By Brendan Ryan, Golf Placement Services

Yesterday, one of the parents to whom I consult on college placement asked me what the lessons are from the college admissions scandal for her and her son? Here are my thoughts:

Michael Young, who coined the phrase in 1956, writes, a meritocracy is “the society in which the gifted, the smart, the energetic, the ambitious and the ruthless are carefully sifted out and helped towards their destined positions of dominance.” For decades higher education has embraced the meritocracy, creating an effective system in which it funnels students with amazing precision to schools that match their academic ability, courtesy of indicators like GPA, SAT and class rank. So why would people work to circumvent this system? Ignorance and entitlement; the members of this scandal were driven by having the right brand name to tell their friends at dinner parties, not the well fare of their children.

In my own experience I have seen the pressure put on kids to preform at an elite level while balancing a grueling schedule of class, practice and working out. The result? Kids who are nervous wrecks because they are too scared to hit a bad shot and disappoint their parents.

In my own examination of data in the college signing process over the past three years, I have found only three outliers in Division One Men’s Golf at major conference schools. Each of these outliers had a NJGS ranking outside of the top 1000 in their respective class with scoring differentials above 3.5. They also each had a direct and obvious connection with the school. They leveraged this relationship and had their children admitted and placed on the golf roster. Success! Unfortunately, none of the players appeared on the roster their sophomore year. Why? By the numbers these players are 6 shots worst then their peers. That’s 24 shots over a four-round qualifier.

The data also holds true for girls; over the past 3 years the average scoring differential for a junior signing to play Division One Golf has gone down 4 shots to approximately 1 for the 2019 class. This leaves coaches very little room in recruiting anything but players with skills to contribute to a team that can average in the mid 290s.

Obviously, it needs to be said again; the best junior players (boys and girls) are excellent. Three years of data suggests that players who attend major conference schools have negative scoring differentials close to 2. This means that they average about 2 shots better than the course rating, or in lay terms; have a plus handicap in tournaments. This is outstanding golf and a result of a well thought out and funded plan, executed carefully over several years.

There is no doubt that the best players have passed through top tier programs in recent years, however they have entered these programs with accolades including negative scoring differentials and successful tournament careers, including a pattern of winning. In order to compete at the professional level, players must meticulously try and mirror these successes in college. The best way to do it? Trust the meritocracy; it will nudge you towards a school where you can gain valuable experience playing, while also getting a great education. For a lot of junior golfers, this might not be the most obvious choice. Instead the process takes some additional thought and looking at different options. As someone who has visited over 800 campuses and seen the golf facilities, I can say that you will be surprised and impressed with just how good the options are. Happy searching!

Brendan Ryan