Sooo… I have an article I wrote for my News Writing class here that I’d like to share with you. I think it’s fun but it also might be a little aggressive in places and some might disagree with it. But read it anyway.
Trevor Sluman working hard on his game
The Curse of the Northeast
Trevor Sluman, a sophomore from Pittsford, N.Y. — yes, he is related to 1988 PGA Championship winner Jeff Sluman — has not walked the average college player’s career path. He started at Towson University outside of Baltimore, but began shopping around for a new team after his fall semester, with the understanding that he had reached his peak in northeast golf.
“I liked Towson a lot,” he said. “But from a golfing standpoint, it wasn’t helping me at all.”
Sluman packed up at the end of his freshman year and headed to greener pastures: the University of Louisville. In his eyes, it offered him so many more opportunities and benefits, ones he could not pass up.
There are many disadvantages that separate a humble little Colonial Athletic Association school such as Towson and a main stage Big East Conference school such as Louisville, and transfers like Sluman prove that point: most northern-bound schools cannot compete on a regular basis with their counterparts to the south.
“The biggest disadvantage a northeast team has is the climate,” said Andres Pumariega, recent graduate of George Washington and current assistant coach for the George Washington team. “The kids that have aspirations of playing professionally or at a high [Division I] level want the ability to play and practice all year.”
Indeed, the weather seems to play a large part in determining the NCAA champion. The only northern team to claim the national title in the past 30 years is the University of Minnesota.
Not every student-athlete bases their four years on NCAA titles, however. For the northern teams who may not be competing in the postseason, playing college golf can still improve their games and allow for a great deal of tournament experience.
“Kids think that they have to go south or west to improve,” said former University of Pennsylvania coach Scott Allen. “I believe that you can get better at a school in the northeast. It comes down to practice facilities and coaching and schedule. A school in the north can have an edge in all of those categories and some kids still think they are better off going south.”
The biggest pull that the northeast teams have, for now, is academics. Many college player do not set out to become the next Tiger Woods or Yani Tseng; they are more interested in the former portion of their title of student-athlete. Going to an Ivy League institution looks good to any potential employer, though the competition on the course may not be the same caliber as a Pac-12 school.
These Ivy and Pac-12 schools, as well as every other university across the country, weigh the importance of athletics and academics differently, and student-athletes have to make sure they understand what that balance is before they arrive and how they will adjust.
“It is really hard, just because academics are so rough,” said Alexandra Wong, a freshman at Princeton University. “We take [golf] just as seriously, even though we might not practice as much.”
At a northeast school like Princeton it may be easy to determine, but at a state school across the country, the focus could be completely different.
Parker Ramsey, a sophomore at San Jose State University, resigned from the men’s golf team at SJSU earlier this year, with very little argument from his coach on the matter. Ramsey felt in both academics and athletics, his coach provided very little help when it was needed in his golf and his education.
“He paid a lot of attention to the top three [players], and he kind of let everyone else do their own thing, unless he gave you a full ride,” Ramsey said. “Everyone else was kind of on their own to do their own thing around him, but never stuck his neck out for those guys.”
This kind of behavior can create a rift in a team, and studying as well as playing can take a turn for the worse. Ramsey quit because he understood his “big picture, little picture”, and if golf was going to negatively affect his college experience, he had no reason to continue.
Stories like this happen on occasion sadly, for individual academic attention is not always possible at large state schools focused on athletic successes. For all the bottom-tier golf programs in the northeast, there exist very few universities that do not offer first-rate academic support. At George Washington University for example, most student-athletes are required to meet with advisors on a regular basis to go over grades, to schedule tutors, and to make sure everything academically is running smoothly.
While many northeastern schools are above average academically and below average in golf rankings, they do still have a chance to succeed on the course. Golf may seem to be an individual sport, but team dynamic plays a definitive role in the success or failure of a team. When it comes to college golf, coaches want players who are interested in creating a collective goal-oriented group, not kids who just want an individual trophy.
“I definitely think having a team that gets along really well, that are able to work together and have good chemistry, can play a lot better than a more talented team that doesn’t get along as well,” explained University of California, Berkeley women’s golf graduate assistant Emily Childs.
Northeast teams like George Washington, Mount St. Mary’s, and Penn went to the NCAA Regionals last year not because they are considered powerhouses in their respective leagues, but because they rode hot streaks into their conference championships, and won because of good play and team effort. (Conference champions receive an auto-bid into Regionals.)
If the postseason was determined solely by talent every year, these teams would never have a chance. But because of certain players who have caught fire, an occasional lucky break, and as Childs says, good chemistry, golf becomes anyone’s game at the end of April.
Like his fellow Division I golfers, Sluman is looking forward to the spring, the chance at a Big East conference title, and a run deep into the postseason, something Towson never could have offered him.
“Everyone pushes each other so much more,” Sluman said. “And you need that for a golf team, to have everybody push each other because if you have one guy that’s playing better than the others you want to get there too. And when the competition is so close, fighting for that last spot, it just makes you a better golfer.”
That is what Sluman is striving to become, a better golfer. His biggest goal is to make it on tour, something not achievable — for himself at least — while honing his game at Towson.
For many others, however, teams in the northeast offer exactly what they need. Whether it is a top-notch business degree, a tight-knit team, or just a school where a freshman can make the starting five, these universities are perfect — as long as your uncle doesn’t have any Wanamaker Trophies on his fireplace mantle.