Posted by: Mark Slawter | November 26, 2012

Keegan Hoff

SSTCG student Keegan Hoff (Charlotte, NC – Class of 2013) signing his NLI to play for the Richmond Spiders next season!

Posted by: Mark Slawter | November 26, 2012

SSTCG student Jackson Spires (Fayetteville, NC – Class of 2013) signing his NLI to play for the ECU Pirates next season.

Posted by: Mark Slawter | November 20, 2012

SSTCG student Trey Guy signing his NLI to play for UNCW next season!

Posted by: Mark Slawter | November 20, 2012

Thomas Lilly III signing his NLI to play for UNCW next season!

Posted by: Mark Slawter | October 17, 2012

You have to Ignore “The Noise”

As we approach the 2012 NCAA early signing period (November 14-21), I thought it would be a good time to talk about a problem that faces many junior golfers…..noise!  “The noise” can come from a variety of different sources: other players, parents, high school coaches, instructors, and so on.  Everybody thinks they are giving the kid sound advice.  What they are really doing is causing panic in the student and his/her family.

I hear this statement all too often:

“You have to start early!  Coaches are making decisions about kids in 9th and 10th grade. If you wait too long all the spots will be gone!”

I would agree that you need to start the process early, but the decision is a different story.  To me, a lot of people pay attention to the best players who commit to the best college programs and think the process is the same for everyone else.  I can tell you this is not true.  Again, there is always going to be a few “blue chips” in each class that receive great offers early in high school.  For the other 95% or so the process is going to take more time.  I would estimate my typical student is committing in September/October of the senior year.

In my opinion golf is a journey, especially for a young player.   Everybody’s path is different and everybody develops at a different rate.  And you know what, that’s o.k.!  I have worked with kids in 9th grade who were phenomenal players at 15 years old and accepted verbal offers at the beginning of 11th grade.  I have also met 19 year olds in December of their senior year of high school who had no clue what to do about college golf.  Both sets of kids went on to play college golf and all are doing quite well!

Most coaches I talk to don’t even like the early offer approach.  Some programs feel they need to make offers in 9th or 10th grade in order to pick up the very best players.  The problem is they are investing in a 15 or 16-year-old who will be maturing and changing as a young person as high school goes on.  It’s a very tricky evaluation process for a coach, and they are burned on it all too often.

Don’t get me wrong, If a kid receives a great offer from a top-notch program in 10 grade and he/she is comfortable with the decision, I say accept it.  For the rest of the junior golf population, I would recommend a more patient approach allowing the kids to enjoy the game and enjoy the process.  This strategy has worked very well within my program.

Golf is a great game and I am so pleased to see so many kids playing tournament golf at a high level these days.  Some of the scores I see are really impressive!  However, I can’t stand to see kids in their sophomore or junior year walking around with the weight of the world on their shoulders because they want to play college golf.    I often wonder what causes junior golfers to feel so much pressure to perform.  When you begin to peel back the layers, it becomes clear these kids have been misled.  Somewhere along the way, they heard “noise” and believed it.  These young people are positive that every coach in the country is watching every score they post.  This is not true and really ticks me off!  It is inhibiting these junior golfers from reaching their true potential.

I have mentioned in previous articles the need to be proactive with this process.  Feel free to start in 9th grade if you wish, just make sure your son/daughter understands this process takes time.  College golf opportunities do not solely exist at the “BCS” level.  There are tons of fantastic opportunities for junior golfers at the DI level down through the NAIA level.  Be open-minded to what’s out there and you will discover some really good college golf opportunities for your junior golfer!

 

Mark Slawter

Owner/Operator

Straight Shot to College Golf

http://www.sstcg.com

 

Posted by: Mark Slawter | September 13, 2012

Men’s College Golf Scholarships

Do you have a junior golfer who aspires to play collegiate golf?  Are you hoping the investment you have made in junior golf tournaments, equipment, instruction, and travel will one day develop into a college golf scholarship?  If so, it is very important to understand what scholarship money is available and what kind of offer to expect.

The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has set guidelines on how much scholarship money a college program may offer per year.  The current limit for Men’s golf is as follows:

DI – 4.5

DII – 3.6

DIII – 0.0

 

It is important to remember these are the maximum limits and are not always available. Do not assume every program you are pursuing is fully funded.  For instance, Conference Carolinas (DII) allows each men’s golf program within their conference to have a maximum of 2.0 scholarships per year (the NCAA DII limit is 3.6).  You should always ask this question when first speaking to a coach.

