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The US College Golf Pathway: A Stepping-Stone to Going Pro

With another Masters Week been and gone, thousands of young golfers all over the world find themselves inspired and dreaming of one day taking the drive down Magnolia Lane to tee it up against the best players in the world in pursuit of the prized green jacket. An important consideration for golfers aspiring to play at the highest level is to reflect on how the players in last week’s Masters field got there. It no doubt took countless hours of practice, absolute dedication, and an innate passion for the game over many years. However, more and more golfers are pursuing the college pathway as an avenue towards a professional career.

Looking at the final leaderboard of this year’s Masters, 6 of the top 10 finishers played college golf. So too did 35 players, or roughly 65%, of those who made the cut. This indicates one thing: college golf has become the most sought-after pathway to the highest-level professional career. It has truly become the most elite platform for amateur level competition, providing young golfers the opportunity to compete against the very best amateur players in the world. Here are some more key reasons why so many golfers are choosing the college pathway:

1. Resembles the Lifestyle of Playing on Tour

College golf provides the opportunity to truly experience what it’s like to play on tour. Week in and week out you travel to a different part of the country, play tournaments on new courses, and compete against world class players. You go from the airport to the golf course to the hotel and back again, which truly prepares you for what life on the road is like as a professional tour player.

2. Pathway to PGA Tour Status

In 2020, the PGA Tour implemented a program designed to provide a direct pathway for college golfers to some of the world’s most prominent professional tours. Known as PGA Tour University, the program rewards elite college players with membership and playing access on tours including the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Latinoamerica, and PGA Tour Canada. Such opportunities are offered to the top 15 ranked NCAA D1 collegiate players at the conclusion of the spring championship season. Rankings are determined by performance in NCAA D1 college tournaments, as well as a host of PGA Tour events. Never before has there been a more direct pathway from college to the PGA Tour. A similar pipeline for female college players is still in the works, but like male players, women benefit tremendously from the WAGR ranking points available at collegiate tournaments. If you take a look at the WAGR rankings, the vast majority – especially those at the top – are college players.

3. University Degree

In reality, not all elite golfers will turn professional and go on to have a career on tour. It is important to note that you don’t need to have such aspirations to qualify for phenomenal scholarship opportunities within the US college system. The college pathway offers equally incredible opportunities to junior golfers who compete at a high level, have a deep passion for the game, and who aspire to continue playing competitively after high school, but who don’t necessarily have a desire to be a touring professional. Instead, such players get great competitive experience, are provided the resources to continue progressing their golf, enjoy an incredible life experience in the US, and walk away with a valuable (and often paid-for) degree. There is no limitation to the options one has after college. For those that do wish to play golf professionally after college, the opportunity to earn a degree is just as valuable; no matter where golf takes you, I can guarantee that your degree will be utilized in your lifetime.   

With that being said, we asked some of Study & Play USA’s golf recruits what it is that has drawn them to pursue this pathway and, interestingly, their motivations are reflected above:

Justice Bosio (2022 Recruit): I am looking forward to going to college because it will provide an incredible environment for me to improve my game in order to make it to the LPGA Tour.

Fahim Hilmi (2023 Recruit): Pursuing the college pathway has opened up an opportunity to pursue my golfing career alongside great coaches and teammates, whilst allowing me to continue my studies to achieve a degree.

Harry Takis (2024 Recruit): I have decided to pursue the college pathway so that I have the best opportunity to excel in my golf, as well as get a valuable degree along the way.

These young players are incredibly talented and mature, have a tremendous work ethic and are, most importantly, of the highest character. We cannot wait to see the impact that they will have on the college golf scene and beyond in the coming years. No matter where golf takes them, I am confident that, like me, they will look back on their college experience as being the best years of their lives.