t already lofty enough, he is now returning to Tulsa, Oklahoma, as one of the favorites in a major championship in the state that he played college golf.

There is an argument to be made that Viktor Hovland is the most talented golfer on the PGA Tour. Since he arrived on the scene in 2019, the young phenom has dazzled the golf world with his tee to green excellence. He’s also become a fan favorite due to his abundance of charisma and infectious smile.

Hovland’s career thus far cannot be categorized as a disappointment. He has three regular PGA Tour victories: one at an alternate field event in Puerto Rico, and two at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. He also became the first Norwegian to win on the European Tour (Now DP World Tour) when he won the BMW International Open in June of 2021.

Despite the relative success, it would be hard to argue with the fact that something is missing.

In terms of skill set, one of the most accurate comparisons for Hovland is Rory McIlroy. By the age of 25, McIlroy had four major championships. It would be unfair to compare Hovland to McIlroy in terms of career trajectory, but I find it reasonable to expect more out of him.

Hovland will also draw many comparisons to Collin Morikawa. For better or worse, Viktor Hovland will always be mentioned in the same breath as Morikawa due to the fact that both golfers arrived on Tour at the same time, are within a year of each other in age and rank in the top five in the world.

For all of their similarities, Hovland and Morikawa are in many ways polar opposites. Hovland is a flashy, big hitting, birdie maker. Morikawa is steady, sharp, and has what I believe to be the highest golf IQ since Tiger Woods.

The Norwegian is every bit as talented as his friend and rival, but Morikawa has five PGA Tour victories, including two major championships and a World Golf Championship victory. Hovland is still searching for his first win in a marquee event.

Much has been made in recent months about Viktor Hovland’s troubles around the green. The 24-year-old has lost an average of 1.0 stroke to the field in his career in Strokes Gained: Around the Green. Hovland will be the first to tell you that he has a major weakness in his short game.

“I just suck at chipping,” The Norwegian said after his first career victory at the Puerto Rico Open in February of 2020.

While his chipping undoubtedly needs improvement, it is not his fatal flaw. Poor course management is.

Thus far, course management has been the most consequential detractor to Hovland’s career.

There have been numerous instances where Hovland has had a chance to win or at the very least contend at a tournament that would qualify as a “signature win” on Tour for Hovland. Yes, his short game has been a hindrance, but his poor course management has been a non-negotiable disqualifier.

There are countless examples of this, but in particular, three of them stuck out to me.

Back in February of 2021, Hovland was in the midst of a spectacular second round at the WGC-Concession in Bradenton, Florida. He had seven birdies and no bogeys and found himself two shots back of the lead with one hole to play.

Then disaster struck.

After driving it into the fairway bunker, Viktor put his second over the green and into the palmetto bushes. Instead of taking an unplayable and trying to get up and down for bogey from a decent lie, he decided to try and punch it out of the bush.

After his failed punch out left him in a terrible spot in the greenside bunker, he put his next shot right back into the palmetto bush where he started. He continued to mangle the 18th hole until he finally made his quadruple bogey-8. He went from two back of the lead and possibly in the final pairing to six back of the lead with a slim to none chance of contending.

There’s that infectious smile again.

Back in March, Hovland once again found himself in contention on Sunday with a chance to win the most meaningful victory of his career at The Arnold Palmer Invitational. As he approached the par-3 17th, he was tied for the lead with Scottie Scheffler at -5. The conditions in the final round were very challenging, and the obvious play was to the middle of the green to try and make par. Instead, Hovland went for the pin and came up short, leaving himself a short-sided bunker shot. He went on to make bogey. Scheffler played it to the middle of the green and two-putt for an easy par and went on to win the tournament by one stroke.

Hovland’s course management issues continued to plague him in the first round of The Masters Tournament. After ten holes, he was -1 for his round and three shots off of the lead as he headed to back nine with some birdie holes in front of him. That’s when the lack of proper course management hurt Viktor once again.

The 11th hole at Augusta National is notoriously difficult, and even more so this year as it was lengthened by fifteen yards. With very few exceptions, the entire field played the approach shot into 11 short, not daring to go over the penalty area left with such a long iron shot coming in. At the time, there was only one birdie on the hole all day.

After a beautiful tee shot, Hovland had 221 yards into the green. Inexplicably, he decided once again to attack a pin that he had no business trying to take on. In the late part of the afternoon, there had only been one birdie made there all day, and it was a 35 foot putt. Predictably, his approach shot was left of the target and splashed in the penalty area. After grinding out a very good front nine, he made a double bogey-6 on the hole. As has happened so many times in the past, his poor decision making cost him precious strokes in an event where he can’t afford to give them away.

Hovland has had a good start to his career, but with generational talent comes lofty expectations. He has plenty of time to redirect his career trajectory and accomplish all of the feats his talent should all him to, but first he must address his fatal flaw.

The PGA Championship at Southern Hills would be a good place to start.

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Podcasts

TG2: Max Homa talks about his club changes, JT’s new putter, Jason Day’s WITB

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This week we have a great interview with Max Homa on some recent club changes. Max seems to love gear and is one of the nicest guys in golf. Justin Thomas has a new putter in the bag and we go through Jason Day’s interesting WITB. A few other equipment news stories from the AT&T this week.

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