 

It’s also important to understand that scholarships are per year, not per class.  Some families I have talked to have been under the impression that college golf coaches have the full 4.5 scholarships to recruit within each class.  These scholarship limits are per year.  This means a coach’s entire scholarship budget is spread among the whole team.  Consequently, coaches typically have a good chunk of their scholarship money tied up in their current roster when they are recruiting the next class.  For this reason, they are usually shopping with 25% or less of their entire budget during any given recruiting year.

Let me provide an example of what you would typically see:

ABC University – 2013 recruiting season

Total Scholarships available – 3.5

Current Roster:

Player 1 (Sr.) – 1.0

Player 2 (Jr.) – .75

Player 3 (So.) – .50

Player 4 (Jr.) – .50

Player 5 (So.) – .25

Player 6 (Fr.) – .25

Player 7 (Sr.)- .25

Player 8 (Fr.) – 0.0

Player 9 (Sr) – 0.0

This coach has a total of 3.5 scholarships tied up in his current roster.  For the 2013 class, he would have 1.25 scholarships available. This is indicated by how much scholarship money is being tied up by current seniors (1.0 + .25).  Let’s say the coach wants to add three players.  If the coach chose to use the full 1.25 (which is not always the case, sometimes they will save a little money for the following year) on 3 players, he would probably look to give out .75, .25, .25 (or something close to this).

 

This brings me to the most important question…..what should your son expect to be offered?  The main factor will be his results (no, not his ranking).  Coaches want to see what kind of scores he has posted in what type of events.   If he has been playing in several national/regional events, posting under par scores consistently, and finishing in the top 10 he would likely expect an offer of 25-50% or higher.  He is going to be viewed as an impact player (one who will start immediately and make a difference) and paid accordingly.

 

If your son is playing mainly regional/local events, posting scores in the 72-77 range, and finishing in the top 25, he shouldn’t expect much scholarship money.  This player is not viewed as an impact player.  Rather, he would be viewed as a good addition to the team who has made an impression on the coach through a combination of academics, work ethic, athleticism, personality, etc.  Some would even classify this player as a “developmental” player.

 

Here is the most important thing to remember………it doesn’t really matter if a player gets 75% or 10%, the coach is going to take the best 5 players to each tournament.  Every member of the team will have the opportunity to earn playing time despite the amount of scholarship money they might be receiving.

 

Another thing to note……these are ONE YEAR agreements.  You can receive additional scholarship money as your college career goes on (and you can have it taken away if a coach so chooses, although this is extremely rare and would be due to poor academics, attitude, or behavior).  It is actually common to here of a college sophomore or junior who has had his scholarship money increased after a good year.  Coaches are willing to pay for a “proven commodity”, especially if that student is doing well in the classroom and displaying solid team leadership skills.

 

Allow me to share a story from my own college career that is a good example of this………

 

In 1991, I was being recruited by four DI schools.  I received offers of 100%, 50%, 20%, and 0% (walk on).  I chose NC State at 20%.  Before you call me crazy, let me explain.  This was 1991.  I believe it cost about $3000-$3500 a year to go to NC State at the time.    I was fortunate enough to see that NC State was the right fit for me from the coach, team, playing time, academics, facilities, proximity to home, schedule, conference, etc.  The offer wasn’t nearly as important once I was able to see everything NC State and the golf program had to offer.

 

At the end of the 1992/1993 season, I was fortunate enough to be named to the ACC ALL-Conference Team and I was named the ACC “Rookie of the Year”.  Consequently, my coach upped my scholarship to 100%.  I remained at that level for the rest of my career.

 

My advice to you would be open minded through this process and don’t expect too much on the scholarship side.  The most important thing to do is find your son the “right fit” so he can flourish.  The reason he hits all those golf balls and plays all those holes is because he wants to find out how good he can get at the game of golf.  Work hard to find the right environment for him so he may answer that question. Besides, if he finds that right fit and is able to flourish, he will likely be compensated for it.

 

Mark Slawter

Founder/Operator

Straight Shot to College Golf

http://www.sstcg.com

Posted by: Mark Slawter | April 10, 2012

Who are you?

