In defense of college golf

Over the past one to two years, numerous articles in major golf publications have attempted to point out the errors and flaws in the American system of golf. These arguments mainly expressed doubt in the merits of college golf, pointing out that the Americans have struggled as of late in international competition (i.e. Ryder Cup) while their European counterparts have flourished.

So why is college golf bad or counterproductive? Critics cite problems with the team atmosphere of college golf programs, which may lead to golfers giving up in poor rounds because their teammates' scores will cancel out his or her own. Also, many critics say that golfers fail to make long term changes to their swing, preferring quick fixes which impair their game for years to come. The live-or-die mentality of the European and Asian Tours allegedly provide a better competitive experience, subsequently leading to more successful players.

I disagree with this argument for several reasons. First, I think that college sports in general carry weight, simply because they provide opportunities for individuals to pursue degrees at schools which they likely would not be students at without their athletic talents. That said, think about how slim the chances are in any sport, not just golf, at playing professionally for a long period of time. Being able to have a life is professional golf doesn't work out is clearly important in the life of a student-athlete, even if playing professionally is the player's main goal.

Second, while many European players who succeed professionally did not play at the collegiate level, look to the success of those who did: Looking at the past five major champions:
2007 Masters - Zach Johnson - Drake
2006 PGA Championship - Tiger Woods - Stanford
2006 British Open - Tiger Woods - Stanford
2006 U.S. Open - Geoff Ogilvy - European Tour
2006 Masters - Phil Mickelson - Arizona State
So, 4 out of the last five major champions have played golf at the collegiate level. However, two of those championships were taken by Tiger. Of course, it is hard to determine whether or not his career would have been better or worse at this point had he turned professional at age eighteen and went to play in Europe or Asia. I doubt this would be the case. He missed his first several cuts at professional events while playing as an amateur. If he had been playing as a professional and had the same result, who knows if his mental stamina and skill would have developed as he struggled to get a Tour Card. Instead, Tiger won multiple U.S. Amateur Championships against great competitors, giving him the confidence to succeed at the highest level of golf. It's hard to greet the golf community with a "Hello, world" if you have not yet proven your game outside of U.S. Junior titles.

In my opinion, many of the best European players today, those who will win major championships in the future, have played at American colleges for part of their careers. Englishman Luke Donald, arguably the best British player today, played his college golf at Northwestern University. Internationally, Camilo Villegas, who grew up in Colombia, played college golf at the University of Florida before joining the tour last season.

Another argument is that Americans are not receiving the instruction at the college level that their international peers are obtaining. Many American players continue to work with their college coaches during their time on the PGA Tour. Some college coaches are of the elite group of PGA Professional teachers.

In conclusion, it is hard to argue that college golf experience will hamper the development of every players. Especially with golf's trinity Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods having played at Wake Forest, Ohio State, and Stanford respectively.

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