Choosing the right school
Young players who are coming out of provincial or national programs and looking to continue in university have to be aware that their decision should not be exclusively based on the college coaching staff. For the most part, players have had a technical coach and they expect that their college coaches will also be experts in this field. Many college coaches perform the duties of a team manager and have no formal qualification in coaching other than perhaps coming up through the system themselves. Their job is to structure practice, support development either through their own expertise or outsourcing in the local area and to organize the day-today running of the team. In my experience, too many players choose the school they want to attend based on their opening encounters with the coach. Instead, they should look at four key areas, with the coach being at the bottom of that list because at any point in time the coach may leave to take up another posting.
My priority list would start with looking at what kind of facilities the school has to offer. Players need a good facility to practice and advance their game regardless of technical input. Second, will they get the level of competition that will challenge them to reach their potential? Is the school in a conference that plays a competitive schedule and moves around the country? Third, the actual schooling part is very important. I think very few players realize that there is a lot of work in balancing school and athletic responsibilities. Players need to understand that when they choose courses, they should be looking at their long-term future, based on realistic expectations of where their game may take them.
And finally, there is the coaching staff. Players need a coach that will support them as they try to move forward. There are quality coaches out there but players have to do their research. They should visit several schools and check out their practice facilities, have a dialogue with the coaches to see what their philosophies are, look at the team and class schedules and how they will get around campus. They should ask themselves— will this environment help me get better?
Players always have options—choosing to go to a U.S. school or staying here in Canada is a big decision and should be based on personal needs. If getting a good education is your priority, and golf is currently secondary, then maybe staying in Canada is a smart move. Players will be close to their coach, their family, and get lots of support. If a player wants to be a competitive golfer, with the goal of eventually turning professional, they most likely have to go where the weather allows you to play full-time and where the level of competition is higher—and that means going to the U.S. Players should discuss their potential choices with their parents and provincial or national team coaches. It is an extremely important decision.