Augusta National….you did it again!  The best golf course in the world provided the best golf tournament in the world, again.  Following Bubba’s tap in par on the 2nd playoff hole, I sat back and reflected on the 2012 addition of the Masters tournament.  One thing was certain to me, nobody lost this one.  Everybody near the lead played very well down the stretch.  However, something else dawned on me.  Golf is in an age of swing gurus, sports psychologist, and others who try and decipher what makes great players great.  This year’s Masters proved that not all golfers are created equal and greatness can came from all types of players.

Let’s consider a few of the golfers who were coming down the stretch with a chance to win:

Matt Kucher – Great demeanor….Always smiling…..Happy go lucky……seems to really enjoy the big stage…..unusual technique in full swing and putting

Phil Mickelson –   Great with the crowds….Always seems positive…..Very analytical and calculating, but plays with feel……tries and pulls off shots no one else would even try (did you see the flop on 15 Saturday?)……Never gives up, despite being a bit erratic at times….made two triples and still almost won

Lee Westwood – Tough minded….hard worker…..excellent ball striker…..hits a ton of fairways and greens

Louis Oosthuizen – great golf swing….lots of natural ability…..very calm demeanor…..one of the best closers in golf today

Bubba Watson – One of a kind technique and shot making ability…..short fuse, loses concentration at times….never taken a lesson is his life…..shaky with the putter at times…..very emotional player

Collectively, these five players made 3 bogeys, 14 birdies, and one eagle on the back nine Sunday.  Yet, all of the analyst and swing gurus love to tell us what’s wrong with these guys when they don’t play well.  In my opinion, they are five unique golfers and human beings.  They have all figured out what works for them, and that is why they are all great players today.  They don’t try and swing like anybody else, they don’t try and play like anybody else, they trust what they do and believe in their own ability.  I think that is the most important thing any golfer can ever accomplish.  Become comfortable in your own skin and play the game your way.

When I think about all of the students I have had the privilege to develop, they are as unique as the five players previously mentioned.  What works for one isn’t necessarily going to work for the next.  I think the key for any young golfer is to figure out what kind of person you are and mold your game from there.  If you a person who is artistic and visual, you may not like trying to hit every shot straight.  You may need to be more creative on the course.  Conversely, if you are a quiet, conservative type person, you probably like to take some of the stress out of your rounds.  You may want to become a golfer who controls his golf ball and plays more tactful type golf.

Whatever the case, trust yourself and your own instincts.  You are and will always be your own best coach.  Spend some time thinking about who you are and what you love about the game.  Be honest and realistic with your assessment of your own game.  From there, you will begin to do what you do the best and that will translate into some great golf this summer!

 

Mark Slawter

Founder/President

Straight Shot to College Golf

http://www.sstcg.com

Posted by: Mark Slawter | March 12, 2012

“Rankings”…….Junior Golf’s Hot Topic

Let me begin by admitting I am not, nor do I even want to be, an expert on any of the ranking systems used in junior golf.  A lot is made of these rankings by students and parents, so I felt inclined to give my thoughts.  Perhaps, I might be able to also provide some insight into the college coaches’ view of the current rankings system.

In many ways, I feel rankings are a bit of an overblown topic.  In fact, I try to avoid “rankings” talk as much as I can.   Nevertheless, we have them and we need them.   We just need to learn to take them in stride and keep focus on the main thing, playing the game.

On the heels of “Selection Sunday”, I see one big similarity with the NCAA basketball selection process and junior golf rankings.  A very knowledgeable committee has created a system to create the best NCAA basketball field they can create.  Junior golf rankings are the same way.  You can argue the system and think it’s unfair for several reasons, but the people that are making these decisions are knowledgeable golf minds who are trying to create a universal system for all parties involved.  The fact is, there is no way to do it in such a way that will please every family.

It would be 1000 times easier if there were a national governing body which ran events at the national, regional, and state levels.  This way you could keep the better players in each state together, making it a whole lot easier to rank them.  We all know this is not the case right now, which causes the first challenge for a rankings system.  You have some kids playing less than ten events a year and some who play over thirty events per year.  Some students play a lot of national level events and others play more regional and local events.  These rankings systems have to do their best to place the proper weight on all of these junior tournaments.  That is a monumental task I am glad not to be involved with!

