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College Golf Offers a Chance to Play Some of the Best Courses in the Country

By Ron Balicki
GCAA Contributor

NORMAN, Okla. – There are a number of very good reasons for attending college to continue your golfing career after you’ve finished at the junior level.

First, of course, is to get an education -- something that you will carry with you and can always fall back on no matter how good a player you are.

Also, by competing at the college level, you are going to be playing against some of the best competition within your age bracket to be found anywhere.

And, in many instances, you are going to be playing on some of the finest golf courses in the country -- courses that you may never have had the opportunity to play if it wasn’t for college tournaments.

You want to play a major championship course? You can do that at the college level. And, at the same time, you just might be playing for a national championship, not only for yourself, but for your school, coach and teammates.

At times that has been the case in the past and it certainly will be the case in the near future.

Recently, the NCAA Men’s Division I Golf Committee scored a couple of aces in their recommendations -- and the NCAA’s approval -- in landing a pair of most impressive venues for the D-I NCAA Finals.

Generation next of PGA Tour pros will get a good taste of what a major championship course has to offer as it was announced that Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., will be the site of the 2012 NCAA Championship while in 2013 the stage will be the Atlanta Athletic Club.

To me, that in itself is worth staying in school. I mean, these are two great golf courses with a ton of history.

Riviera has hosted a U.S. Open (1948), two PGA Championships (1983 and ‘95) and a U.S. Senior Open (1998). After the late, great Ben Hogan won the 1947 and ‘48 Los Angeles Opens and the ‘48 U.S. Open on this layout, it became known as “Hogan’s Alley.”

Each year since 1973, it has been the home of the PGA Tour’s stop in the Los Angeles area, now known as the Northern Trust Open.

Atlanta Athletic Club has been the site of four major championships -- the 1976 U.S. Open, the 1981 and 2001 PGA Championships and the 1990 U.S. Women’s Open. It will also host the 2011 PGA Championship and most recently announced will be the main venue for the 2014 U.S. Amateur.

Southern Cal will serve as host team at Riviera while Georgia Tech will be the host school at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Again, a great job in the selection process by the D-I NCAA Men’s Golf Committee. But it’s hardly shocking. These selections are more of a continuing trend to spotlight college golf’s premier event.

Consider it was just last year (2009) the grand finale was held at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, another course with a long lineage of major championships. In 1999, the finals were staged at Hazeltine Golf Club in Minnesota, another major championship venue.

In fact, over the last dozen years, the NCAA’s season-ender has been played at some pretty impressive facilities, major championship or not.

This past spring, for instance, the event took place at The Honors Course, just outside of Chattanooga, considered by many as one of the top courses in the world and host to such events as the U.S. Mid-Amateur, Curtis Cup, Canon Cup and Palmer Cup.

Then there’s venues like Ohio State’s Scarlett course, The Homestead, Cave’s Valley (a U.S. Senior Open site), Golden Horseshoe, Sunriver, Purdue’s Birck Boilermaker Kampen Course, Duke Golf Club and Karsten Creek Golf Club, where it will again be staged in 2011.

And, it’s not just the NCAA final sites that have been hugely upgraded over the years. The NCAA Regional Championships have also attracted some impressive courses for these young future stars to test their skills.

I mean, just look at the 2011 lineup. You have the Omni Tucson (Ariz.) National Resort, long time home of a PGA Tour tournament. Then there’s Colorado National Golf Club, Golden Ocala (Fla.) Golf Club, Wolf Run Golf Club in Indiana, The Farms Golf Club in San Diego, and the Pete Dye River Course in Virginia.

Trust me, these are not your everyday munis. All are highly regarded and all should provide a challenge.

So, I ask again. You want to play where the pros play? You want to play where major championships are played? You want to play at some of the finest golf courses in the country?

One simple answer.

Play college golf!