Archive for Recruiting

What do I Need to Know About the NLI?


As we wrap up the NLI Early Signing Period, I wanted to share some insight on FAQs about signing an NLI.

What is the NLI?

The NLI (National Letter of Intent) is an agreement signed by the student-athlete, parent or guardian and the institution that states the student athlete’s commitment to attend the institution for one full academic year, in return the institution agrees to provide athletic financial aid for one full academic year.

How is it different from a verbal commitment?

The NLI is different from a verbal commitment in that it is legally binding and it’s an agreement between the student-athlete and the institution (not the coach). Also, the NLI can only be signed during designated signing periods (see below) whereas a verbal commitment can be made at any time.

When is the NLI signed?

For golf, there are two signing periods, an NLI can only be signed during these periods:

  1. Early Signing Period for 2017-2018 Academic Year: November 8-15, 2017
  2. Regular Signing Period for 2017-2018 Academic Year: April 11-August 1, 2018

Who gets to sign the NLI?

Only student-athletes who are receiving athletic financial aid sign the actual NLI. You can have a ceremony to announce your acceptance to play for a golf program but you do not sign actual paperwork unless you are receiving an athletic scholarship. DIII athletes, Ivy League athletes and DI or DII non-athletic scholarship athletes do not sign an NLI.

What if I don’t get accepted into the school?

If you are denied acceptance into the institution then your NLI becomes null and void.

What if the coach leaves the institution?

Because the NLI is signed with the institution, if the coach who recruited you leaves, you are still legally obligated to attend the institution for at least one full year or you would have to ask for transfer permission and more than likely face a transfer penalty.


For more FAQs about the NLI visit this page.

Don’t Panic but Be Proactive

Just wanted to let you know that for 2020 we have one verbal commitment and another offer out.  Assuming that gets accepted we would only have walk-on opportunities available for 2020.” – Top 25 Ranked DI Women’s Golf Program

In consulting my 2020 recruits, I have received several responses like this from coaches who are already wrapping up their 2020 recruiting class, during the fall of a recruit’s sophomore year.  I know it’s hard to believe and part of me doesn’t like to share this because I know it makes players panic and stresses them out. But I have also seen the lack of knowledge and understanding of the reality of the recruiting process and they find out this information too late.

Thankfully on a positive note, I have also had several 2018 recruits, current seniors, who have just wrapped up their recruiting process by making their decision in the last couple of months, two will attend Ivy Leagues, one to a top 100 ranked DI program and one to a top-ranked academic DIII program. So the recruiting process can continue throughout a recruit’s junior and senior year with quality options still being available.

Below are just a few things to keep in mind about the timelines of this process.

  • You can’t force the process to start early if your resume isn’t good enough yet. For a female golfer, that typically includes at least 2 years of non-high school competitive scores from 5900yds and longer, consistently in the 70s, with minimal scores in the low 80s, playing state, regional and national tournaments. If you reach this stage at an early age then the process will tend to happen sooner rather than later. If you aren’t to this stage yet then focus on the things you can control within your game and player development before adding the stress of the recruiting process.
  • If you aren’t to the stage of starting the recruiting process then make sure you utilize all of your resources to ensure you reach your goal of playing college golf. Many players spend months and years not understanding the level of effort and commitment it takes to play golf in college, especially at a higher ranked level.
  • If you are to the stage of starting the recruiting process then take the initiative and be proactive in reaching out to the coaches. Try not to let the stress of the process overwhelm you and your game. If you continue to work hard then you will find a good college golf home. It is not life or death!
  • While there are opportunities still available through a player’s junior and senior year, the scholarship money does start to dwindle and availability becomes just roster spots or possible academic money in some cases. So if scholarship money is a major issue then you need to be very realistic early on in the process and not hope for those dream schools to become reality but without any scholarship money.
  • The biggest thing is not to panic. Use this process as an opportunity to mature and develop better communication and personal skills that are going to help you be more prepared for college golf. See this as a process and not something you can force to happen. Focus on what it takes to get better, spend time on recruiting each week, then allow the process to happen the way it is supposed to.

Q and A with UNCG Coach Janell Howland

Not only is UNCG Head Coach Janell Howland an awesome coach but she also happens to be a dear friend who I admire and respect greatly. I recently asked her to answer a few questions about her recruiting and coaching philosophy.


