A test in patience, perseverance

COVID-19 doesn’t deter senior’s drive to play collegiate golf

Senior+Graci+Henard+practices+her+drives+during+practice.+Henard+has+faced+the+trials+of+applying+to+college+during+a+pandemic.+

Photo by Peyton Sims

Senior Graci Henard practices her drives during practice. Henard has faced the trials of applying to college during a pandemic.

Story by Graci Henard, Staff Writer

My parents did everything right. They entered me in the highest quality tournaments, knowing college coaches would be watching. My dad and I began emailing college coaches at age 13 so they would know me when looking at tournament results. They got me a membership to the best country clubs in the area. 

They did everything right in order to get me to play golf at the collegiate level.

The summer before a golfer’s senior year is probably the most important. College coaches watch a player throughout high school, but this summer is crucial if a player wants to play collegiate golf. 

I signed up for some big tournaments. I was playing good golf and was excited for district, regionals and state. I had taken the fall season off due to a shoulder injury, so I was ready to play. Then, COVID-19 reached the United States. Schools closed, UIL cancelled sports and my hope to go to state for golf was crushed. There was still hope, however, that I would get to play some bigger, non-UIL golf tournaments. 

During summer, I had a couple tournaments, some college visits, and had invited some coaches to watch me play. I was scheduled to visit a D1 school in Tennessee and had my eyes on a couple D2 schools in Texas. When the NCAA issued a recruiting dead-period in March, all these plans crumbled.

This was a big deal for two reasons. First, most coaches want a player to visit the campus before making an offer, and second, the way the coach gets to know a player is to watch them play the game. They look to see how a player handles adversity and success. This summer I shot anywhere from 76-82 (par 72), but all the mistakes I made were fixable. Any coach watching would know I just needed some little things cleaned up. My fear was that since they could not watch in person, they would lose interest. 

When a coach watches me play, they can get a full sense of who I am. One of my strengths is my ability to rebound. I am excited to show coaches what I can do in the face of adversity. They also can see my skill in the game and not just the mental aspect. 

COVID also put a halt to many of the tournaments I planned on playing. Without competition, I found it difficult to stay on top of my game. I wasn’t competing and college coaches were not able to watch me. I also missed out on the USGA junior girls because of the coronavirus, which is a high caliber tournament that I looked forward to competing in.  

The NCAA also did not allow any on-campus visits, and I had two visits scheduled. I was excited to get to see what each university had to offer. The NCAA pushed back the D1 recruiting dead period until Jan. 1, 2021, and D2 recruiting was closed from March to September. I was unable to make my D1 visit to the University in Tennessee but ended up making my decision anyway. 

Even though my parents did everything right, I still jumped through so many hoops to eventually commit to a college. But even through adversity, I committed to Dallas Baptist University. 

Although I do know where I am going next year, some things still look different because of COVID-19. The NCAA granted every student athlete another season due to the cancellation of last year’s season, so there will be more girls on the team. Some have opted to take their free, extra COVID year and play one more year. These seniors get to keep their golf scholarship, which means there will be less money available for incoming recruits. 

Although the NCAA has a Student Assistance Fund, they cannot possibly pay for every scholarship in the US. The NCAA also waived 2020 fall sport athletes and granted them an extra year. Golf is a spring and fall sport so it is still unclear if this will apply, but as of right now, golfers have the ability to play collegiate golf for six years. 

Despite all of the hurdles my family and I had to jump through due to the new COVID-19 restrictions, I committed to Dallas Baptist University to continue my golf career under the guidance of coach Kenny Trapp. It was not easy nor was it the traditional way, but I am grateful for the opportunity and would not change what I went through. This experience has taught me a lot about patience and perseverance along the way, and I got to single handedly watch God turn something intended for bad into something amazing.