WITH 144 of the top boys and girls golfers in the Midwest and from around the country, Otter Creek Golf Course was a fertile recruiting ground for college coaches this week.
Indiana University, Purdue, Ball State and several other colleges of various sizes were represented at this week’s AGJA Jeff Overton Championship hosted by Otter Creek. Their goal: To find players who can help their programs in the next few years.
“I think the field here is much better than last year,” IU men’s coach Mike Mayer said. “Obviously, they did some great things here last year, and it drew in a lot more players from around the country. I definitely think the level of play out here has improved, and it’s a nice place to come and recruit. Only being an hour from campus, it makes it very attractive to us in a lot of ways.”
Mayer, a North Vernon native, found a recruit in Columbus two years ago when Christian Fairbanks committed to the Hoosiers.
Fairbanks and Ball State signee Michael VanDeventer, who tied for state medalist honors in leading Columbus North to this year’s state championship, played in last year’s inaugural event. So did Nick Waskom, who landed at Taylor.
“There’s tremendous talent,” Taylor coach Cameron Andry said. “You’re talking about some of the best junior players not just in the country, but in the world. You won’t find a better field in Indiana in junior golf than this one. There are 100 guys out here that are good enough to help us.”
The key is finding them on the course.
“Golf is a different recruiting venue than baseball or basketball, where they’re right in front of you,” Mayer said. “Here, you have to chase them down. You have a player teeing off No. 10 at 7:20; you have somebody teeing off No. 1 at 8:15. How in the world do you get to both of them? You have to coordinate and plan your day well.”
Mayer pointed out that it’s easy to look at scores, but in golf, numbers fluctuate tremendously from day to day and event to event.
“I look at everything,” Mayer said. “You look at their parents. You look at their game. You look at their academics.”
Ball State coach Mike Fleck is looking for a combination of various traits.
“Obviously, you’re looking for talented players that are able to play well, but you want to kind of see how they conduct themselves, what kind of behavior they have on and off the golf course, how they treat their fellow competitors, how they treat their parents, how they treat the game of golf,” Fleck said.
“Coming out and evaluating and watching them over the course of multiple rounds, you can find out a lot about these kids in terms of what kind of young people they are,” he said.
University of Indianapolis men’s and women’s coach Brent Nicoson has found Columbus to his liking. North graduate Brandon Knapp will be a senior on the Greyhound men’s team, and Sydney Anderson, who will be a senior at North, recently committed to play at UIndy.
Nicoson, who followed Anderson during Thursday’s final round, is also looking at character in potential recruits.
“Especially being in our backyard, so close to Indianapolis, it’s a good opportunity for me to see some good kids not only golf, but see how they act and see their mannerisms and how they are around the golf course,” Nicoson said.
Being at an NAIA school, Andry is looking for players who maybe haven’t shot the scores to be noticed at the Division I level or don’t feel like playing Division I golf would be a good fit for them.
“Obviously, Division I is a wonderful place to play college golf, but we play great golf courses, and when you’re out there playing golf, it’s all the same, whether you’re playing Division I or at the NAIA level like us,” Andry said.
Andry is looking at how golfers go about playing the game and especially how they react when something doesn’t go their way.
“A guy hits a wayward shot, and it maybe costs him a penalty stroke, what does he do after that and how does he react to that?” Andry said. “That says a lot to me about what kind of player he’s going to be at the next level. Everybody has good golf swings and can hit the ball, but how you react and respond to mistakes is what makes you or breaks you.”