What is your own coaching philosophy?  People first, Students second, Golfers third.  Everything we do in our program revolves around those 3 things, in that order.


What do you love about being a college coach?  Seeing personal growth from each girl from the time they get to me until the time they graduate.


What do you look for with a resume and swing video?  Grades, Golf Scores from multiple years to see how they are trending, Extra activities that they are involved in. I want to see an all-around person as well as an athlete.


What are some good questions you ask players on visits to help determine the best fit?  What size of school are they looking for?  What size of team are they looking for?  Are they looking to stay close to home or go far away?


What are some good questions they should ask you to help determine the best fit?  Coaching philosophy.  Team goals for the present and future.  How many players we would like to have on the team.


 How do you structure your practice and qualifying? Typically we have 4-6 rounds of qualifying before our first tournament.  We will take the top 4 qualifiers and always reserve 1 coaches pick.  Practice is different every day and every week.  We give them a day called What you Want Wednesday where they get to plan and develop their own practice.  The rest of the practices for the week are comprised of team competitions, practices designed for them with their input, on course games/challenges, and a day a month where we pair them up and they plan the practice for the entire team.


What do you feel junior golfers can do to improve their games? Short game, short game, short game. By the time you get to college, most players are ok with their full swing, but what makes the difference is how quickly they get the ball in the hole.


How can they be more prepared for college golf?  Start doing their own laundry 🙂  It sounds silly, but some kids don’t know how to do that.  That would be a great start in becoming independent!!


What is the biggest mistake you see families make through the process?  Parents doing everything for their daughter.  We are a family here and I LOVE parents to be involved.  But I want the daughter to do the leg work and be the communicator.  She is the one that I am going to be spending the next 4 years with, so I want to make sure that she can do things on her own.


When you watch a player at a tournament what are things you look for? Attitude is a big one for me.  How does that player treat her fellow competitors?  How does she treat her family who brought her to the tournament?  How she treats them is how she is going to treat her coaches.


How much does length play a factor in recruiting a player to a D1 program? What do you consider short, average and long off the tee?  It’s becoming more and more of a factor.  That is one way tours/colleges are making golf courses harder is by making them longer.  You don’t HAVE to hit the ball far, but it definitely makes it easier.  Long–over 240, Average-220-240,  Short-Under 220


 How important is fitness and nutrition for a junior golfer? Fitness and nutrition are huge for all athletes moving forward.  We are becoming so specialized so early that in order to avoid injuries, players are going to have to take care of their body better at an earlier age.  We are a very one sided sport, and in order to help limit injuries, they need to be training both sides.  Nutrition is key as well.  When you get to college, numerous tournaments we will play 4 rounds in 3 days.  That’s a lot and if you aren’t properly hydrated and nourished, it’s going to be a struggle.

College Golf is an Experience Unlike Any Other















For those starting their college golf careers (and for those players in the recruiting process) I thought I would share some pics of my college golf days and pass along a few reminders as you begin the best 4 years of your life! Times have certainly changed but a few things still remain the same.

♦️ Playing college golf is a privilege – Yes, you earned it thru hard work and dedication as a junior golfer, but it’s still not something you’re “entitled” to, it is an opportunity provided to you that comes with a lot of responsibility and respect! Do not EVER take that for granted!!


♦️ Be a good teammate – Many aspects of college golf are still very individual but remember that you’re part of a team. Support and cheer for your teammates, help them out any way you can, don’t stir up team drama and embrace their unique qualities and different backgrounds. On our team in college, we had players from MN, PA, CT, SC, GA, IL and RI. We had Catholics, Baptists, Jehovah’s Witness, non-denominational and non-believers. We had social butterflies and we had homebodies. We had players from wealthy families and we had ones from lower income families. We had girls who had played other sports and we had ones who had only played golf. We had girls who liked to eat healthy and we had ones who did not. We had girls who liked to work out, and we had ones who did not. We had girls who wanted to play on the LPGA Tour and we had ones who did not. All kinds of backgrounds, expectations, beliefs, personalities, and goals, but at the end of the day we were a team and we had to find a way to support each other and get along when it counted.


