Yesterday, Golfweek announced that 11-year old Ben James of Milford, Connecticut verbally committed to play golf at the University of Connecticut for the fall of 2021.
Hard to believe, James is not the first kid in junior high to make a verbal commitment, Brad Dalke promised to play at Oklahoma when he was 12. Making a verbal commitment at a young age seems to be the trend these days in college golf recruiting.
According to the times free press, coaches are under more pressure to recruit high profile players for classes two to four years down the line. This forces young golfers to make early decisions in fear of losing their spots.
Golf is a unique sport however, that really has no rhyme or reason to it. An 11-year-old phenom right now may burn out two or three years from now or simply lose interest.
James is not even old enough to have played in an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) event, which are what most coaches look at when recruiting. How can any one person know if James will be able to handle the more intense pressure surely to come, as he gets older?
Many of these young players still have not developed, making there actual potential hard to predict.
Although James is not the first player to be recruited at a young age, this scenario is extremely interesting because he was recruited by UCONN, a team ranked 122nd this season. The school has a strong program, but will by no means ever compete with the likes of Stanford, Georgia Tech, Texas, or Oklahoma State.
This shows that the trend of recruiting kids at these young ages is growing among coaches in college golf. But in the end, the chances of James ever actually playing for UCONN are slim. It was a good move by UCONN coach Dave Pezzino because he might end up stealing an all-star.
Realistically though, if his game keeps progressing like it is, James will be recruited by better programs farther down south, which he will end up choosing because it simply improves his chances of going pro.
By far though, the most shocking thing about recruiting 11 and 12 year olds is trying to figure out the logic to it.
If you look at many of the great players on the PGA TOUR, many of them were not all young studs. Zach Johnson has admitted to not being the best player on his high school or college golf team and he went on to win the Masters.
Keegan Bradley was not the best player on his high school golf team either. He played behind a guy named Jon Curran, a strong professional player in his own right. In the end though, Keegan is the one holding the Wannamaker Trophy.
There is no one formula to what makes a good PGA Tour player. Some guys have the game all the way and some do not find it until they are 16 or even older. You really can just never know how a golfer will turn out.
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