Non-varsity golf is a non-problem
By Austin Dillard
The most difficult task for any youngster heading off to college is for he or she to find that niche. Some people resort to various clubs, while many resort to the Greek lifestyle of fraternities and sororities. Either way, we all seek some sort of social organization to balance the struggles and stresses of collegiate academia, and I could not be prouder to associate myself with the National Collegiate Club Golf Association.
As an above average golfer in high school, I had dreams of becoming a D-I player but was only blessed with D-II talent. Upon being offered admittance into my dream school, Virginia Tech, I immediately had a decision to make: to choose my passion, or my education. Instinctively, I decided to take my talents – or lack thereof – to Blacksburg, Va., home of the Hokies.
During my first week on campus, I stumbled upon a few faint-hearted freshmen like me who just so happened to be decked out in golf attire—Titleist hats, polos, khakis—and I knew I was in good company. They notified me of the club-golf information meeting that was being held on campus later that evening. When I arrived, I realized I had found a group of people with whom I shared the same common interest and passion in the superb game of golf. For the past three years, the club golf team and the National Collegiate Club Golf Association have been my home; it has been my niche.
The NCCGA was established in the spring of 2006, its roots tracing back to the Southeastern Golf Club Association led by Travis Sheets of Virginia Tech (2003).
Although the Association has grown tremendously, its bi-semester, two-day weekend tournament structure and its qualification process for National Championships have essentially remained the same. Based on a given team’s performance in regional events, they have the opportunity to qualify for the National Championship held at the conclusion of each semester. Clubs often compete in various other club-scheduled tournaments throughout each semester including Ryder Cups, dual matches, or Invitational Tournaments.
Since the fall semester of 2010, the NCCGA has grown from a small, recreational league of 25 club golf teams into a full-blown, competitive organization, that will host tournaments for more than 160 teams stretching across 18 regions in this season’s tournament schedule.
A great deal of the Association’s growth can be accredited to its former President and current Chairman of the Board, Matt Weinberger of the University of Dayton, and its former Vice President and Vice-Chairman of the Board, Robert Powell of Virginia Tech. Both gentlemen have put in ruthless hours of work to attract new members and to provide the most beneficial and enjoyable experience for college golfers across the country.
“This organization has really taken off over the past several years,” said Weinberger. “In my position, my ultimate goal is to help provide college golfers with an organization to compete, but a network to connect with others that share their passion for the game.”
Weinberger, an engineer for Procter and Gamble, served as the Association’s president from 2011-2013 alongside Robert, who served as Vice President. Each served as president of his club before graduating in May 2013.
As Chairman, Weinberger's mission is to help produce the largest college golfing experience in the country – bigger than that of the NCAA. In order to progress towards that goal, Matt and NCCGA President Kevin Hamori, of Ohio State, made the executive decision to team up with CollegeGolfPass, which partners with nearly 500 courses that provide “collegiate rates” to students and connects students to the broader golf industry. CollegeGolfPass founders Kris Hart and Mike Belkin have been vital to the success of the NCCGA and its mission to grow college golf across the nation. Since the partnership ensued at the end of 2012, the NCCGA has more than tripled in size.
Now I know what you’re thinking: This is a congregate of college hooligans with lackluster talent who couldn’t cut it in D-I golf. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years of competing in NCCGA tournaments, there is some strong talent in these clubs.
For example, Christian Dolan, president of the University of Virginia club golf team, qualified for the stroke-play portion of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship this past summer, missing the match-play stage by one stroke. He also has a glorified NCCGA club tournament career, finishing in the top 10 in eight regional tournaments and earning five medalist trophies. Dolan has personal aspirations to play professionally after graduating in the spring.
In potentially the Association’s deepest field, Dolan finished in a tie for second along side East Carolina University’s Tom Duty in the Fall 2012 National Championship held at Sea Island Golf Resort. Duty, a member of the National Golf Association Pro Golf Tour (NGA Tour), was part of three national-championship teams as ECU’s club president and one Individual Medalist honor with a stunning 70-73 in the Fall of 2012. Setting the two-day association record (133), Josh Rackley of North Carolina State University’s Professional Golf Management Program posted rounds of 69 and 64 at Tobacco Road Golf Club. Rackley is assistant golf professional at Gulph Mills Golf Club outside of Philadelphia.
When asked about his experience with the NCCGA, Rackley explained “Club golf provided me with a great amount of tournament experience. Club members liked that there weren’t mandatory practice sessions, but everyone could appreciate the concept of team bonding.” Rackley will compete on the Minor League Golf Tour in Florida this winter.
Whether you’re a high school student searching for colleges or an undergraduate (or graduate; MBA and Law School teams compete in the NCCGA) student looking to get involved in a club, the NCCGA and universities across the country have a place for you to compete and network. The organization provides its members with numerous leadership opportunities and countless other ways to get involved.
If you are looking for any additional information, please visit our website at nccga.org or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Austin Dillard is a leading member of the VT Club Golf team. Follow him on Twitter: @AustinTheGoose