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A college experience unlike any other: life as a Division I golfer

With the hectic travel schedule, Fisher’s daily schedule leaves little room for anything other than golf and academics
With the hectic travel schedule, Fisher’s daily schedule leaves little room for anything other than golf and academics

In the world of college athletics, there is no sport quite like golf. 

Members of the Miami University RedHawks golf team have a truly unique college experience, balancing academics with a season that spans nearly the entire academic year. 

From September to May, with a break in November, the team competes nearly every weekend, traveling as far as Texas, Florida and Hawaii in the same year. Senior Danny Fisher explains that his daily schedule leaves little room for anything other than golf and academics. 

“We lift two to three days a week, usually in the morning,” Fisher said. “Then, our class block is from 8 [a.m.] to 1 [p.m.]. Our practice block is from 2 to 6 in the afternoon, and then for tournaments, we’ll usually leave Thursday night or Friday, and then play over that weekend and sometimes into Monday or Tuesday of the next week.” 

Because of the length of these tournaments, players are often forced to miss classes. Despite this challenge, the group has maintained academic success, recording a 3.46 team GPA last spring. Their ability to balance the hectic golf schedule and academics is noteworthy to head coach JD Fletcher.

“We’ve had the highest team GPA on the male side, I think, every year since I’ve gotten here and the years prior to that as well,” Fletcher said. “So they do a good job of taking care of their business when it comes to the academic side of things … they do a good job with balancing it all.” 

However, the length of the season can take a toll on the players. This year, the RedHawks played their first tournament Sept. 3 and 4 at the Island Resort Intercollegiate, while the MAC Championship tournament won’t take place until April 26-28. 

“It for sure turns into a grind sometimes,” sophomore Brett Podobinski said. “You’ll have a couple of weeks where it’s pretty relaxed, and then you just get smoked one week.” 

The spring schedule pushes the athletes to balance their time effectively. When they’re traveling to Texas one week and to North Carolina the following week, making time to relax and keep up with their classes becomes a chore.

Some golfers, however, view the hectic schedule as a learning experience of what they can expect in professional golf. 

“You look at the PGA tour, where we kind of all want to end up at, and their offseason is like a month, not even,” Fisher said. “[I] wouldn’t change it, but it’s definitely a grind.” 

Another element that makes college golf unique is the nature of the sport itself. Golf is individualistic, which leads to a unique team dynamic. When success is dependent on the golfer himself, every athlete requires distinct practice and training.

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Fletcher realizes that coaching everybody at the same level and the same way doesn’t help anyone.

“I honestly give them a lot of time on their own because at the end of the day, golf is a pretty individual sport, and each person needs to address different things,” Fletcher said. “If we all go work on drivers for two hours straight, that’s not going to get everyone better necessarily.” 

Many players continue working with other coaches throughout their college career as well. While Fletcher works one-on-one as a swing coach with a few players, the majority of the players have a team around them that extends well beyond the coaching staff at Miami. 

“I look at Coach Fletcher basically as another set of eyes,” Fisher said. “I have my swing coach that I’ve used since eighth grade at home, and we know what we’re working on and I fill in Coach [Fletcher] about what we’re working on, since he has a swing coach background as well.” 

Although there is a big emphasis on the individual, the RedHawks have managed to cultivate a positive team environment as well. With the amount of practice and traveling they do, the golfers have grown close to each other.

“Our team chemistry is great,” Podobinski said. “Just being on the road, warming up with each other; it’s a lot of good momentum just by hanging out with the guys and stuff.” 

Fletcher reiterated Podobinski’s point.

“I think we’ve created a culture where it’s extremely competitive on the golf course … but then once they’re off the golf course, their arms are around their shoulders like they’re kind of brothers,” Fletcher said. 

The team hasn’t seen a huge amount of success this season, but they have faced very high-level competition, including North Carolina, who is currently ranked first by the Bushnell/Golfweek Division I Coaches Poll, at the Gopher Invitational in September. 

Even when the team underperforms, Fletcher tries to expose the players to different courses and get them used to playing against top-ranked teams. 

“It’s like hockey playing in the NCHC,” Fletcher said. “That’s kind of the mentality I’m trying to bring with our schedule. We want to play against the best and be at the best venues that we possibly can.” 

With four events remaining before the MAC Championship, the RedHawks will be looking to take the next step as a program by winning a team title. They will next tee up at the Calusa Cup on April 7-9 in Naples, Florida.