Many people always ask me how I ended up at Indiana University on the golf team, but very few people actually understand what it has taken me (and many others around the country) to earn a Division I golf scholarship. It is not as simple as calling or e-mailing the coach the week before class and seeing when you can try out! I was lucky enough to have people around me who helped guide me in the right direction. Summer vacation for me growing up was generally spent playing in a golf tournament every week or every other week for most of my high school career. Winter and spring breaks were the same.
I began playing golf at the age of 5, and started playing competitively around the age of 10. When I say I started at age 5, I was just playing in my country clubâ€™s one-day-a-week junior golf day. We would just receive some instruction and go play a few holes, but as I grew older and fell in love with the game, I began competing. In Indiana, the Indiana Golf Association runs a junior tour throughout the state in the summer time. I began by playing a couple of these around Muncie where I grew up.
By the time I was 13, I started playing tournaments on the national level to gain more experience and continued this throughout high school all year round. College golf coaches, especially at the major BCS conference schools, look at national junior tournament finishes as opposed to focusing on high school golf. In fact, besides the state championship the rest of the season is pretty much irrelevant to a playerâ€™s resume.
My first national tournaments were through the Plantations Junior Golf Tour and Future Collegians World Tour. These were held in the fall and spring months all over the country. The summer going into my freshman year of high school, I played in some events run by the PGA of America. I was fortunate enough to make the 2004 Junior Ryder Cup team based on my finishes in these tournaments, and played against some guy by the name of Rory Mcilroy (Heâ€™s had some decent success as a professional so farâ€¦see 2011 U.S. Open!). Playing on this team, along with my tournament finishes that summer gave me the opportunity to play in bigger and better tournaments moving forward.
These tournaments I played up until high school were great, but truly the best way to a college golf scholarship is through the American Junior Golf Association. The bulk of their tournaments are held in the summer months, and it can be best seen as AAU tournaments are with basketball recruiting. Every tournament across the county will have numerous college coaches there, and the invitational tournaments can have up to 50 coaches present. These tournaments feature the best junior golfers in the world and are vital for a junior golferâ€™s resume.
I won an AJGA Open event the summer after my freshman year of high school and gained entry in the four main invitational tournaments for the next two summers. The competition in these events can be just as good as college golf and on some of the countryâ€™s best golf courses.
During my junior year of high school I began taking college visits to numerous schools around the Big Ten. I had wanted to go south when I was younger, but once I saw this campus in depth and knew what the golf program had to offer I was sold. I would say that 95% of Division I golfers have tournament experience in AJGA tournaments before coming to college. The main thing that any coach will tell you is to get out and play. They want to see how you compete in a tournament situation because anyone can play well with their friends on a summer afternoon, but they will be able to get a feel for who you are as a tournament player during tournaments whether they are there or not.