♦️ It will humble you – College golf will probably be the first time you’re going to be on a team of players who are as good if not better than you. That is tough for some players to handle. Do not look at that as a negative, but instead look at it as an opportunity to be on a team of players who will push you to get better. You will play in college tournaments against not just the best players in your state and region or even in the US, but from all over the world. And you will play with juniors and seniors who have much more experience at the college golf level than you do. So check your ego on the first day of practice and embrace the humbling experience that you are about to take on.


♦️ Believe in yourself – While this is certainly going to be one of the most humbling experiences you will encounter, it is also a time that you must maintain belief in yourself and your abilities. There is a reason the coach chose you to play on the team. It may mean a different timeline or process from the others but maintain your confidence and stay focused on your goals.


♦️ Coach knows best – While there are certainly some bad seeds in the college coaching world and some decisions that may not seem like the best idea, try to remember that you chose to play for the coach and hopefully you did your homework to get to know them during the process. I know this is easier said than done and there are always instances of “two sides to the story” but for the most part during your college golf career your college coach is going to know what’s best for you as an individual and for the team as a whole. So respect their rules and their decisions. Trust them. Ask them for help. And most importantly, let them coach you!


♦️ Stay ahead – Rarely will you ever feel like you have plenty of time as a college golfer so do your best to stay ahead in every way possible. Get assignments done when they are given to you. Don’t procrastinate. Ask the professors for ways you can stay ahead when you will be traveling. Get errands done. Squeeze in social time when you can, but prioritize what is most important to you and your commitment to the coach and team.


♦️ Stay fit and healthy – This is definitely not an area that I can say “do as I did” but can certainly say “do as I say”. Yes, you are a college kid who is going to order pizza late at night, grab whatever you can in the dining hall, eat EasyMac, go to Waffle House at 2 am, eat junk food and probably not work out unless it’s mandatory. But keep in mind that you are a student-athlete, not just a student, so your health and well-being affect your performance, along with your team and your coaches. Your coach or trainer can’t tell you what to do, when to go to bed, and what to eat every hour of the day, so take ownership of that yourself and make better choices to allow you to be at your peak performance level.

♦️ Enjoy the ride – It doesn’t matter if you are playing at a small DIII school or a big DI powerhouse, the experience of playing college golf is unlike any other experience that you will ever encounter. Your coach and teammates will become like family, you will sweat together at workouts, study together on the bus rides, cry together after a tough loss, complain together about what the coach is making you do, encourage each other during personal struggles, pick each other up when things aren’t going well, cheer each other on at the golf course and become better athletes and young women all at the same time.

So take the time to enjoy each and every moment. Always keep things in perspective of the awesomeness of the opportunity you have. If you’re at a Big top ranked DI program there are hundreds of girls wishing they could be playing for that school who didn’t have the resume and experience. If you’re at a smaller DIII program there are hundreds of girls wishing they could just be playing golf for any school but they didn’t have the resources available to play golf tournaments as a high school golfer. No matter where you end up, the chance to play college golf is one that should be embraced and experienced with every ounce of joy and excitement possible.

My Mom Wants to Share Her Side of the Story


Brandi Jackson, I think it’s time for your Mom to speak up.  So, if you will, indulge me for a few minutes.  


First, let me say how very proud I am of the professional that Brandi has become.  She pours her heart and soul into her business and everything that she does.  I see this more and more every day.  Quite often as we make plans for family trips, or even simply to meet her for dinner, we know that the plans have to be made around her schedule of meeting with her players, tournaments that she needs to attend, or speaking engagements.  Why heck, we’ve even sat through dinner as she takes the time to talk to a player or a parent on the phone.  She is so passionate and dedicated to her work.  

2016 Green Valley Junior Girls Classic banquet dinner


Throughout this venture with Brandi Jackson Golf, and all the articles and blogs that she writes, she has been (to say the least), very protective in the way that she talks about her parents’ involvement in her career.  She has never “thrown us under the bus”, and we appreciate that.  To say that I wish we had had a “Brandi Jackson” when she was growing up would be an understatement.  We thought we knew what was best for her.  I thought it was my responsibility to do all the paperwork (entry forms, applications, preparations, etc), and her Dad, well, he thought he knew her game inside and out, and for the most part he did.  The two of them sometimes didn’t see “eye to eye” on things.  It became evident that she responded so much better to outside coaching and instructions.  I think she knew that her Dad was usually right, but hearing it from someone else seemed to resonate better with her.  Don’t get me wrong, the two of them had, and still have a great relationship.

