Friday, August 31, 2012

Youth Golf: When Good is not Good Enough to Make the Cut

Every week in the PGA, the pros compete on Thursday and Friday for a chance to play for money during the weekend. The cut is typically established as the top 70 players. Sometimes a 10 stroke rule is applied and the tournament will take the top 70 players plus anyone else within 10 strokes of the leader. That seems easy compared to making my son's high school team.

My son, a freshman, competed for a spot on his high school team the first week of August. He was trying to make the JV team. The HS has two teams, JV and varsity. Each team has 12 golfers. The golf team has 24 total players for a school that enrolls 800 students. Needless to say it was very competitive. At the golf informational meeting prior to tryouts, the golfers were told that if they shot an 85, they would likely make the cut.

As soon as baseball ended in late July, my son, Nic, started practicing golf. He played at least 27 holes per day for 15 days. When the tryouts came around he was fairly confident that he could shoot 85. He was ready. I, on the other hand, was not mentally prepared for it. It would be one of the first pivotal youth sports events that I would not be able to watch. I would not be there to give him a supportive look. I would not be there to cheer him on or encourage him to keep his head up. He was on his own and I felt a deep void during the hours he was on the course.

The tryout consisted of three 18 hole rounds - Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The tryouts started August 6th at noon. My wife drove my son to the course. I think that she was more nervous than my son was. She watched him hook his first shot into the woods and walk off down a hill and out of sight. She would call me 5 hours later from a position high above the par 5 18th green. She gave me the play by play as he approached and tried to read his demeanor.

That conversation went something like this:
"He hit a drive down the middle. It was a good drive, but he is walking to the ball with his head down low. Oh this does not look good. 
He hit his drive the furthest, so he will have to wait. 
He just hit his second shot. He is in the fairway in good position. I can't tell his demeanor. 
OK he is approaching his ball.... He's hitting... the ball is high in the air... it looks good...oh no, it's short of the green and rolling down a big hill. Ugh. 
Wait! He's walking up with a big smile. Oh, maybe he is doing ok. 
It is his turn again. He hit it up, it's on the green. stop, stop, stop... it just rolled off the green.  He is in the rough behind the green. He is sitting 4. He will need to chip in for a par. 
He chipped on. He has a 15 foot putt.
Long putt. It looks good. It stopped right next to the hole. He just tapped it in for a 7. 
He is smiling. Is that a smile of relief. Or do you think he did ok?"
Despite the 7 on the 18th, my son shot an 86. He was made the cut established at 100 for the first day.

On day two he had an 8am tee time. I drove Nic to the driving range at our club at 6:30 am. It was still relatively dark. The range was not open yet, but the night before, Nic hid about 40 range balls in some tall grass so that he could warm up prior to the tryout. The second day was more of the same. He shot an 85. I felt the void again until he called me with his score. I was so proud. The cut for day two was set at 90. He made the cut again and was thrilled.

One more day and all he needed to do was shoot an 84 to secure his goal of getting an 85 average over the tryout. As he approached the 18th green, my wife called me to give me the play by play. He played the hole well. My wife described his big trademark smile as he tapped in a putt for par. He shot an 83.

He was the first group off, so he had to wait and wait for the official results. Once everyone was done, the coaches called the players over. The coach gave out 8 spots. 4 freshman and 4 sophomores and he cut 6 players. My son was not on either list. The coach then explained that 2 freshman and 2 sophomores are on the bubble. That meant the he had to wait until the varsity team established their team before he could lock up the final spots. He explained if the varsity team dropped down 4 players, the 4 bubble guys would be cut. If 3 players dropped down, then the 4 players would compete in a 9 hole shootout on Friday for the final spot. And so on.

The varsity did drop down 3 players, so my son had to compete for the final spot. He was deflated because all of the scores from the previous 3 days carried forward. He had the 2nd best score of the 4 remaining bubble players, but he was 9 strokes behind one of the sophomores.

He arrived on Friday with nothing to lose. He had played conservatively on the tight course all week.  He rarely hit his driver, which he can hit 300+ yards, thinking he could make 85 without it. On the final Friday, he pulled out the big stick and went for it. He played some holes well, but got into trouble on others and could not make up the ground. He was cut and he was devastated.

The Main Point

While Nic was playing baseball all spring and early summer, the kids who made the team had been playing golf.  It is just too difficult to make a competitive team in a big school when you are not dedicated to the sport. Nic has decided that he is going to give up on baseball and concentrate on golf.

He is a good baseball player, but he probably has a better chance of succeeding at golf. The perennial state-championship baseball team at his school is ultra competitive too.

Well, the good thing about golf is that the score determines who makes the team, not politics.

I am proud of my son. He handed the pressure very well. He set a goal and met it, unfortunately it was not quite good enough this year. Next year will be different.


  1. Sorry to hear that, but glad to hear he's not giving up. My son is in the same boat. Baseball and golf. He played golf all summer and now struggling with baseball for fall ball. Trying to find the right balance. Fortunately, he's only 9, so we have some time before we'll decide one way or the other, but you can already see kids pulling ahead in one or the other because that's all they do. I'm (mostly) sure that's not where we want to be ...

    1. Do not specialize until your son is older. All the studies say that from a physical and mental standpoint - specialization is not ideal.

  2. With 800 people it's really very difficult to win. You very interestingly describe the process of becoming your son as a professional. It is evident that he is a stubborn young man who is ready to work hard for success.

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  4. Never understood what stand behind the love of the golf. I think it's almost everything about the image of this sport. We used to think it's all because it's the sport for rich people. Like iPhones. But it's just another boring way of spending time. I would never write a good review of writersperhour about it

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