Small School Golf Review
We may be under the impression that we know where all the tour members come from, and which schools boast the national power programs in the U.S. and Canada. Certainly, Division I sports holds considerable advantages over the others, enjoying a huge talent draw. The requirements of a Division I athletic program include offering fourteen sports, two per gender and some form of financial aid. To be sure, UCLA, USC, Purdue and the others are powerhouses, but there’s a lot going on in small school golf, from tiny liberal arts colleges to small universities, and a lot of talented women are doing the playing. Some of them have professional potential, and why not? The day I heard of the Dallas Cowboys drafting a player from a small eastern Washington college of 1,500 students, I knew that anything was possible.
The interesting thing about Division II is that out of the top ten ranked teams, all but one are from the south (one from the southwest). I know the weather’s great, and that there are thousands of terrific courses down there, but really. The Rollins Tars (I’m assuming that’s the older word for sailors – brush up your Gilbert & Sullivan) have been pushing people around since they began the 2005 NCAA Championships with a 28 stroke lead over the next best, Nova Southeastern (also Florida) on the first day of competition! Southern (Fla.), Grand Valley St. (Michigan-how odd), St. Edwards (Tx.), Barry College (Fla.), Belmont Abbey (NC), Grand Canyon (Az) and Saint Leo (Fla.) round out the star programs.
Division III, by contrast, features an entirely different geography, a lot of Midwest, a fact that I find difficult to explain. Why is this prolific golfing section of the U.S. largely absent in Division II? The leader of Division III is still southern, however. The Methodist Monarchs of North Carolina just “signed” four distinguished new players. The announcements include their high schools, hometowns and the names of their parents. I like that – that’s nice, but “signed?” What is this, the NBA? The school possesses the longest national champion streak in the NCAA, period…any sport, and it offers a PGA Management Program. Small school golf doesn’t sound so small, all of a sudden. The other top rankings for the division are held by DePauw (Ind.), Gustavus Adolphus (Mn.), St. Marys (Ind.), Illinois Wesleyan, Washington University of St. Louis, Centre College (Ky.), Williams College (MA. – Massachusetts?), Wisconsin – Eau Claire and Allegheny (Pa.).
In the NAIA Division, The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds just won their third national championship in 2011, over the Victoria Vikings. That’s not just golf in good schools, but in two of the most beautiful cities you’re likely to see. The attending powers in this division include Lubbock Christian (Tx.), Embry-Riddle (yawn – Fla.), Shorter (Ga.), and Bethel in Indiana.
golf It would take a lengthy study to track the later careers of these players. You wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell who they are by their majors, which are declared virtually across the board – and being a philosophy major doesn’t mean you can’t play great golf – in fact, it should help. National Champion Charlotte Campbell, a one woman wrecking ball for Rollins started the Futures Tour in ’07, and paid a lot of the expense by selling Swarovski crystal ball markers. I wonder if she was a Business Marketing major.
These are just the top-ranked teams in the U.S. and Canada, but don’t think for a moment that they’re the only schools playing. Taking a look at golf teams from smaller schools is the perfect way to understand the global devotion to this game. Men’s and women’s teams thrive everywhere, certainly, on the North American continent, and it’s the perfect thing to do for a Philosophy, English Lit or Theater Major to clear one’s mind after hitting the books.