2003 NCAA East Regional Championship


As Brandi began to play competitive junior golf and being so new to this arena that the first time she qualified for the US Junior Girls’ Championship, we considered not going. ???  We didn’t think it was such a big deal.  We would have to take off work, and the expenses of the trip, and would it really benefit her golf game?  Little did we know how big qualifying was.  We weren’t exactly the ideal junior golf parents.  We often had those long discussions (?) on the way home from tournaments, the good ones and the bad ones.  Brandi finally figured out the best thing to do was fall asleep as soon as she got in the car.  Putting a lot of emphasis on parents’ involvement, and what it means at tournaments, and during the recruiting process comes from her personal experiences.  Although, she never calls us out for the things we did or the way we handled things.  All we wanted was the best for her – sometimes we just didn’t know how to see that she got it.  


Brandi is not embarrassed to admit that we couldn’t afford to fly her all over the country to play in big tournaments or send her to big name instructors.  We knew that she had the game, deserved the recognition for the player that she was, but, we had to take a different approach and hope that she would be noticed.  Brandi’s emphasis on the junior golfer taking responsibility is so important now.  We thought we were supposed to take care of everything.  We scheduled the tournaments, completed the entry forms, “packed the snacks” …….  Then, when it came time to consider college, we knew where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do, we just didn’t know all the ins and outs of what to do to help get her there.  We thought it was our responsibility as her parents to contact the coaches and do all the talking.  So, when she talks about her experiences, she is very truthful.



2003 Bryan National Collegiate

When I read her articles and blogs, it gives me such a great feeling of pride to see how far she has come.  During her school days, Brandi would often ask me to proofread papers, etc that she was required to write.  (And, trust me, English has never been my best subject.)


Little did I know that she would become the writer that she is.  I still read them all, and critique occasionally, but mostly, I just smile and think to myself “that’s my girl”.  I love reading her articles and blogs because I know that everything she says is (1) from experience, (2) well studied, (3) well planned, (4) the truth, and most importantly (5) it’s from her heart.  



2004 Vince Gill LPGA

Oh, and another thing – when she posts the pictures of herself growing up, I can’t help but giggle knowing how she use to hate having her picture made.  It was always “Mom……. that’s enough”.  Well, those pictures seem to have come in handy for her.  She even posts some that I don’t remember, and have no idea how she has them.  It’s funny how some things just happen.


People often talk about wanting a “do-over”.  I think that if she could have a “do-over” now knowing what she knows, and with her experience, things would be a lot different.  But, do I want a “do-over”??  Probably not.  We’ve had some great experiences with her throughout her career.  We’ve traveled a lot, was there when she defeated Lorena Ochoa in match play, witnessed her runner-up finish at the Women’s Amateur, shared the US Open experiences with her, and met so many interesting and famous people including Vince Gill when he caddied for her.  


We celebrated the wins and shared the disappointments of the bad days.  Yes, I would love to have seen her have a more successful LPGA career and become a famous golfer, but I don’t think it was God’s Will for her. He had other plans that included helping these young ladies with their careers, and being a strong influence on them.  Her passion and dedication are beyond measure.  I wouldn’t want her to change who she is for anything.  She is doing exactly what she is supposed to be doing.  

2016 BJGolf 5 Year Anniversary


Her Dad and I are grateful that she has allowed us to be a part of her exciting career.


Love you Brandi Jackson!

Post College Golf Reflection by Sarah Bertram

In my last blog, I shared some insight from Howard Bertram, who’s daughter Sarah just graduated from playing 4 years of college golf at Gardner-Webb University. I asked Sarah to share her own thoughts about her college golf experience and how she feels looking back now.



What did you learn the most from playing college golf?

Through golf, I learned to look beyond just the game itself. From my experience, I remember the van rides, silly trick shot sessions, and spending time with my teammates in countless hotel rooms more than actually playing golf. Though golf is important (it got me to where I am today), the lifelong friendships and memories I have made along the way are what I value the most. Looking back, the things that seem little at the time are actually the big things.  


