I met Sarah Bertram and her father, Howard, during her junior year of high school. She had done a little work with the college recruiting process but had not gotten very far at that stage and she was one of those late arrivers to the game so we had a few things working against us. We did her evaluation, put her resume together and got going ASAP. After months of searching, emailing and visiting colleges she found her home at Gardner-Webb University, a DI school in Boiling Spring, NC with 2700 students.
I was able to follow her college golf career, mostly through social media and her dad, which we all know social media can be a tad misleading at times when it comes to someone being happy or not. Thankfully, Sarah had an amazing 4 years of playing college golf!
I asked her dad to share his thoughts, post-college, on Sarah’s experience and what advice he would give another parent going through the junior golf process.
What was the best part about watching Sarah play college golf?
- As a parent, watching your child excel and do something they love, is a thrill. For me, watching Sarah play golf at a collegiate level gave me a sense of pride I have never felt. I have been an athlete all my life, and athletes know the dedication and perseverance that is required to survive, much less THRIVE in sport! But, to watch her practice, study, and play the game with both failure & success and get up and do it again, showed me that she has a true love and passion for the game.
What was the biggest struggle as a parent during her college golf career?
- Raising kids in times such as these is a struggle. Having golf as a foundation to build upon, as a young adult, is huge. As a parent, I would say missing a tournament would be a struggle. For me, missing a single stroke was a struggle. But, the most difficult struggle for me throughout Sarah’s college career was learning to let her do this on her own. In junior golf, you practice with them, travel with them, and talk about shots between rounds. As Sarah advanced to college golf, I had to learn to let her move on. Watching her struggle, but finally getting out of the way (unless asked), was the best thing for her mental development. She learned very quickly how to adapt and work through changes. I watched many parents continue to hover and suppress their child’s development, even at the college level!
What made Gardner-Webb such a good fit for Sarah?
- GWU was the perfect fit for Sarah. Because she was such a latecomer to the game, she was underdeveloped at her junior year of HS, and really didn’t have a great deal of D1 options. Yet, there were several who saw the potential in her game. But, GWU was willing to take the full plunge with our family, and offer her the very best opportunity to follow her dream of playing D1, and receive a great education. This alone does not make a school a great fit. In fact, I would tell parents that making the selection based on financial offers alone would be a mistake. We know our daughter and her personality. With that, we suggested Sarah choose her visits strategically, and then we would help her weigh the positive & negative of each school and golf program. Coach Burton lives the kind of family life much like Sarah is used to, and he expects a certain kind of character in his players that will represent both GWU & the golf program with integrity. Without question, his attitude, and humble approach to life influenced her decision to accept an offer there.
How was Sarah’s relationship with Coach Burton important to her experience? With her teammates?
- Somewhat stated above, Sarah’s relationship with Coach Burton was important to her development in many ways. He was a coach, and father figure who was tough when he needed to be, and extremely supportive at the same time. He made her time at GWU quite enjoyable. Her relationship with teammates is arguably as important. Like siblings, there were disagreements, laughs, and tears. But, also like siblings, in the end, they were supportive and there for one another. As an athlete, experiencing disappointment and triumph with teammates creates a lifelong bond. As she says “we have one another’s back!”
Is there anything you would have done differently in junior golf and the recruiting process, given what you know now?
- Given what I know now, I would reach out to more parents who had gone through the recruiting process. Whether in golf or another sport, sharing this experience with parents coming along now is what I want to do. In addition, having some common questions you can repeat to each coach visit might be effective. I am a strong believer in relationships, and to find someone who you can trust and respect, and who will respect you in return is vital.
Any advice for parents and juniors going through that process now?
- I have lots to say about the advice! BUT…. If nothing is taken away from my comments other than this, I suppose that’s ok, and that is this: My closing piece of advice is to be realistic about your child’s level and potential. Make a choice by which there are high expectations, but one that offers an enjoyable college golf career. Because in the end, it should be a choice that lives far beyond the short 4 years she is there!