Golf is very different than other sports and the process of qualifying for a spot on the team at a competitive level is easily one of the most unique aspects. From my experience playing and covering sports, I have found that there is no uniform way for a team or coach to set their lineup. While they may believe they are getting the best players on the court or field, I believe that golf has found the only bulletproof solution.
At almost every level of the game, there is a qualifying tournament that awards players a spot into the next tournament, where their score will determine if they gain entry into the next tournament and so on.
For the Long Beach State women’s golf team, the format is actually quite simple. Any golfer that finishes in the top-25 of an event has an automatic bid into the next tournament. The remaining two spots are decided by the golfers themselves, the best two qualifying scores get in and the others stay home. They do this over and over throughout their college career before they turn pro and have to qualify for more events. It may seem like a vicious cycle and some players might go their entire careers without qualifying, but isn’t it the most cut and dry way to prove yourself as an athlete in sport?
I think it is. Too many other sports have more involved in the process of selecting teams and deciding who makes the starting lineup, much like the movie “Moneyball” depicts. Baseball, football and basketball have been trained to assess players based on qualities like size and strength but not focus so much on ability and efficiency.
Golfers have never had to worry about those biases like prospects in other sports must in order to continue to the next level. Sure, there are golf scouts just like baseball scouts, who go to see players in person and might pass judgment on them and their game. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters for golfers is the number.
“Everybody has to be able to bring it each and every day,” women’s head coach Joey Cerulle said. “When the chips fall at the end of the day, everyone has a scorecard.”
In my athletic career, limited to high school and junior college sports, I have had to worry about more than just my unbiased performance on the field in order to make the starting lineup. With sports like baseball and basketball, the head coach has the autonomy of setting the starting lineup and can base his decision on whatever he or she sees fit. If I struck out multiple times in a baseball game, often times that would keep me out of the lineup for multiple games, even if I had a good showing in the practices in between those games. These small biases have been virtually eliminated in the game of golf.
“It’s a tournament-by-tournament process, really,” Cerulle said. “We start off the year knowing that there are quite a few spots available and they’re up for grabs for anyone on the team.”
Each golfer goes into the next week with a clean slate and a new opportunity to show they deserve to make next team event and hit the “delete” button for a mediocre performance. To me, it not only sounds like a great way to ensure the best athletes are competing for the team, but also the best way for each golfer to improve themselves.
Now, on the other hand, the qualifying process can be a challenge for the players when it comes to the amount of time dedicated each week. The LBSU women’s golf team returned from their first team event in Colorado on Tuesday night and had Wednesday to regroup and attend class. On Thursday, the team was right back to competing as three players battled for two spots for the upcoming Coeur d’Alene Resort Collegiate Invitational starting on Tuesday.
“The challenge is managing your time,” senior Savannah Knox said. “You have to work on the parts of your game you want to improve on from your last event but also make sure your game is on for the qualifying.”
The constant competition can grind a golfer down, whose season spans across both fall and spring. The athletes need to maintain mental and physical prowess at a constant rate if they want to be considered for the lineup each week.
“It is very tough to balance it all while also being a student, but we love it,” Knox said.
It may be easy to say that other sports practice methods also make athletes compete against each other for starting jobs, but the actual game situation is absent in most cases. At the end of the day for golfers, there are no excuses when players turn in their scorecards.