How was your school, coach, and team a good fit for you? 

First and foremost, Gardner-Webb is a Christian school which is one quality that particularly influenced my choice. The small size gave Gardner-Webb a larger sense of community; I formed so many valuable friendships and relationships with both students and professors that I may not have been able to at a larger school. My coach was very laid back, but also expected the most from us. Though I was looking to be pushed as an athlete, I found that making my own schedule was a better fit for me. I enjoyed having that independence and it taught me how to prioritize.


Where there some things that weren’t a good fit?

I can’t say there was anything that was consistently a bad fit. My coach was a great role model, I got along with my team very well, and I enjoyed my classes and professors. However, there were times when inconveniences arose such as occasional team drama, bad internet connection (my entire sophomore year), and scheduling conflicts. But these were only minor bumps in the road that turned into learning experiences. If there were any “bad fits”, I would not have chosen Gardner-Webb.  


What would you do differently as a junior golfer (more specific to golf game) if you could go back?

I would have created a stricter schedule for myself. My favorite thing to say as a young junior golfer was “I’ve got time”. I soon learned that statement is completely untrue; before I knew it I was out of time and behind the curve. Though I was dedicated and practiced more than many of my other athlete friends, I believe there was more that could be done. One more workout, one more range session, one more putting drill. Every minute spent practicing makes a difference (whether you realize it or not), and I wish I had realized that sooner.


What would you have done differently with college recruiting if you could go back?

Even though I chose the right school for me, during college recruiting I may have benefitted from visiting more schools and golf programs, even if the coaches were not directly recruiting me. I would have also enjoyed hearing more perspectives from current college athletes, or girls who had just graduated. At the time, however, I was unaware of a way or outlet to get in contact with these girls.


How do you feel college golf prepares you for the next phase of your life? 

Golf as a whole has taught me a host of values such as perseverance, respect, integrity, confidence, and humor. But college golf, in particular, helped me grow my communication skills, which is vital now that I am out of college and searching for a career. During recruiting, I had to communicate extensively with coaches, which taught me how to be formal and respectful. As a college athlete, I communicated with other athletes from different cultures, coaches from other schools, and I had to represent Gardner-Webb both on and off campus. Because of this, I am more comfortable speaking with people I don’t know and putting myself into unfamiliar situations.


Any advice for an incoming college freshman?

It is so important to allow yourself time to adapt. The transition from living at home to living on campus is a tough one, so take each day as it comes. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try new things. Be social, make friends with your teammates, and find a balance between work and play time. Having a planner and making a daily schedule helped me stay on task, but also realize how much time I had to have fun as well. College is an awesome time, and just like everyone else has probably told you, it flies by. Take advantage of every moment.


Any advice for current junior golfers?

Be confident in yourself! I understand that this is easier said than done, but as a young girl, confidence in every sense of the word is so important. Believing in yourself and your talent and having the will to push yourself, even during the tough times, will only make you stronger in the long run. Be proud of your accomplishments (even the little ones), but allow the failures to be learning experiences.  




A College Parent’s Perspective

I met Sarah Bertram and her father, Howard, during her junior year of high school. She had done a little work with the college recruiting process but had not gotten very far at that stage and she was one of those late arrivers to the game so we had a few things working against us. We did her evaluation, put her resume together and got going ASAP. After months of searching, emailing and visiting colleges she found her home at Gardner-Webb University, a DI school in Boiling Spring, NC with 2700 students.

I was able to follow her college golf career, mostly through social media and her dad, which we all know social media can be a tad misleading at times when it comes to someone being happy or not. Thankfully, Sarah had an amazing 4 years of playing college golf!

I asked her dad to share his thoughts, post-college, on Sarah’s experience and what advice he would give another parent going through the junior golf process.


What was the best part about watching Sarah play college golf?

  • As a parent, watching your child excel and do something they love, is a thrill.  For me, watching Sarah play golf at a collegiate level gave me a sense of pride I have never felt.  I have been an athlete all my life, and athletes know the dedication and perseverance that is required to survive, much less THRIVE in sport!  But, to watch her practice, study, and play the game with both failure & success and get up and do it again, showed me that she has a true love and passion for the game.

What was the biggest struggle as a parent during her college golf career?

