The Journey to College Golf

Insights from a Current College Golfer

In November 2019, I met Noah Kumar while standing on the putting green at the Florida Junior Championship at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, home of the Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour. At the time, Noah was ranked No. 59 on Junior Golf Scoreboard and only days away from signing his National Letter of Intent to play college golf for the storied program at Florida Southern College.

Although Noah did not win that week, he finished t-4 in a star-studded group. In addition, Noah finished 3rd overall in the Florida State Golf Association Boy’s Player of the Year standings. While both are remarkable, that’s not what impressed me that week. Truthfully, Noah’s ability to withstand the squawking from other junior golfers sharing their disdain with his decision to play Division II Golf despite his notable junior golf rankings is what garnered my attention.

Over the past couple of years, Noah and I have had plenty of laughs over our first conversation and compliments of his choosing to do what he felt was best for his unique situation and not how his peers would perceive it. Recently, Noah mentioned something profound “Life is full of events that you can’t prepare for, and the only thing you can control is yourself and your emotions when faced with adversity. If there is a problem, you must think, “How can I get outcome X with problem Y.”

That mentality and thought process have helped and continue to help Noah develop as an elite player. Shockingly, he ranked outside the top 2000 during his sophomore year of high school. However, his character, tireless work ethic, and wisdom beyond his years have guided his quest to be the best. He would like to share his junior golf story with the next generation. Although we see where he is now, not everyone knows where his journey began.

Noah Kumar, Sophomore at Florida Southern College (Ranked #26 by Golfstat). Through a series of Q&A articles, Noah hopes of inspiring other junior golfers who aspire to play in college. Focus on the process and not always be so concerned about the product (ranking) because that is not the part of the story people will remember. Let’s jump into the questions:

When did you actively start your college search process?
I began my college search process in March of my sophomore year in high school.

Talk about your recruiting process, were you highly recruited?
I verbally committed relatively early, so I wasn’t highly recruited. During my recruiting process, I talked to Liberty University, the University of North Florida, and Florida Southern College. However, I didn’t rule out any schools because I wanted to keep my options open.

How much stock did you put in recruiting letters you received?
Every player gets a bit of an ego boost when they know they have college coaches looking into them. I was the same way, but I wanted to continue impressing coaches because I always wanted to improve.

How would you research schools?
I wanted to remain in the southeast or on the east coast for golf, so I researched schools in the region with quality golf and business programs.

Where did you start your research process for each school? (Environmental, Academic, Athletic)
I started my college search process with athletics. I wanted to play at a school where I could develop as a player and be on the starting lineup as soon as I got there.

Who did you connect with to learn more about the schools on your list? (Past players, Alums, etc.) 
I connected with past players from Florida Southern and had friends already on the team.

Talk about the transition to college golf, the environment, the talent, the time, the sacrifice, etc., versus being a junior player.
In my opinion, college golf is a lot tougher than what junior golfers might think. Most courses are set up difficult with tucked pins and firm and fast greens. Tournament hosts do this to separate the men from the boys. Everyone playing in college golf has some degree of talent. Therefore, the team or individual that wins that week is usually the strongest mentally and committed to each shot and trusts the process.

How important is it that a program has the best facilities – practice, courses, technology, fitness, mental coaching, etc.?
Every one of these aspects should be considered when looking into a program. Having quality practice facilities and courses is important to players on course development. Fitness and mental coaching are just as if not more important than having good practice facilities. Even if you are playing poorly in a tournament having a mental edge on everyone else keeps you in each round.

How many players on your team share the same academic major? If so, does that benefit you?
Yes, 12 of the 13 guys on the team are in the business program. We all help each other out if we’re taking the same class or have taken it in the past.

How did you earn the respect of the upperclassman when you got to campus?
I showed up to practice before everyone else did my freshman year, and I was almost always the last one to leave. I also played some pretty good golf in qualifying, so I think that sent a message that I wasn’t here to mess around and be a typical freshman. I wanted to contribute to the team as soon as I stepped foot on campus.

How do you manage your time as a student-athlete between your classes, studying, practice, workouts, tournaments, and social life?
I will write out my day on a sheet of paper and block off the time I need to do certain things each day. This system forces me to stick to a tight schedule and maximize my time. Once I finish all the things I need to do for myself, I will socialize.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a college athlete?
The most challenging part about college athletics is catching up on schoolwork when we miss 2-3 days for tournaments. It can sometimes take a week to catch yourself up, and this is extremely difficult to do in the spring when there is a tournament every other week.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a college student?
Being a college student isn’t too difficult as long as you apply yourself. Just show up to class, do the work, and understand the material you’re learning.

What three pieces of advice would you have for junior players who are going through the college search and recruiting process?

  1. Be a coachable player and learn to receive feedback from your coach(es).
  2. Surround yourself with people that will make you a better person at school and home, including on and off the golf course. You want to play with people who are keeping you competitive and share similar goals as you.
  3. Use social media as your marketing platform. College coaches will notice your improvements if you show progress in your golf, fitness, and overall work ethic.

In closing, connecting with current and past college golfers is a great way to ask questions and learn from those who have been or currently are where you want to be. Those conversations may seem uncomfortable at first, but it’s practice for discussions with future coaches and teammates. In addition, networking is an essential aspect of the college search and recruiting process. Herminia Ibarra, a professor at London Business School, said it well, “Networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness: we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority.”

Best of luck in your pursuits!

Sincerely,
Albatross Junior Golf

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