College golf recruiting traditionally has been a chaotic process.
For coaches, they typically have needed to sift through hundreds of résumés in various formats to identify the right players. Compiling the necessary information and following up with high school students is a tedious process. For a few select top programs that have their choice of highly ranked players, this isn’t much of an issue. For the vast majority of schools, it is far more difficult.
And, likewise with junior golfers and their parents, many of whom don’t know where to start. They somehow have to find the interested colleges that match their skill level, academic prowess and more. Even the basic steps of the recruiting journey often have been mired in mystery.
With more than 200,000 high school golfers searching to be a part of one of the 1,200 men’s or 900 women’s college golf programs in the country, none of this has come easily in past years.
Junior Golf Hub has been working to streamline this ordeal. Founded in 2016 by Roger Knick, a PGA professional who created the Golf Performance Center in Ridgefield, Connecticut, Junior Golf Hub describes itself as “the LinkedIn of college golf recruiting” by providing an online community for coaches, parents and junior golfers.
The concept is straightforward. Junior golfers sign up for the service – either through the JGH website or its app – and create their own portfolios. They can download videos of their swing, submit tournament results, identify which instructors they work with, provide their contact information, give high school grade-point averages and showcase anything else that could be relevant for college coaches. That link can be emailed to a college coach. The student also can “follow” the college program on the site to express interest. Additionally, students and parents receive step-by-step guides and educational resources for the college recruitment process.
As of this year, one of the most important tools is that high school students can utilize an A.I.-powered “College Match” feature that takes all of their data and spits out 10 college golf programs that best suit them. Every time a student makes a change to his or her profile, the Junior Golf Hub’s algorithm automatically updates the recommended list of programs.
“Our unique ability to seamlessly find and connect aspiring student-athletes with college programs became much smarter with the launch of College Match,” Knick said. “We continuously look for ways to improve the hub to ensure we are the most trusted resource in the industry, keeping players and parents informed while navigating the complex journey to play college golf.”
There is also a separate function called “Find My College” where young players can use filters to narrow down schools based on variables such as scoring average, acceptable standardized test results, tuition, majors offered, size of enrollment and other factors. Coaches have a similar feature, and they also can customize their profile with questionnaires, practice schedules and a showcase of program facilities. Coaches can use the Player Development Index (PDI) that evaluates recruits on multiple levels to find out which ones are most ready to compete based on their training habits, skill level and other factors.
This has been particularly helpful in the post-COVID era during which programs have been trying to sort out rosters as many players use an extra year of eligibility. There also was an extended period of time in which coaches weren’t traveling to watch recruits.
“Access and success in the game shouldn’t be based on race, gender or socioeconomics, but whether or not a young player is willing to dedicate the work necessary to improve.” – Notah Begay
“The fragmented college golf recruiting process has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic for golfers, parents and collegiate coaches alike,” Knick said.
How does the business work? There are more than 14,000 junior golfers and 1,000 college programs on the service. Coaches have free access to the hub, while all other members pay $129 per year. More than 1,000 members have used the service on the way to playing college golf. Last year, 65 members signed to play Division I golf.
Junior Golf Hub is an official partner of the AJGA, Hurricane Junior Golf Tour, Notah Begay III Junior Tour and 22 other PGA sections or junior tours. In many of the cases, junior golfers can receive discounted rates for being a part of those organizations. For example, members of the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour pay just $100 per year for access to Junior Golf Hub. The Notah Begay III Junior Tour, which focuses on giving opportunities to juniors with fewer resources, gives access to the Junior Golf Hub for free.
It provides a path for juniors to play collegiately, while also offering educational resources to let them know what is possible.
“Access and success in the game shouldn’t be based on race, gender or socioeconomics, but whether or not a young player is willing to dedicate the work necessary to improve,” Begay said.
In addition to the service and educational tools, the Junior Golf Hub also awards college scholarships to five boys and five girls, ages 14-18, through its annual Hub Cup standings. The scholarships are determined by tournament scoring average over a rolling 52-week cycle, as well as the kids submitting an essay about the importance of golf and completing a PDI self-assessment.
One of the winners this past year was Anna Davis, the Californian who went on to win the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Aaron Jarvis, winner of the Latin America Amateur earlier this year, was a member before starting his career at UNLV.
“The Hub Cup acts as a conduit to our ultimate goal of providing more opportunities to more people who have the goal of playing college golf,” Knick said. “These scholarships will help break down any barriers standing in the way.”
Breaking down barriers is the best way to describe what Knick and his 10 employees – a team that includes former college golfers, a state amateur champion and seasoned business professionals – have come up with at Junior Golf Hub.
It’s taken an incredibly frustrating process and turned it into something that empowers everyone involved.
Top: Anna Davis, the Californian who went on to win the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, is a Junior Golf Hub scholarship winner. Photo: Naomi Baker, R&A via Getty Images
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