Like the rest of this entire process, I tend to take a simple look at rankings.  The better you play, the higher your rank will be.  If you are ranked 50th in your state and think you deserve to be ranked higher, than go play better and prove it!  It’s way too easy to find something wrong with the “system” and get caught up in what’s fair and what’s not.  If you aren’t happy about your rank, go win a big tournament and prove how good you are.  Let you clubs do the talking!

In 1998 I was a young touring pro who was trying to establish myself.  During a round in a Nike Tour event in Greensboro, I was paired with a 20+ year veteran of the PGA tour.  He was asking how things were going.  I went on a five minute rant about how the system was unfair and proceeded to make several excuses.  He promptly stopped me in the fairway, put his hands on my shoulders, and gave me a quick piece of advice…….“Play Better!”  I have never forgot those two words.

Now, for the million dollar question……Do rankings matter to college coaches?  The unfortunate answer….yes and no.  I say yes because they do look at them and use them for various reasons.  I say no because they don’t follow them as close as you may think.  Rankings are mainly used to create a database for a class or to create a mailing list.  From there, they are going to recruit you the old fashioned way, by watching you play.

It’s very common for me to hear a parent or student sharing disappointment in a recent rise of another player in the rankings, or a recent fall by themselves in the rankings.  They discuss incorporating a more “tactful” approach to tournament scheduling to maximize their potential to shoot up the rankings.  This is disheartening to me.  Instead of worrying about rankings, why not invest your time and energy into the student and his game.  It’s more important to schedule tournaments to improve the level of development of a junior golfer, not to skip certain tournaments to possibly improve a ranking.

As technology improves every day, there will be more and more information available to college coaches concerning recruits.   However, it’s important to remember that recruiting junior golfers is basically done the same way it was done 20 or 30 years ago.  Coaches want to watch you play and get to know you.  If your scores match their level of recruiting, and they like your potential as a student athlete, chances are you will be very high on their list.  My advice is to keep playing and practicing hard every day.  If you do this, things tend to take care of themselves!

Best of luck,

Mark Slawter

Founder

Straight Shot to College Golf

http://www.sstcg.com

Posted by: Mark Slawter | February 22, 2012

Obtaining the Unobtainable

In 1999 I arrived at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for US Open sectional qualifying.  80 players (or so) for 4 spots.  I was a decent player spinning my wheels on professional golf’s mini tours.  I asked my older brother to caddie for me.  More than anything, I sold it as a fun trip for the two of us and two days on a famous golf course.

On the way down, he asked me a question:

“Do you think you have a chance to get through this thing?”

The truth….I hadn’t even given it thought.  There were a couple dozen tour players at this sight.  The open was being played at Pinehurst #2, where I had so many wonderful childhood memories.  It was beyond my wildest dream to think I could be in the field for the United States Open.  For the next 48 hours he pounded self-belief into me.  By the time I teed it up for the 36 hole qualifier, I was in a fog of confidence and concentration.  I had dreamed about pulling this off for two days.  It was the most prepared I had ever felt before beginning a golf tournament.

As the day went on, things began to happen.  Before I knew it, I had a 6 foot birdie putt for a second round 67 and a two round total of 138 (6 under).  As it turned out, I found myself in a three way playoff for two spots.  Myself, and a couple of celebrated college players named Charles Howell and Bryce Molder.  I was a nervous wreck, but I survived the playoff with the most incredible bunker shot I have ever hit!

It was surreal sitting in the clubhouse at East Lake receiving a packet of information from the USGA with the title “US Open Participant”.  My brother and I stood in the parking lot in disbelief.  Despite the fact he instilled this belief in myself, I’m not sure either if us truly thought it would happen.  This I know, if I hadn’t dreamed about pulling this off, it would had never happened.  That day taught me a valuable life lesson.

In my opinion, junior golfers over achieve when their work ethic and dreams begin to match up.  A lot of the students I encounter practice for hours and hours every day, yet they show up at tournaments HOPING to play well.  There is very little trust and belief in themselves or what they are capable of.  It’s almost like all the practice they do is irrelevant when they get to tournaments.

I have also had a lot of students who were very content with shooting three 75’s and finishing 25th.  Sure, it’s a decent finish that we can find a bunch of positives from.  The frustrating part for me is I think the kid is capable of so much more!  He is a good player, works his tail off, and has all the tools to go low every time he tees it up.  Unfortunately, he sees a 25th place finish as a good tournament and “mission accomplished”.

