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How Do College Coaches Determine Who Makes the Traveling Squad: Qualifying Rounds, Coach’s Selection, or a Combination of Both?


Most college golf teams have at least three or four extra players on their rosters and, in some cases, as many as 10 extra players. While the vast majority of college tournaments feature a five-person team format (and possibly one or two additional individual competitors), coaches are faced with arguably the toughest task of their profession – how to determine who makes the traveling squad. This topic is heavily discussed among coaches as they try to balance fairness with competitiveness. Ultimately, the goal is to have the five best players represent the school in each tournament, while also ensuring players are rewarded for their hard work, good attitudes, and accomplishments in both tournament and qualifying rounds.

There are some coaches who maintain only qualifying rounds should be used to determine who will represent their school in the team’s next competition. While this is a totally objective system, there are a few arguments against it. First, qualifying on a team’s home golf course does not perfectly represent the tournament conditions the team will face. Also, upperclassmen have a distinct advantage over freshmen, having played the school’s home course for several years. Oftentimes, a player needs to miss team practice (or a qualifying round) due to a legitimate reason, such as academics, illness, or injury. In these cases, a coach who makes their decision based solely on qualifying rounds may end up leaving one of their best players at home for the next tournament.

Another school of thought some coaches employ is to merely “select” the players for the team’s next competition. Some of these coaches will have their players play several qualifying rounds but not guarantee any spots. Instead they take into account a player’s past tournament record, who is working the hardest and currently playing the best (in their opinion), how certain players may fare on the course they are scheduled to play and, in some cases, who they have the most scholarship money invested in. Occasionally, this can create frustration among some players if they are shooting low scores in qualifying rounds (relative to other team members) yet not being selected to represent the team. Generally, past tournament results will have the most impact on a coach’s selection.

The most common system coaches use to determine who will make their traveling squad is a “hybrid” of the two previously mentioned approaches. A coach may conduct a multi-round qualifier that guarantees a specific number of spots (one or more) and then select the remaining players once the qualifier has concluded. Players should keep in mind that selections may have very little to do with their qualifying scores, and just because they finished among the top five finishers, there is no guarantee they will receive a coach’s pick. Players may be skipped over depending on whom the coach wants to select. This occurs in both the Ryder Cup and President’s Cup selections as well. One final component of this hybrid approach may include opportunities to earn exemptions if certain criteria are met. Examples may include top finishes or wins in previous college tournaments (could apply to the entire team); recently qualifying for a major amateur tournament, such as the U.S. Amateur or U.S. Women’s Amateur; or earning a post-season honor, such as “All America” from the previous season.

Regardless of which system your future college coach uses to determine his team’s traveling squad, shooting low scores, working hard, and maintaining a positive attitude are the best ways to ultimately make the team.

Play well!

Coach Brooks
Red Numbers Golf®

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