Late to the party is still at the party.
The College of Saint Rose announced this spring it will start a women’s golf program for the 2014-15 academic year. Of course, recruiting for that first season will be difficult, as golfers in the high school Class of 2014 have pretty much already made their decisions on which college to attend.
“I think, for 2014, that will be one of the challenges we face,” head coach Scott Warren said. “But I’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest among the [high school] Class of 2015, young ladies who are starting the process now.”
Warren also coaches the men’s team at Saint Rose and is the head pro at Pinehaven Country Club.
He said there will be academic funding opportunities available for the women’s golf program, which will help in recruiting.
Another tool at his disposal is the ability to offer incoming freshmen the chance to compete right away.
“I’m going to be able to offer that first wave of recruits, for a couple years, a chance for young people to come in and play immediately,” Warren said. “A lot of times, with a program that’s more established, you’ve got a few recruiting classes in there and those incoming freshmen are thinking, ‘I may be able to make the team, but I may not see a huge opportunity to play right away.’ The first couple seasons, as I recruit people, there’s going to be a tremendous opportunity for those young ladies to come in and play right away.”
Fielding a young team may seem a disadvantage, but sometimes young players pan out. Freshman Cullen Spang played every tournament for the men’s team last season, made the all-conference team and earned Northeast-10 Rookie of the Year honors. He was one of four freshmen on the 10-man roster.
At college tournaments, the teams take the top four scores of the five golfers they send out. Warren said if a couple of young players come in and perform at a high level from Day 1, they can turn a new team into a contender right away.
“In team sports — basketball, football, lacrosse — sometimes you are able to recruit a really talented freshman, but in college, there’s a huge physical difference between a college freshman and a college senior,” he said. “So incoming freshmen may be skilled, extremely skilled, but it may be harder for them, physically, to compete in those sports. That’s why you read about local kids who are extremely talented and go somewhere and redshirt their freshman year. That’s because those coaches want to get them in the weight room, get them stronger, get them ready to meet the rigors of that sport.
“Golf is different. If you can shoot a 72, whether you’re a freshman or a senior, you’re going to be really competitive.”
The women’s team will practice and compete, like the men’s team, at Pinehaven Country Club.
“This has been a win-win-win situation,” said Warren, the former president of the Northeastern New York PGA, as well as a local high school assistant basketball coach. “For me, I love to coach and teach the game of golf. I love to coach young people. It’s a win for me.
“For Pinehaven, it has brought in new, young golfers who, when they graduate from school, they stay in the area and are certainly going to have fond memories of Pinehaven Country Club, and that can help in our membership recruiting process.
“From the Saint Rose side, they are getting a great golf course for their student athletes to play on. It’s a recruiting tool, that we not only get to practice there, but we also host a tournament at Pinehaven. Kids love the fact that they’re going to a school where the course they play and practice on all the time hosts a really good tournament. I’ve had coaches from our league, the Northeast-10, tell me they think Pinehaven is as good a course as any we play in our season. From my perspective, Pinehaven and Saint Rose, it’s beneficial for all three of us, the relationship.”
As Warren continues to recruit, both from the current student population and prospective student-athletes, his goals for the first season remain fluid.
The one certainty among them is to bring in young people the college will be glad to call its own.
With them, he wants to build a foundation for success, and success in the not-too-distant future. He also hopes local high school girls begin to consider Saint Rose as a destination. Six of the 10 golfers on the men’s roster this season were from Section II, and all were from New York.
“I feel it’s important for both of my teams, I want quality young people who are respected in the community, who are viewed as positive additions to The College of Saint Rose,” Warren said. “My immediate goal is to find those quality young people and lay a solid foundation for the program this fall, and still maintain the resources to continue to grow the team over the next two years. My three-year goal is to have a chance to have had two real strong full recruiting opportunities, along with this abbreviated first recruiting opportunity, then be able to field a really competitive women’s team, and a women’s team that has the same numbers, participation wise, as our men’s program.”