My advice is to junior golfers…………dream about accomplishing things beyond the ordinary.  Don’t hope for it, close your eyes and visualize it.  Go to the putting green and act out the scene on the final green.  If you do this, you will be far more prepared for the situation when it does present itself.  And believe me, if you dream about it enough, it will present itself!

 

Mark Slawter

Founder/President

Straight Shot to College Golf

http://www.sstcg.com

Posted by: Mark Slawter | February 13, 2012

In the Recruiting Game, Play an Open Hand

In recent articles, I have provided advice on how to go about identifying college golf opportunities.  Again, the most important thing to do is to be realistic.  The better you understand where your son/daughter stacks up, the more efficiently you will be able to go through the process.  It’s also important to consider how you go about contacting theses coaches and in particular, the information your share.

Many of my clients have been surprised by the inconsistencies in correspondence with college coaches. One time they respond to your email straight away and seem very interested.  Next time, days go by and no response.  My advice…..don’t read too much into this.

Remember, these guys get tons of emails on a daily and weekly basis. Sometimes they are a little slow to respond.  However, if you receive an email from them, I suggest you respond promptly (within 24 hours).  The longer you wait, the less interested they may think you are.  I know this seems crazy and a bit unfair, but it’s the way it works.  I have had several college coaches attest to this.

Your initial instincts might tell you they are playing a game and you need to play the game with them.   If you follow college football recruiting, you know how nuts it can be.  Please do not confuse the two.  College golf recruiting is vastly different!  The best thing you can do is play with an open hand.  If you are interested in a school, make sure they know how interested you are.  The more honest and upfront you are, the better positioned you will be with the school you desire the most.   If you sit back and wait, it’s not going to work.

The reason is pretty simple.  College coaches average about 2.5 kids per recruiting class.  They may start with a large recruiting net, but they will quickly narrow it down to the recruits they have developed relationships with and recruits they feel share mutual interest.   I can’t tell you how many times I have had coaches tell me this:

“I didn’t think that kid was interested.  He emailed me a while back, but I never heard back from him.  I just assumed he moved on”.

This is certainly part of the strategy I incorporate within my program.  However, students and parents sometimes begin feeling pushy if they have been emailing the coach frequently.  The key is substance, not quantity.  If done correctly, coaches love receiving updates on recruits.  The thing to avoid is “sugar coating” results or making excuses for recent scores.  The best thing to do is for the students to be honest about their current state of development.  Also, they should have a plan for improvement.

Let me provide a couple of examples:

Example #1 – The wrong way

Dear Coach Smith,

Last week I played in a local junior event.  A bunch of the best players in the state were there.  It was really cold and windy and the course was in bad shape.  Something was wrong with my driver because I was hooking it left.  I had a bunch of bad breaks that cost me several shots.  Some of the best players in the state played bad too.

See you soon,

John

 

Example #2 – The right way

Dear Coach Smith,

Great playing last week in the Bridgestone Intercollegiate!  You guys seem to be playing really well right now.  Keep it up!

Lately, I have been working really hard on my game.  I shot 79-76 last weekend in a local event and finished 27th out of 59 players.  I was disappointed in the outcome, but I went through my stats and determined a few things.  My driving and putting were my two biggest weaknesses.  Consequently, I have put together a practice routine for the week that will focus on these two areas. If you have a second, I have attached my stats and practice schedule for the week.   Any advice you could share would be greatly appreciated!

Good luck to you guys next week!  I’ll be pulling for you!

Go Tigers!

John

 

Coaches love to hear prospects give honest assessments of their game.  If a prospect says he has no weaknesses, it tells the coach he doesn’t plan to work hard.  Consequently, if a prospect admits flaws and provides a plan for improvement, he will fair much more favorably in the coaches eyes.  Trust me, it works with the coaches and it’s a better way for the student to improve his/her development!

In summary, my advice is to any family is to be realistic, be honest, and have a plan.  Once you have found the programs you are the most interested in, make sure they know!  Contact them on a weekly basis, and make your student’s development an open book.  The coaches will love this!  More importantly, it will give your son/daughter the advantage they need to remain on the coach’s short list of recruits.

 

Mark Slawter

Founder/President

Straight Shot to College Golf

www.sstcg.com

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