College Golf’s Retention Dilemma

One week after taking over the top spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Stanford University junior Patrick Rodgers announced last Monday that he will turn professional at the end of this academic year. He becomes the second highly ranked player to cut short his college career in the past 90 days. Ranked No. 1 at the time, Matthew Fitzpatrick bolted from Northwestern during the Christmas holidays after fewer than four months on campus.
These are just two examples in recent years of really talented college players leaving school early for the pro ranks. Rickie Fowler, the No.1 ranked amateur for 36 weeks in 2007-08, left traditional golf powerhouse
Oklahoma State after just two years.
He was followed by teammate and 2010 U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, who left OSU in the middle of his final year in 2011. (College golf has a fall schedule and a separate spring season. Uihlein left with the blessing of everybody involved.) UCLA’s Patrick Cantlay, adamant about getting his degree for much of his time atop the WAGR, turned pro in 2012 after his sophomore year. More recently and more famously, Jordan Spieth left the University of Texas in the middle of his second year and in scarcely more than a year has catapulted himself inside the top 15 in the world.
All of which leads to the question:
Why can’t the American college golf system hang onto its very best players? To be sure, the lure of lucre is a big part of the equation. The money to be won in the modern pro game is just too tempting; English Literature 101 cannot compete with the prize money available and the dollar signs these kids have in their eyes. And with agents buzzing the ears of the players and their parents, it’s tough for a college coach to offer a better vision for the short-term future.


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