The Road to Collegiate Golf by Arri Estrada

One of the most intimidating ideas for any high school student is the thought of college. To make it even more intimidating: SPORTS in college. Take it from me, I played college golf at Western New Mexico University on the Women’s golf team. It was one of the most amazing, terrifying, exciting and memorable times in my life, but it definitely wasn’t the easiest. If you are aspiring to play a sport at any collegiate level (DI, DII, DIII, NAIA, NJCAA) here are a few tips that I have acquired along the way from people telling me, people showing me, and me just figuring it out on my own.
1. Academics-
This is the most important of them all. The most important thing people seem to forget about being a student athlete is the STUDENT part of the deal. Do you need to strive and be great in your sport? Yes, 100% yes, however if you are incapable of maintaining that greatness in the classroom, college scouts and recruiters will be less interested in you. Let me put it this way: if there were two high school golfers with the same skill level, same golf stats and same success but one has a 4.0 and the other is struggling to stay eligible, which player do you think the college coach wants? You don’t have to be perfect; no one is asking you to be perfect. If you show that you are trying just as hard off the course as you are on then that is what coaches look for. Things I recommend doing during your high school careers in the classroom: -ALWAYS ask for help (teachers, counselors, tutors, coaches, upperclassmen, etc.) -Dedicate the same amount of time you practice to the time you do school work -Study on the bus any chance you get -Study and take your ACT and SAT tests to get into college
The whole point of going to college is to expand your education on something you are passionate about. If you wanted to become a nurse, would you want to go to a school that has a poor nursing program? If you needed some milk would you go to an auto repair store for it? NO. Do your research! Not everybody knows what they want to study their freshman year and that IS okay.  However, college is a place where you are going to be living the first few years of your adult life, you have the right to choose where.
3. Other Financial Outlets-
Unless you are literally the next Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy at the age of 17, 100% full ride scholarships solely for golf are as rare as it snowing in July. The smartest way to be financially ahead of the game is finding other financial outlets. I’ll use me as an example. I had financial support from four outlets: Golf scholarship, academic tuition scholarship, federal grant and work study income. My tuition scholarship covered my full tuition as long as i maintained a certain GPA. My golf scholarship and federal grant covered my room and board for when I lived on campus and for my books. My work study job helped cover whatever i needed for supplies or extra necessities. Now, my college experience will be different than yours, but my point is you have to strive for more. COLLEGE IS NOT CHEAP! Things I recommend doing: -Research your community for local scholarships (Chamber of Commerce, Community groups, Non-profit organizations ** The First Tee of Denver!!) -Once you decide on what college you have committed to, look up scholarships you can apply for through them. -Look up what loans and grants you are qualified to receive (all dependent on family income, taxes, etc.)
4. Golf-
Finally to the good stuff! Each college coach is different when it comes to recruitment. By that I mean a a PAC-12 conference coach is probably looking for something different in a player compared to an RMAC conference coach. The type of coach you want to appeal to all depends on what type of school you want to go to, what you study and what level of competition you desire to play at. Overall, they are all looking for one thing: a golfer. Here are some actions you can take to get yourself noticed by college scouts: -Record your swing and send it to coaches -Make a portfolio of tournament scores, achievements, leadership roles, etc. -Constantly send updates on tournament results, swing changes, etc. (throughout high school you as a high school golfer are allowed to send mail to coaches all you want and make unofficial visits, THEY are not allowed to contact you first UNTIL the summer before your senior year) Now, that is the technical part of it. When it comes to your actual golf ability, there is the obvious tip PRACTICE, PRACTICE PRACTICE! When selling yourself and your golf abilities to college coaches, you want to accentuate your strengths and your practice regimen. Now, higher level of competition means higher expectations. Here are some things you can do to mentally and physically prepare yourself: -Start keeping your stats EVERY time you play (greens, fairways, putts, etc) -Consistent workout regimen outside the golf course -Start practicing time management (school, golf, workouts, sleep, etc.)
I know I just probably overwhelmed you with so much information, most of it isn’t even golf itself. This is just a quick summary of the first few steps. It is a lot of work, it is a lot of stress, but just remember the end goal! I promise you going to college was an experience in itself, but playing on a college team and competing at that level was an experience worth ALL the stress and I would do it again in a heartbeat.