Changes looming for US Junior Qualifying Process
Each and every year thousands of junior golfers around the country enter sectional qualifiers in hopes of becoming one of the 156 young men to tee it up at the U.S. Junior. It’s no secret that USGA events notoriously have the best fields and are played on the toughest courses in tournament golf. Everyone knows that and this is what makes these championships so coveted and sought after.
The U.S. Junior Amateur Championship is without a doubt the “major” of junior golf. This is where the ‘best of the best’ come to play and showcase their talents. The stage is flooded with players, parents, officials, and hundreds of college coaches in pursuit of the next PGA Tour superstar. The U.S. Junior is truly the DisneyWorld of junior golf tournaments, where magic happens, dreams come true, experience is gained, and lives are changed.
Lives aren’t the only thing that will be changed in 2017. The USGA recently announced, effective summer of 2017, major modifications to the eligibility criteria for the USGA’s Boys and Girls Junior Championships. The USGA hopes to bring these championships more in line with the worldwide standards for junior golfers by raising the age limit from 17 to 18, lowering the handicaps for boys from 6.6 to 4.4 and the girls from 18.4 to 9.4, and probably the most significant change of all; reducing the sectional qualifying tournaments from 36 to 18 holes. “The changes in our junior championships are being made to ensure the strongest fields possible”, said Diana Murphy, President of the USGA.
Without a doubt, the revisions to the qualifying process, age restrictions, and handicap limits will add a different dynamic to the 70th U.S. Junior Boys and the 69th Junior Girls next summer. The USGA anticipates the age change to increase the number of entries and strengthen not only the U.S. Junior Championship but junior golf as a whole.
Make no mistake about it, the college recruiting world will also be altered by the USGA’s changes to the US Junior Am. College coaches will stumble upon more “late-bloomers”. Perhaps, we will even see college programs delay their recruiting plans to give looks to older players. There will be the less experienced players that put together solid 18 hole rounds, leapfrogging the better, more experienced players in sectional qualifiers. More players will gain exposure to college coaches they might not otherwise get the chance to impress.
Now I know what you’re thinking: could these simple rule modifications really change the makeup of the college recruiting process? Could a simple age change and 18 hole qualifying opportunity give coaches reason to rethink how they decide to divvy out their scholarships? I think so, but only time will tell.
One thing we know for certain, there will be new opportunities and new avenues on the horizon. Sectional qualifying for the most coveted junior championship in the world will do a 180°. These changes will provide plenty of ‘speculation’ until next years’ championship but the junior golf world should welcome them with open arms and anticipate them to grow the game as we know it. Read more here.
Mike Smith is the Founder & CEO of ForeCollegeGolf and specializes in assisting junior golfers & their families through the college recruiting process. Email him @ firstname.lastname@example.org