After last week’s well-deserved column on Jerry McGee’s induction into the Ohio Golf Hall of Fame, I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about how we could do more to help identify the next local Jerry McGee and help grow the Youngstown State golf teams.
As a former captain of the YSU men’s golf team, I hold a special place in my heart for the Penguins and the potential the men’s and women’s teams have to grow in regional and national prominence.
First off, I want to make clear that my article is not meant to place “blame” on anyone for anything. Rather, it’s meant to start a discussion on what we can all do to help the programs moving forward.
So let’s start with the basics of college golf. YSU is a Division I program. Teams these days no longer play head-to-head matches. Instead, schools set a schedule of tournaments in which they will compete against 12-18 other schools over 54 or 72 holes. Normally, five players play each round with the low four scores counting. The total score of the top four players makes up that schools score for the round. The total of all three or four rounds is the total team score. And the low score wins.
I point this out because I think it’s important to realize the impact that one great player can have on a team. Unlike football where 11 players are involved on each play, in college golf, one great player can make a significant difference per round — perhaps three to five shots per round or nine to 15 shots per tournament. Bottom line: one or two really good recruits can instantly make a huge difference to a program.
Knowing this, this next obvious question then becomes how to get those one or two great recruits year after year. And the short answer is easy: money.
No, I’m not talking about paying golfers. I’m talking about the amount of money the golf program has to do all the things a Division I team should be able to do:
Buy equipment for the players. Travel to the nicest tournaments. Travel correctly (flying vs. driving in a van for 12 hours). And eventually, build permanent facilities for the golf programs.
Now normally, I would say the question would be what comes first — the money or the success? Obviously, if the programs had a great run and attracted attention within the community, it would be easier to raise money. But at this point, I don’t think the answer is to wait until that happens.
Yes, the Mahoning Valley is a football community. But I know for a fact it is also a big golf community. Just look at the amount of private and public courses we have.
So I think now is the time to start a fundraising plan. I know I — along with a number of other former YSU golfers who are still in the area — would help lay out a 5-, 10- or 20-year plan to take to potential donors.
Here’s where I’d start:
Fundraising event: I play in a ton of fundraising scrambles throughout the summer. A YSU golf scramble is an easy start.
Home-course facilities: It’s hard to recruit the best golfers in the region, state, country without a permanent home course. We need to cement a “home course” and practice facility to show to recruits.
Scheduling: It may sound silly, but the university needs to do a better job at helping the golfers schedule their classes early. Being able to get into certain classes really helps the team members set a solid practice schedule for the week. It also helps when traveling for tournaments and missing classes.
Publicity: I think we all could do a better job highlighting the golf programs within the community. I don’t know how to quantify the effect, but if the program were able to show recruits that they would be local golf “celebrities” the same way football and basketball players are, it may help secure commitments from top players.
Continual fundraising plan: In addition to the “easier” ideas above, I think there should be a volunteer committee to help develop a plan that can be put down on paper and shown to donors and top recruits. Even if the plan isn’t being enacted yet, just being able to show a plan on paper may help secure donors on a more long term basis.
And these are just some of the things that come to mind while writing this column.
As I pointed out above, a university golf program really has the potential for a “snowball effect.” Without knowing what comes first, if we could start showing some top finishes, commitments from one or two top recruits, increased fundraising, a long-term plan, and a more concrete home course and practice facilities, I know the YSU programs can continue to improve.
Now it’s just a matter of something happening first.
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for Huntington Insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at firstname.lastname@example.org