Early enrollment catches on with top-notch juniors

Annie Park (file photo)

Annie Park (file photo)

Girls Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Nicole Morales2014NY69.32
2Andrea Lee2016CA69.82
3Bethany Wu2015CA69.83
4Megan Khang2015MA70.01
5Lilia Vu2015CA70.53

Boys Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Scott Scheffler2014TX67.35
2Zecheng Dou2015CA67.84
3Andy Zhang2016FL68.41
4Austin Connelly2015TX68.5
5Brad Dalke2016OK68.54

The trend of juniors graduating early from high school and departing for college seems to be a growing one these days.

Not only are players giving up three full months of college tournaments during the fall portion of the season, but on the flip side, players also are giving up about eight full months of junior tournaments.

There are a limited amount of amateur tournaments during the spring season - January to May - so players must keep their games in top shape by competing with teammates.

Two years ago, Ollie Schniederjans and Anders Albertson, now sophomores at Georgia Tech, attended school in January. Both sat out in the spring season but participated in workouts, team practices and collected college credit.

Three top juniors in the Class of 2013 have followed suit. Beau Hossler (Texas; No. 2 in Golfweek/Sagarin Boys Rankings) and Gavin Hall (UCLA) have enrolled early, while Annie Park (USC; No. 12 in Girls Rankings) has joined the Trojans early.

All three graduated from high school in December and attend classes at their respective universities.

Hossler and Hall are sitting out this spring, but Park is playing for the Trojans.

For Park, it makes sense because she is cracking the lineup. She made her Trojans debut at the Lady Bulldog Individual Championship on Feb. 2 and placed third in the weather-shortened event. She is playing in her second event this week, at the Northrop Grumman Challenge.

Park, of Levittown, N.Y., is giving up a half-year of collegiate tournaments because her participation this spring counts as one year of athletic eligibility.

“I want to graduate early from college anyway so I can turn pro,” Park said.

Her plan is to graduate in three years and start her professional career in January 2017.

Her move to college and college golf hasn’t been the easiest, though. She didn’t have three months to prepare for college like most incoming freshmen.

“It’s not the easiest of transitions, but at the same time, it’s not a big deal, either,” Park said. “The worst is manageable.”

Her schedule has shifted a bit. Instead of going to class all day as in high school, her typical day involves: Class. Practice/play. Rinse. Repeat. (Oh, the life of a collegiate golfer.)

Park also wanted to play this spring because USC, No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, should contend for the NCAA title.

“That was a good reason, too,” she said, giggling. “We’re all playing so well right now.”

Hossler, of Mission Viejo, Calif., faced a back-and-forth decision on whether he would play this spring. He even went as far as trying to qualify for the Longhorns’ first event, the Amer Ami Invitational in Hawaii. Ultimately, he decided with Texas head coach John Fields not to play.

For the rest of the semester, Hossler will continue to play in qualifiers, work out with the team, and of course, build college credit. He will begin playing in the fall.

Hall, like Hossler, won't be competing this spring. The Pittsford, N.Y., native is taking his time adjusting to college life out west.

If some success comes early in college, as it has for Park, more players might see the benefit of starting early. Success for Hossler and Hall might mean getting to know their teammates better and developing a solid academic foundation. Expect more "early go-ers" in the future.

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