When it comes to college scholarships for junior golfers: Advantage girls
Several years ago, Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida, ran three separate junior golf tournaments. According to Dawn Mercer, Innisbrook’s Director of Instruction, the events drew 169 boys and 49 girls aged 19 and younger or a ratio of 4:1. This ratio is typical of junior golf participation.
Since there are fewer girls than boys participating in junior level golf, the girls have many more opportunities to play on college teams. There’s no doubt that golf is fast becoming one of the most competitive of college sports, especially in women’s sports. This creates an abundance of college golfing scholarship opportunities, a fact that has largely been ignored in the past. Recently, there were about 253 Division I, 168 Division II, and 175 Division III schools sponsoring women’s golf teams. Division I schools are allowed to offer the equivalent of 6 full scholarships for women while Division II schools are allowed to offer the equivalent of 5.4. Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships.
While it is difficult to confirm the number of women’s golf scholarships that were not awarded in recent years, it is estimated that more than 200 of the available girl’s golf scholarships went unused. The simple reason is that there are not enough young ladies playing golf. With the implementation of Title IX, colleges are required to have the same numbers of athletic scholarships for females and males. This provides a huge opportunity for female golfers. Colleges and universities that belong to the NCAA typically offer sports at the Division I, II, and III level. Only about 2% of high school athletes are offered even a small sports scholarship from a Division I or Division II college. But it’s at the Division III level and its 400+ schools that the opportunities are enhanced and are discussed here.[slideshow_deploy id=’20989’]
Division III colleges do not offer athletic scholarships. Those are restricted to Division I or II schools. But that doesn’t mean the Division III schools take their programs lightly or that they are not competitive. It simply means that the student-athletes are playing for the love of playing and competing. It also means that golfers who may not have the opportunity to be competitive in a Division I or II program can still participate and enjoy the benefits of being a member of a competitive collegiate program. Further, most of the Division III schools do an excellent job of providing financial aid in the form of academic scholarships, need-based grants and loans. Division III student-athletes are usually surprised at the amount of non-athletic financial assistance available to them and the quality of competition. In fact, a non-athletic financial aid package (based on grades and test scores or financial need, or both), could be worth more than a partial golf scholarship
When you qualify for need-based financial aid or a merit scholarship of some sort (academics, arts, etc.) then you are eligible for and more likely to receive money to attend a Division III school. Better still, some Division III schools tend to favor athletic prospects. They just don’t offer money for playing a specific sport such as golf. But, what the schools can (and often) do is “sweeten the pot”.
Suppose your family qualifies for needs-based financial aid and your daughter (or son) is playing or has played on the high school golf team. Rather than awarding a financial assistance package that consists mostly of an interest loan and some grant money, the college may offer a scholarship that is all or predominantly grant money. Or, if the college is unable to offer financial assistance, they may be able to compensate by increasing the odds of admission. The point here is that if there is a school that interests your child, it doesn’t hurt to contact the coach and express your child’s interest in attending and playing at that particular school. These schools are always trying to attract the best student golfers that have equally impressive academic records or are able to demonstrate a deep need for financial aid.
There is a place for most girls who want to compete in golf for a Division III school. A girl has a tremendous opportunity, especially at the Division III level, if she has a handicap of 15 or less, can score in the 80-110 range on a 5800 yard course, and has competed in state or local tournaments. If she can break 85 from the forward tees and 100 from the middle tees, she has potential for a college team. The bottom line is if she can score around 95 under tournament conditions, college is a strong possibility.
There are plenty of schools in need of female players. Visit www.golfstat.com for a list of many of the Division I, II, and III schools and their current rankings. Most Division I and II schools recruit 1-2 years in advance while Division III schools work in the summer leading up to one’s senior year.
Besides the NCAA, there are two other leading college athletic associations:
- The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
- National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)
Both these organizations and their schools have scholarships available and present wonderful opportunities for young women athletes. In fact, it is in these organizations that most scholarships go unused. Scholarships at NJCAA are much less competitive because not enough students know about them and the coaches are not aware of the available talent.
While recruiting timelines are very general in nature, there are some common elements that need to be followed.
- Freshman, sophomores, and juniors should pay close attention to their grades and class rank.
- They should play in enough high school and junior events in order to establish a handicap and tournament record.
- Keep working on and improving their game with particular emphasis on the short game.
- Narrow down the college list and make a number of unofficial visits
- Sophomores and juniors should begin researching various schools of interest
- Meet with enrolled contemporaries and ask a lot of questions about the school, its program and coaches.
- Take the SAT by your junior year.
- Register for the NCAA Eligibility Center to certify academic and amateur credentials
- Send personal introduction letters to the school’s golf coach and include your golfing resume
Many Division III coaches recommend selecting schools within a player’s geographic comfort zone for competition travel, as well as schools that fit the student’s academic and size criteria. They caution that players need to be realistic about their fit for a particular college based on rankings. Once a student has selected a target list of potential schools, she should send out about 20 letters to potential schools working from Division I through Division III depending upon her golfing skill. A list of all golf coaches and how to contact them can be accessed from www.collegegolf.com.
Parents may do well by introducing their children to golf, especially daughters, and encouraging them to participate in the many junior golf programs held throughout the country. Keeping golf simple and fun can return big dividends down the road.
John Mooshie, a freelance writer from Wakulla Springs, Florida writes on a broad range of golf and travel related subjects for various magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.