Whether you’re a determined junior golfer or a helpful parent, earning a spot on a college golf squad can be daunting for any golfer. As a former Division I collegiate golfer and graduate assistant coach, I’m going to sift through my many experiences—both good and bad—to give you my top five tips to help you figure out how to secure a spot, find the right team for you, and get the most out of your time playing collegiate golf.

Tip #1: Know Why You Play

One of my favorite sayings from Ohio University Head Golf Coach Kelly Ovington is “You have to know your why.”

Some golfers play because they love competing or how social the game and be. Then there are those who love the physicality or the mental challenge. Whatever it is, it is important to know why you want to play collegiate golf. If you’re only playing because someone else like that you play or you’re just aiming to get a scholarship, being a successful collegiate golfer is going to be a harder journey than if you’re playing because you love golf.

A good “why” says a lot about a player when coaches are out on the recruiting trail.

Tip #2: Be Realistic

During my time as a graduate assistant golf coach, I received many emails from eager high school golfer who thought all they needed to get a Division I scholarship was to have good grades and shoot in the 80s. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that isn’t always enough.

Top Division I programs want players breaking par and who want to be pros. If your game isn’t there, don’t give up on your collegiate golf dreams entirely. Division II and III schools are always looking for golfers as well.

Although Division II and III schools don’t always have the scholarships like Division I schools, they tend to have less demanding schedules, which might be something to consider if you don’t want academics to take a backseat to playing.

The best way to see if you have what it takes to play on any given team is to compare your scores with theirs. And keep in mind that college courses are usually a few hundred yards longer than high school courses, so coaches will ideally keep an eye out for players who score a little better than their current college crew.

Tip #3: Pick up the Phone and Call

Think back to my packed email inbox—and go ahead and triple that for the head coach. Don’t be surprised if email doesn’t always help you stand out.

The best way to attract the attention of a coach is for you to speak to them directly either on the phone or in person. A player making the effort to call—rather than an email or a parent calling on the player’s behalf—let’s a coach know that she is interested in the school and the team.

Tip #4: Ask What Tournaments to Play in

Coaches like swing videos and impressive transcripts plenty, but what they really love is knowing that players are competition-proven.

The US Junior Girls Championship, US Women’s Amateur, AJGA Events, and state tournaments are all great, but coaches might also have other local events that they keep their eye on too.

Players should ask prospective coaches about which tournaments they plan on recruiting at during their initial phone calls.

Tip #5: Be Your Own Best Friend

Trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life on top of trying to find a spot on your dream school’s golf team can be stressful. Remind yourself just to do your best and that not everything can be completely in your control.

Even if you go to a school and realize that you’re having a horrible time, you can have the strength to make adjustments and find a better way that works for you. There are many paths up a mountain, and oftentimes mistakes are actually the best way to grow as a person.

I wish you the best of luck with your collegiate golf journey. It won’t always be easy, but if it is anything like my collegiate golf experience, it will all be worth it in the end.