  • Raising kids in times such as these is a struggle.  Having golf as a foundation to build upon, as a young adult, is huge.  As a parent, I would say missing a tournament would be a struggle.  For me, missing a single stroke was a struggle.  But, the most difficult struggle for me throughout Sarah’s college career was learning to let her do this on her own.  In junior golf, you practice with them, travel with them, and talk about shots between rounds.  As Sarah advanced to college golf, I had to learn to let her move on.  Watching her struggle, but finally getting out of the way (unless asked), was the best thing for her mental development.  She learned very quickly how to adapt and work through changes.  I watched many parents continue to hover and suppress their child’s development, even at the college level!

What made Gardner-Webb such a good fit for Sarah?

  • GWU was the perfect fit for Sarah.  Because she was such a latecomer to the game, she was underdeveloped at her junior year of HS, and really didn’t have a great deal of D1 options.  Yet, there were several who saw the potential in her game.  But, GWU was willing to take the full plunge with our family, and offer her the very best opportunity to follow her dream of playing D1, and receive a great education.  This alone does not make a school a great fit.  In fact, I would tell parents that making the selection based on financial offers alone would be a mistake.  We know our daughter and her personality.  With that, we suggested Sarah choose her visits strategically, and then we would help her weigh the positive & negative of each school and golf program.  Coach Burton lives the kind of family life much like Sarah is used to, and he expects a certain kind of character in his players that will represent both GWU & the golf program with integrity.  Without question, his attitude, and humble approach to life influenced her decision to accept an offer there.

How was Sarah’s relationship with Coach Burton important to her experience? With her teammates?

  • Somewhat stated above, Sarah’s relationship with Coach Burton was important to her development in many ways.  He was a coach, and father figure who was tough when he needed to be, and extremely supportive at the same time.  He made her time at GWU quite enjoyable.  Her relationship with teammates is arguably as important.  Like siblings, there were disagreements, laughs, and tears.  But, also like siblings, in the end, they were supportive and there for one another.  As an athlete, experiencing disappointment and triumph with teammates creates a lifelong bond.  As she says “we have one another’s back!”

Is there anything you would have done differently in junior golf and the recruiting process, given what you know now?

  • Given what I know now, I would reach out to more parents who had gone through the recruiting process.  Whether in golf or another sport, sharing this experience with parents coming along now is what I want to do.   In addition, having some common questions you can repeat to each coach visit might be effective.  I am a strong believer in relationships, and to find someone who you can trust and respect, and who will respect you in return is vital.

Any advice for parents and juniors going through that process now?

  • I have lots to say about the advice!  BUT…. If nothing is taken away from my comments other than this, I suppose that’s ok, and that is this:  My closing piece of advice is to be realistic about your child’s level and potential.  Make a choice by which there are high expectations, but one that offers an enjoyable college golf career.  Because in the end, it should be a choice that lives far beyond the short 4 years she is there!


Don’t Be a Sheep

I rolled my eyes during workouts this when this was said to a few of us as we followed one athlete’s lead who put the bands around her knees as we began to do a wall sit. “Don’t be a sheep” was repeated (louder each time) by our trainer before we realized that he was trying to tell us we were all doing it wrong. It was supposed to go around our wrists, which he had yet to say, but several of us mindlessly just followed each other’s lead and put it around our knees.  While there is one slight positive lesson that can be learned about taking initiative and not always waiting to be told to do something as the first athlete did with putting it around her knees, there is a much bigger, more important takeaway from this story, Don’t Be a Sheep.

As I mentioned, I definitely rolled my eyes when this was said during the workout but it has stuck in my head since I left the gym on how this relates to junior golfers.

For starters, what does it mean to be a “sheep”? Basically, when this reference is used, you are saying that someone is following the crowd or the majority without really thinking for themselves. You just do what someone else is doing and don’t stop to think if it’s the right thing to do or if it’s what is best for you. To be honest, the majority of all middle school and high school kids are basically like sheep every day. They follow trends, they follow their friends, they follow the popular crowd, etc… never really stopping to think if they should be following or not.

When it comes to being an athlete, unless it’s your coach, your parents, your mentor, or your teacher telling you what you should be doing, you most definitely need to learn to be the exception to following what everyone else does. As an athlete you are expected to be different, not to necessarily be better than anybody else, but to know better and do better when it comes to making decisions and who you should be following.

