October 25, 2021
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Pullen: Is College Golf Right For You?

Pullen: Is College Golf Right For You?

Considering US College Golf? Ever wondered what scores you would need to shoot on average in tournaments to play NCAA Division I?

Well, a website in the USA called Junior Golf Hub has just answered the vexed question in their 2021 Signer report.

What did you guess? 

78? 75? 72? 69?

Based on the historical tournament data (2020) of more than 900 junior golfers who signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) in 2021, the tournament scoring average of those recruited to play Division I in the class of 2021 was 73.61 for males and 76.78 for females

Although these were the averages, there was quite a range across the Div I signees. 

For men, the lowest scoring average was 69.36, to a high of 85. For the women, it was a low of 69.78 to a high of 88.

How does the tournament scoring average level of Div I signees compare to those at other US College Levels, i.e., Div. II, Div. III, NAIA and NCJAA?

Based on the research, the average Div. I signee averaged 3.07 shots lower for men and 5 shots lower for women than the combined tournament scoring for signees at all other division levels of college golf.

The average scores at all other levels were 76.68 (men) and 81.71 (women).

College Golf: FAST FACTS

Several other fascinating findings also came out of the report including:

  • The average tournament scoring progress of all signees in high school (High school in the USA is the same as Year 9-12 in Australia) showed that all the athletes reduced their scoring average from the beginning to the end of their high school years. 
  • Although they improved during these four years, the journey was anything but a continual progression of improvement; the trip during these years was typically a bumpy one, with scoring averages improving, plateauing, and even regressing at times.
  • The average course rating that signees played their tournaments on each year also got increasingly more difficult, with the average course rating in 2016 being 71.7 through to 2020 when it was 73.5
  • The Signer report indicates that tournament scores in 2020, the year leading up to their graduation year, arguably “sealed the deal” and mattered the most in terms of an athlete’s collective appeal as College prospects.

These findings closely correlate with research from Brendan Ryan from Golf Placement Services.

Ryan’s scoring research of US College golfers is based on a metric he named Scoring Differential.

So what is Scoring Differential?

It’s what you shoot versus the course rating. 

For example, if you shot 73 on a course rating 72.5, your scoring differential is + .5.

Based on Ryan’s findings, a scoring differential of + 0.5 is the benchmark for males playing Division I golf. A negative scoring differential (averaging under par relative to the course rating) is closely related to playing major conference Div. I golf. 

On the Women’s side, a scoring differential of zero to +3 is the benchmark for Div. I. Like the men, a negative scoring differential will provide a platform for you into one of the highly ranked programs.

You can find more details on Ryan’s research on his website in an article called By the Numbers.

College Golf: PATHWAYS

Although much of this article has emphasised Division I standards, it is worth pointing out there are many “entry point” options into the US College system depending on your golfing and academic resume.

In recent years, the Junior College option (NJCAA) has become a popular option for male players from NSW who either don’t have the golf or academic records to play NCAA golf.

The competitive standard at the “pointy end” of the NJCAA is high and not dissimilar to Division I golf.

Several players who have gone the Junior College route have had very successful careers at their “JUCO” several were subsequently recruited by Div. I Programs for the final two years of college. 

(It’s worth noting Junior Colleges are known as two-year schools as they offer two-year degrees.)

Golf NSW’s US College Pathway website page has many US College Alumni profiles which show everyone’s journey to and through US College is different.

The most important thing you need to do is first determine if the US College Pathway is the “best fit” to accomplish your future goals. 

If US college feels like the ideal fit for you, there are plenty of options available. 

Some advice, though, do your research and “due diligence” as not all options are equal, even those that may have come to you as a recommendation!

Golf NSW and JNJG have several employees who went to US College and are more than willing to share their experiences with those interested in pursuing this pathway.

In addition, there are also several who have Coaching positions at US Colleges and who have also indicated they are ready to assist players during the recruitment process. 

So, if you have any questions, please don’t be afraid to reach out. If I don’t have the answers, I will refer you to somebody that likely will.

*Khan Pullen is Golf NSW’s High-Performance Manager. A member of the PGA since 1993, Pullen also coaches current PGA Tour Player & 2017 Australian Open Champion Cameron Davis, as well as the reigning Australian Women’s Amateur Champion, Grace Kim.

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