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By The Numbers: the 2020 college golf recruiting class
24 Nov 2019
by Brendan Ryan of Golf Placement Services

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- Golf Digest photo
- Golf Digest photo

Each year at about this time, I examine the scoring differential of college golf signing classes to provide insight for prospective student athletes.

What is scoring differential? The AJGA calculates it like this: "For the 75 percent of the player's rounds that are his/her lowest scores, a player's average score is compared to the USGA rating of the courses they played."

Why scoring differential? Because the data has consistently shown scoring differential to be very closely related to where students end up signing to play college golf.

Related: How do you Compare?

In our third year, the numbers remain extremely consistent, and here’s what they say for 2020:

MEN

Average scoring differential for NCAA D1 Men: 0.26

Please note that the historical scoring differential data has been close to 0.5, so this number seems to be steady. The most interesting takeaway from the data is the number of strong players going to both mid-majors and NCAA D2 programs. Arkansas Tech, who has made it deep into match play the last 2 years in D2 and who recently finished third in LSU’s event (beating 9 D1 Teams and finishing -22) signed Henry Frizzell (ranked #84) in their class with a scoring differential of -1.77. Florida Southern, Queens Charlotte and Missouri Science and Technology also got players with negative scoring differentials and among the top 205 in their classes.

It is also important to note that 57 different Division I teams picked up a player with a negative scoring differential. This includes major conference schools, where the average scoring differential was -3.14, but it also includes places like Wright state, Valparaiso, Lipscomb, Central Arkansas and Radford.

WOMEN

Average scoring differential for NCAA D1 Women: 1.8

1.8! Wow. Very significant since this number has basically been cut in half the last 2 years; the 2018 number was close to 8, 2019 was close to 4 and now it is 1.8. Big improvements for the quality of junior golfer available for coaches to recruit.

It is also interesting to note for the first time in history, Division II superpower Dallas Baptist has signed two girls with negative scoring differentials: Olivia Mitchell (-0.48) and Jayce Stewart (-0.76). These two will add to a team that won three times in the fall, had a stroke average of 296, and a low 36-hole-score of -5 (571). In addition, Lynn University, under new head Coach Marcelo Huarte, signed a player with a scoring differential of 0.01. These signings continue to demonstrate the depth of talent in junior women’s golf and suggest that future recruiting classes are only becoming more competitive.

Also, of note is the signing of MiKayla Srgillo by NAIA program Ottawa University Arizona. In only its third year, this NAIA program has been able to sign a player ranked 313 in her class with a scoring differential of 3.76. This is another example of a good player NOT choosing Division I golf and likely the start of an emerging pattern.

As with every class, major conference schools like Duke, Florida, Stanford, Texas and USC loaded up with the best players, all with scoring differentials at or better than -4 or about 6 shots per round better than the average player signed by a D1 program. However, as mentioned, several other programs also did very well by the numbers. This includes national contenders like BYU, Pepperdine and UNLV, but also schools like James Madison, High Point and Boise State.

Average for Major Conference school (women): -3.75. The data here is clear--if you want to play in a major conference, you better have a negative scoring differential. In 2020 thus far, all but one signee of a major conference school has a negative scoring differential. This demonstrates not only the caliber of elite schools but also makes a compelling argument for why players are unlikely to ever walk on; a scoring differential of 2 is going to be 6 shots a day higher than the other recruits. In a four round qualifying that’s 24 shots; almost impossible to overcome and the reason why players with positive scoring differentials are unlikely to get much interest from major conference schools.

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