It is very easy to follow what others are doing and to want to be part of the popular crowd, but, it is the ones who learn to pave their own path and think for themselves that see the most success in their sport and in life.

For girls who play golf, this is a very important topic because many times you are going to be the only one in your school or at your golf course who plays competitive junior golf. It can make life tough to always have to go your own direction and create your own path instead of following what everyone else is doing. But keep in mind, that doing something different, doing something you know is creating a strong, independent, mature young female athlete means so much more than simply being part of the “in” crowd.

And to be honest, in most cases when you do that, you will actually become part of that crowd naturally. But that is when the tendency to become a “sheep” will start to creep in and it will be easy to lose sight of your own path. So just always remember that paving your own way and thinking for yourself is never a bad choice. Only follow those who you trust have your best interest in mind and share the same goals that you have for yourself.

As an athlete, you have to think differently than non-athletes, your choices can have consequences that go beyond just a simple punishment or setback. Don’t be afraid to take some initiative, don’t always wait to be told what to do, but NEVER follow others without thinking about what that choice will lead to.


I Survived the Beast Mode Games


Some of you who follow my BJGolf social media may have seen me posting over the last few weeks that I was training for the Beast Mode Games, a Crossfit style workout competition. Well, last Saturday was the day of the games so I wanted to share some pictures and a little bit of what I learned from this journey that I think could help a young golfer (or any athlete) as they are preparing and competing. 

For starters, I had 2 awesome training friends, Kristina who was my partner for the Games and Alex who competed as well with her partner Wendy. They both pushed me over the last few weeks of training and throughout the day of the Games, along with the rest of the Knight Performance Factory (my training facility and a partner of BJGolf) coaches, competitors and supporters. It is such a great feeling knowing that you have others who support and encourage you to be better.


I know a lot of young junior golfers, especially the girls, have to play and practice by themselves every day, and golf is definitely an individual sport for the most part, but if there is ever that opportunity to practice and compete with other golfers I highly recommend taking that chance when you can. Just as with our training, I enjoyed the days that I was training on my own and I was able to focus on some things I needed to work on, but I also got so much out of the time that we trained as partners and competitors to push, challenge and encourage each other.


As I talk about in many of my articles, I have no problem admitting my struggles with work ethic, accountability, and discipline throughout my golf career. I worked at it, don’t get me wrong, but nowhere near what I could have in order to be one of the best! But training for the Games was my chance to put the skills and maturity that I’ve developed over time into my goal of getting ready to compete.


Unless I was traveling, I showed up for every session that was scheduled and followed the workout as closely as I could. When I was on the road I found a way to get the workout done if I could get to a gym or I took some equipment with me to do on my own. I went to bed early, focused on good nutrition and remembered the importance of rest and recovery. For those guys and girls competing in junior golf, it is so important to find a balance with school, homework, golf, workouts, family time and social activities. Determine what your goals are and set a schedule based on your priorities. Don’t let what others think or say change what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Stay focused on what is important to you.


Through our training, I also learned so much about the importance of coach-ability, structure in programming, tracking progress, developing a plan and putting yourself in “real time” scenarios. Thankfully, I had two awesome coaches, Ryan Mckie and PJ Gray at KPF who created our daily workouts specific to preparing for the Games workouts. We could track our progress, see areas of improvement, focus on weaker areas, and had scenarios created for us that were very “Games-like” to see how we performed under competition environment.  As a junior golfer, there is so much that can be learned from this with the importance of creating a plan for your weekly practice sessions, tracking your progress, setting time aside to focus on your weaker areas and practicing under “tournament-like” settings. 


As the day of the games got closer I prepared myself with plenty of rest and good nutrition. My partner and I had planned our strategy for each workout ahead of time, knowing that we may have to adjust based on some uncontrollable factors. Once we arrived at the gym the morning of the games we did our best to make any necessary adjustments once we knew conditions were different than we had anticipated (ex. the rowers were set up in a bad position to switch out, weights were different for the lifts, judging was inconsistent and we had a surprise 4th workout given to us). We came prepared with lots of water and food to keep us hydrated and fueled throughout the day. We stretched, foam rolled, warmed up and got our bodies ready to compete. I don’t even have to explain how these all relate to a junior golfer’s pre-tournament preparation and day of competition. Through practice rounds, change in weather conditions, the importance of water/nutrition, a good warm up routine and plenty of rest, these are all simple factors that play such a determining factor in the outcome of a junior golf tournament. 


