I find myself sitting on a plane, once again, thinking about what to write for you this month. This month’s topic was rather easy to come up with … the US college system. By BRANDON STONE.
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is about this topic. Whether it be from curious parents or aspiring youngsters, I try to give them the most honest answer. I will do the same for you all now.
There are so many different opinions about the US collegiate system. All of them come with their own strong evidence to support their views. All I can do is use my own experience to guide my thoughts.
The most important thing is clarity. You need to be clear in your mind and heart that the US is where you want to be after high school. It must also be clear what your intentions are at the college.
I’m not certain of what the statistical likelihood of one making a living on Tour is, but it is not very high at all. The collegiate system provides an opportunity to obtain a university degree while also playing highly competitive golf. That allows you to have a backup plan, just in case.
With every opportunity, there is always risk. For me, the biggest risk when discussing colleges is the facility and coaching staff.
The US is blessed with countless incredible practice facilities around that country. The only downside to that is the weather can be somewhat fickle in the northern states. Having a practice facility that allows you to develop as a player is a must when considering a college. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.
The second, and without a doubt the most important aspect with any college, is the coaching staff. Having the right person to watch over you will play a massive role in your development. Having the wrong one could send you down a path that is impossible to come back from. Again, clarity is what is required. You need to know whether you want a swing coach or a manager, or maybe something in between. Pay special attention when dealing with coaches to see which ones they are.
The one thing that did surprise me about college golf is how few events we played. I was there for the better part of nine months and we played only 12 events. I’d become used to playing nearly three events a month on the South African amateur scene, so that did surprise me.
This illustrates the college system as a whole. You’re a student-athlete; not the other way round. The student aspect comes first, athlete comes second. Everything is monitored by the NCAA, the umbrella body in collegiate sport. Poor grades will result in you being unavailable to play in events. This further emphasises the need for clarity and balance in your life.
I was incredibly fortunate to be recruited by one of the top colleges in the US, The University of Texas. The Texas Longhorns family is something I’m proud to be a part of. Within them, and the opportunity they provided me, I would not be where I am today.
Maybe this has given me a somewhat biased opinion on the matter. I feel the US collegiate system gives any aspiring golfer the most important thing – opportunity. But as I have stated, be incredibly thorough in your research before making any decisions. As proven many times, college golf can make or break your career.