by Brandi Jackson
After giving up my professional golf career in 2010, I started working with junior golf families throughout the college recruiting process. I was speaking at high schools and tournaments all across the country about the realities of college recruiting and how to navigate the process. This was the first time I had become aware of how much the process had changed since I had gone through it as a junior golfer. One of the biggest eye openers for me was how early the process starts (and ends) and how unaware some families were about what it takes to play at the college level.
I am a huge believer in keeping the game fun and not putting too much pressure on a young player.
Nowadays there seems to be a lot more responsibility put on kids and more specialization of sports at a young age. I couldn’t imagine not having the experiences I had as a 3 sport athlete. Unfortunately those are rare these days. But after working in the college recruiting business for almost 5 years now, I see why things have shifted in the direction they have. One of the least favorite and heartbreaking parts of my job is having to tell a young player that playing golf at their dream school just isn’t an option. Either they waited too late to decide they want to play college golf, their game just didn’t develop in enough time or they weren’t aware of the level of competitive golf that they needed in order to be recruited by that particular school. Many different scenarios have led to me having to be the bearer of bad news, even to young 8th and 9th graders.
Because of this I am a big advocate for understanding the realities of playing college golf at a younger age and being more aware of the recruiting process timeline. It’s hard to believe that a 14 or 15 year old player can actually be far enough behind in the process to have already eliminated a handful of top golf programs from being realistic schools. This in no way means they can’t improve and still play at a great university on a competitive golf team, but the top 20-30 D1 golf programs are identifying potential recruits as early as 8th and 9th grade, and in many cases have finished their recruiting before a player even finishes their sophomore year of high school. Crazy, I know! But unfortunately that is the reality of the recruiting process in the modern world.
So with all that said, my goal is to provide the information and understanding to girls of ages and skill levels, so they better understand what they need to do in order to reach their goals. The purpose is not to put more pressure on the girls, but instead help them better mature and develop skills necessary to not only play golf at a higher level, but also excel in life. So, to answer the question, “is to too early to think about college golf”? If you have a young girl who has shown genuine interest in the game of golf and they talk about wanting to play competitively then it’s not to early to make sure you have an understanding of what needs to be done in order to help them reach their goals. The last thing anybody wants is to look back and wish you would have known more and done more.