What About Division I Women's Golf?

In my first two blog posts I discussed important statistics pertaining to early signees on men’s Division I and II college golf teams. It is only natural, then, that I move to an examination of the early signees on women’s collegiate golf teams.  Since it is practically every junior girl’s dream to play Division I women’s golf, I will examine data from the 2016 Division I Early Signees found on the National Junior Golf Scoreboard (NJGS). After comparing this list with the National Junior Golf 2017 Class Ranking [hyperlink] and the World Golf Amateur Ranking (WAGR) [hyperlink],  I hope to draw specific conclusions that will help the average junior girl golfer determine whether or not they have what it takes to play DI golf. Think you have what it takes? Let’s take a look:

Out of the 267 girls that signed early to Division I, Division II, Division III, and NAIA teams, 214 girls signed to Division I teams. The average NJGS class ranking for girls from the United States that signed early to a Division I team was 589. The average WAGR ranking for international junior girl golfers was 1164. Using this data, I found that the 589th girl ranked in the NJGS has an average score of 74.5 and the 1164th ranked girl in the WAGR has an average score of 75.5. So it is safe to say that a junior girl has a shot at playing Division I golf if she consistently shoots in the mid to low 70s by the time the recruiting process begins in her junior year.

●     That being said, the data collection and conclusions I have drawn may be slightly skewed. Out of the 216 girls, 54 did not have a ranking on neither the NJGS nor the WAGR.

            Just because you are not consistently shooting in the mid to low 70s does not necessarily mean that you won’t be able to get a spot on a Division I team. There is actually a fairly large discrepancy between top and bottom Division I teams. For example, the top 10% of girls that signed early in 2017 have an average NJGS ranking of 53, meaning that they are consistently shooting 72 at tournaments. (Please note that I did not include the girls in the WAGR because there were only two international girls in the top 10% and thus was not an adequate amount of data to include in the average). Thus if you are looking to play for a top 10% team, your tournament average should be par or better. That being said, the bottom 10% of early signees had an average NJGS ranking of 1684 and an average WAGR ranking of 2059. When taking a look at both of these rankings, girls typically shoot in the low 80s to high 70s.

            While it may seem like this bottom 10% has high scores, it is important to keep in mind that college recruitment is not based on score alone. A girl can still catch the eye of a coach even if they are not shooting their best. One example of this is the fact that many college coaches will want to see where their recruits place in various tournaments. This is because the girl’s placement in the tournament demonstrates a level of competitiveness necessary at the college level.  It shows that the girl is able to keep up with her peers. So even if a girl shoots 79 but places in the top 10, it is still worth telling a coach about her performance.

            One interesting piece of data I found was that 43% of early signees were recruited to schools that were in the same state, or one to two states away from where they live. Although it is unsure whether there is causation to this correlation, I speculate this could be because coaches like to recruit girls that are used to playing in the same weather conditions that are seen at their college. It makes it easier on players because there does not need to be as much of an adjustment to their college’s new course conditions. Because of this, I do not think it would hurt to pay particular attention to colleges in your geographic location.

Academic performance, connections, character, and personality are also part of the equation. The chances of a junior being recruited to a team can significantly increase if they demonstrate academic prowess, as college teams are always looking to improve their academic standards. If you are aware that you have specific connections through a family member or friend, don’t be afraid to use them because a recommendation from a credible source can go a long way. Although connections can be hard to establish if you do not already of them, it is always important to keep in mind that every tournament is an opportunity to network with someone within the golf community. You never know who you will meet and what they can do for you. Finally, college coaches like to know how their future players will act under pressure. Maintaining a calm and cool composure even when things aren’t going as planned on the golf course can be very impressive to a coach. Coaches will take particular note of a player that struggles on one hole but manages to bounce back on the next.

From the outside looking in, there is a perception that female golfers lack the skill and technique male golfers possess. Anyone working within the world of golf knows that this is the farthest thing from the truth. This is particularly evident when taking a look at the statistics I provided in this post. To further support this point, take a look at Stanford, the top women’s team in the country. This team has a scoring average of 71.6, just .87 strokes less than the men’s number one, Vanderbilt. And this level of play amongst female collegiate golfers is only expected to increase, as the number of junior girls golfers is growing at a rapid pace. According to the PGA of America, the number of junior girl golfers climbed from 4,500-50,000 girls per year from 2010-2015. This means that the number of junior girls golfers is increasing by at least 9,000 a year. From these numbers it is evident that the level of competitiveness in junior girl’s collegiate golf recruitment only continue to expand in the coming years. Thus a player should always strive to get better and never limit themselves or their potential because someone is always getting better.

Image courtesy of University of Washington Athletics Twitter account (@UWAthletics).