After completing high school a strong golfer may wish to continue his studies and his golf career at a college or university. If you’re as good as Tiger Woods, who attended Stanford, or Phil Mickelson, who went to Arizona State University, the odds are that plenty of schools will be happy to give you a golf scholarship. Even if you aren’t offered a scholarship, however, you may still be able to play college golf as a walk-on.
A walk-on is a non-scholarship athlete who plays at a school that offers scholarships. Each team and school has its own policy with regard to walk-ons, but coaches are typically open to the idea of allowing talented walk-ons to at least compete for a spot on the team since the coach has nothing to lose. Even if the athlete makes the squad, the school is not obligated to give her a scholarship, but walk-ons who make a team and become key contributors often are rewarded scholarships.
Some college programs have a formal tryout process for prospective walk-ons. At West Texas College, for example, former coach Cody Cox offered players a two-round tryout prior to the season. While he suggested that walk-ons have a 3 handicap or better, any academically eligible student could try out. Golfers needed to shoot 148 or better to be considered for the team.
From Walk-On to Star
As a freshman walk-on at Oral Roberts University, David Holtgrewe had only played in three tournaments when he joined the lineup for the Summit League Championship meet. Holtgrewe birdied two of the final three holes and tied for medalist honors to lead his team to victory. By his junior year he was the school’s top golfer.
Nick Watney had to walk on at Fresno State even though his uncle, Mike Watney, was the school’s golf coach and his cousin played for the team. Watney believes the fact that he needed “to work hard and earn (his spot on the team) was a good thing.” He was a three-time All-American who went on to win the Nationwide Tour championship in 2004 and joined the PGA Tour full-time in 2005. Jason Dufner, the 2011 PGA Championship runner-up, was a walk-on at Auburn, where he won three tournaments and became an honorable mention All-American in 1997.