Kristina and I finished 11th out of 34 teams, not quite the top 10 we wanted, but we were both really proud of ourselves for what we were able to accomplish in such a short time and us both being new to competing outside of our normal sport. I know for me, I was given a quick reminder of what it’s like to be a good teammate and possess the determination to never give up, especially when someone else is counting on you. There are definitely moments during the workouts that you want to just drop to the floor and quit but with the right preparation and mentality, you learn how to continue grinding and give it all you’ve got. 


I owe so much to BJGolf partners Ryan Mckie, PJ Gray and Stephanie Devita at Knight Performance Factory for their coaching over the last few weeks (and many months before we started the Games preparation). Having a coach(es) who you trust, respect, and share similar goals and values is the foundation for any athlete’s success. 


So for those junior golfers out there working towards your goals, I hope you always remember the importance of work ethic, discipline, determination, and coach-ability. Thank those who have helped get you where you are and support others who are in the same boat and race as you are. Stay focused on what is going to help you get better. Develop a plan. Focus on the process. Prepare for the unexpected. Give it all you’ve got. 


And most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process! We definitely had our share of laughs and goofy times amidst the hard times and “why are we doing this” moments!


Are Scholarships Negotiable?


I was asked this question last week about whether or not scholarships are negotiable so I thought it was a good topic to address to those who may be curious about this question. I have faced it numerous times working with families as they make their final decision and it can certainly be a sensitive subject on both sides of the equation. Many instances of dishonesty have occurred, but if handled correctly, it can be a beneficial experience for both the family and the coach.

The ultimate answer to the question is that “yes” athletic scholarships can be negotiable if a full ride is not offered, however, as with many parts of the recruiting process, it does depend on the situation (my favorite two words, “it depends”). There are some cases where the amount of money being offered is truly the maximum amount that a coach has available for a student-athlete. All of their scholarships may be tied up in current players and committed recruits. If this is the case, then you can ask what the possibility is that your scholarship could increase after your freshman year and if that would be based on performance or guaranteed.
Keep in mind that not all programs are fully funded with the allowed scholarships. For DI women’s golf programs they are allowed a max of 6, for DII programs a max of 5.4, for NAIA a max of 5, for JuCo a max of 8 and DIII is academic money only. These are the maximum “allowed” scholarships but not all institutions fully fund all of their athletic programs. A DI coach may only be working with 1 or 2 scholarships among all players on the team. And in other cases, a program may be fully funded but the coach only gives out 6 full rides instead of dividing them up among 6+ players. There are many different ways that scholarships are offered and divided up. During your visit, you can ask these general questions to get an idea of how the coach handles their scholarships, just don’t get too far ahead of yourself and assume you are going to be a scholarship player.
One of the main reasons I encourage players to contact a lot of coaches, take a lot of visits and keep their options open is that it helps to provide some leverage when they are given offers. I highly discourage any player from wasting a coach’s time if they genuinely aren’t interested in the program, but when you do have several offers at schools you like then it gives you more leverage to possibly negotiate a better scholarship offer to your top choice.
If you do have multiple offers and you want to negotiate a better offer at your top choice just remember to do this honestly. Coaches talk to each other!! Let me repeat, coaches talk to each other!! I have heard numerous stories of a family claiming an untrue offer amount at one school in order to get a better offer at another, not realizing those two coaches were in communication with each other. So just be honest when approaching this situation.
If you don’t have any other offers then your negotiating powers are a tad limited but you can still ask the coach what else may be available, even suggesting options for academic or need-based aid. If the money factor really is an issue and you aren’t just trying to get a better offer then be genuine and hopefully the coach will do what they can to make it work.
If a coach feels that you are simply trying to negotiate a better “deal” for the sake of the appearance of the offer then you may lead them to rescind their offer. Most coaches understand the financial situation of a family and the excitement of earning scholarship money, but at the end of the day, they want you to make it about the right fit and not about where you are getting the best scholarship deal.