Division III experience kept golf
in perspective for this recent grad
For most fans and players, even avid followers of the amateur game, Divison III golf is not on the radar. Rarely does a D-III player
make headlines. (
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ Tain Lee and Oglethorpe’s
Anthony McCagglia, both of whom won
national championships as underclass-men, are possible exceptions.) At some
Division I powerhouses the biggest
concern might be a buried lie, a missed cut
or a 6 a.m. workout, but for many D-III
golfers, maintaining good grades is the
As a recent graduate of Franklin &
Marshall in Lancaster, Pa., and a four-year
member of the golf team, I’m only a few
months removed from D-III golf. Like
most of my teammates, I chose F&M not
only for the golf program but also the
small liberal-arts school’s quality education. Early on as a freshman just getting
used to the rigors of the school’s academic
life, I realized the game I had worked so
hard to improve all summer would quickly
be put on the back burner.
Although this heavy emphasis on education isn’t universal
in Division III, most teams we played against had a similar
academic profile. Andy Tompos, my 63-year-old coach and an
F&M grad, knows first-hand what life is like for a student-athlete, and he tailors his program accordingly to keep the
emphasis on student. Many D-I programs involve early
morning workouts, daily practices and cross-country trips.
Our schedule and workload didn’t allow for such commitments. Coach Tompos held two full-team practices a week,
one Friday and one Sunday, when there wasn’t a tournament
scheduled. The rest of the week was up to the players. You had
to practice to keep your spot, but with different class schedules and assignments due, it was nearly impossible to get
more than three or four guys together at once.
As with college teams in any sport, we were properly fitted
with clothes, clubs and other equipment necessary for
competitive golf, often played in tough conditions. However,
the greatest privilege I enjoyed was getting to go on practice
trips to some of the best courses in the country—Pine Valley,
Banner days: The
2010 ECAC title
was one reason
the author (second
from right) savors
his F&M stay.
Merion and Hamilton Farm in the fall as well as several
pristine courses in Naples, Fla., during our spring break trips.
Though these rounds sometimes exposed the weakest parts
of our games, nothing built better team camaraderie than
looking for balls and reading each other’s putts on the
toughest tracks in America.
The perks of D-III golf outweighed anything I expected, but
there were sacrifices. I wasn’t able to attend a few tournaments due to schoolwork, and sometimes I had difficulty
getting a teacher’s permission to miss class. Being absent for a
two-hour lecture or lab at F&M is, typically, a huge setback.
During long van rides, we often had our textbooks out in an
effort to make up for lost class time.
Golf’s a social game, and that is very evident among
D-III golfers. My best friends were on the team, which
made going to the course or the range more pleasure than
pain. And although competition exists among teammates
(only five players travel to each tournament), D-III golf is
truly a team sport. It’s rarely about the individual. Let’s
face it: None of us will make it on tour, but as a team, we
won our conference and qualified for the NCAA
Championship three of four years.
For me, that was a lot. Those accomplishments alongside
my F&M degree make me proud of my small-school
experience in a very big way. N