Late bloomers look for a shot at college golf

Jake Kreuz of Amherst, N.Y. has moved to Florida to continue to work on this game and hopes to grab the attention of a college program.

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159,958 is the number of high school boys who play high school golf.

For many, the journey ends there.

There are only 6,507 NCAA men’s golfers, compared with 67,887 NCAA football players.

But not all of those play at the top level.

There are 2,960 NCAA Division I men’s golfers.

It’s a very selective group of athletes.

Typically, there are seven to 12 players on a college team, so it’s difficult to get noticed by a coach at any collegiate level.

Take Jake Kreuz of Amherst, N.Y., and Camden Nierman of Scottsdale, Ariz., for example. Both are from opposites sides of the country and different golf climates: Kreuz of suburban Buffalo and Nierman from suburban Phoenix. But both have the same common goal: to play college golf.

• • •

Kreuz was a late bloomer. He didn’t pick up the game until he was a freshman in high school and didn’t make the school team until his sophomore year. And by then, he was too late.

“Honestly, coaches look at sophomores and juniors,” Kreuz said. “I mean, I didn’t play in my first AJGA tournament until 2011, at the Killington Junior Golf Championship.”

Since graduating last year from Canisius High School in Buffalo, he has moved to Naples, Fla., and continues to work on his game.

“Right now, I am taking classes at Florida Gulf Coast University," Kreuz said. "I work out with a trainer, and I go to the course every day to work on my game.”

Kreuz also has been playing in tournaments. He hopes that good finishes in FCWT and amateur events will get him noticed by schools.

“I am being driven by the fact that there is no offer on the table,” Kreuz said.

Whether or not he gets an offer to play at a school in the fall of 2013 or not, Kreuz is determined to make his way in golf.

“I’ll just keep working on my game,” Kreuz said. “It may be that I have to take another year off, or maybe even turn professional and get on with my life goal. We’ll see in these next few months.”

• • •

Nierman has left Arizona to attend Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a boarding school in Faribault, Minn. He also is enrolled at The Golf Center of Excellence School. He goes to school for the first part of the day, has golf in the afternoon and returns to school for a few more hours. Though it’s not mandatory, he practices or plays golf at night.

He has played in a few FCWT and Arizona amateur events since graduating from Chaparral High School in May.

Nierman is scheduled to play in the new AJGA event, the ShowMeGolfers Junior Championship, this week in Las Vegas. The tournament is for 2012 and 2013 graduates who have not verbally committed to a college or signed a national letter of intent.

“It’ll be a good opportunity,” Nierman said. “I think coaches are willing to pick up some players at that point, and the AJGA tournaments are the best to do that at. It's the best golf around.”

Even though it’s tough being more than 1,000 miles away from his family, he knows it will be worth it in the end.

“My No. 1 goal is to play golf at a top-notch university in Arizona, but I am willing to go anywhere to fulfill my dream of playing college golf,” Nierman said. “I just hope somebody will give me a chance."

That's a sentiment shared by Kreuz and the thousands of other golfers looking for a shot at the next level.

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