Golf college scholarships for women are not as plentiful as you think

Rancho Mirage, CA - APRIL 18: The 2017 Mountain West Women's Golf Championship is held at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, CA on April 18, 2017. Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos

Golf college scholarships for women are not as plentiful as you think

College

Golf college scholarships for women are not as plentiful as you think

Krystal Kelly was on vacation in Mexico when she overheard two ladies advising their daughters to take up golf because of the number of scholarships available. Kelly, head women’s golf coach at Santa Clara, backtracked, introduced herself and tried to set the record straight.

Junior girls can’t pluck a full ride to college like an apple from a tree.

“I am so glad you are doing a story on this because I am so tired of hearing this,” wrote Boise State head coach Nicole Bird. “Parents in women’s golf expect a full ride, no matter how good (or bad) their daughter is because they think there is an overwhelming number of scholarships available.”

Parents and juniors often start the recruiting process not realizing that many golf programs aren’t fully funded, particularly at the Division II level, even among top-tier programs.

Division I women’s golf teams are allotted six full scholarships, while Division II is allowed 5.4.

Division III does not have athletic scholarships.

“I think it’s a very common assumption that full rides are readily available,” said Kelly, whose program does not have six full scholarships. “I hear this frequently … ‘You are at a wealthy institution. Your school has the money.’ ”

Brandi Jackson hears it too. For nearly 10 years the former LPGA pro has guided players and their families through the recruiting process.

“There’s a big chunk of your better academic schools who may only have one scholarship among the whole team,” Jackson said. “Eight girls on the team … the majority of those girls are paying to be there.”

It can be difficult for smaller schools in rural areas to attract student-athletes. That’s not the dream scenario many families are chasing. They often want strong academics, thriving college towns and big-time athletic programs.

Are there scholarships left on the table at attractive Division I programs? Yes. But not because no one was interested in taking their money. The NCAA, by the way, does not keep track of the number of scholarships that go unused.

Three years ago Jeanne Sutherland offered an international player a full ride to SMU, a scholarship worth $75,000 annually. At the end of April, the player told Sutherland she was turning pro. Sutherland hung onto the money hoping to sign a transfer or another international player but didn’t find a good fit.

Last season Brad Bedortha at Northern Arizona had a full scholarship go unused after a player became academically ineligible and didn’t return to school. This year there’s a half scholarship still on the table at NAU because a player transferred and didn’t inform the school until April 25.

“The problem with scholarships going unused doesn’t result from a lack of talented players, as is often thought or discussed,” Sutherland said. “In my opinion, it results from people not keeping their commitments. This is not just a player problem, but extends both ways.”

Casey VanDamme at South Dakota State had a full scholarship go unused recently because he couldn’t sign the player he wanted and sat on it.

Often it’s a small fraction of a scholarship that goes unused because a player unexpectedly qualifies for academic money. Cathy Mant at Georgia State said 2 to 5 percent might be leftover because she was unsure of housing and tuition rates when the scholarship was offered.

A 2016-17 high school participation survey put the number of girls participating in high school golf nationwide at 75,605. With 5,372 overall

NCAA participants in DI, DII and DIII women’s golf, that means only 7.1 percent of high school golfers move on to college golf, many of those without an athletic scholarship. (Compare that to ice hockey at 24.5 percent, lacrosse at 12.6 and field hockey at 10).

After 27 years of coaching, Ohio State’s Therese Hession is hard-pressed to think of a single year in which she had leftover money. She recruits players who average scores between 73 and 75 at top-tier junior events. Those playing high school tournaments need to average under par.

This myth that millions of scholarship dollars go to waste each year due to lack of interest devalues the depth of talent that exists in women’s college golf.

The competition for scholarship money is fierce. It’s foolish to think otherwise. Gwk

(Note: This story appears in the September 2018 issue of Golfweek).

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