How college golf has evolved with NCAA NIL changes

When the Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that college athletes could benefit from their name, image and likeness, star quarterbacks weren’t the only ones to see massive benefits and changes.

While much of the focus on NIL is on college football and basketball — by far the NCAA’s two biggest revenue sports — college golf has seen a major evolution thanks to NIL as well.

On this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar, Arizona State men’s golf coach Matt Thurmond told co-hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz that the game has completely changed in the quarter-century he’s been a college golf coach. Not just with NIL, but also pathways for players to get to the next level.

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“I think PGA Tour U has changed [college golf] a lot,” Thurmond said. “You know, additional professional opportunities. Basically, the stakes are higher. Coaches are being paid a lot more. Athletes are being paid more. Universities care. They used to never care. You know, like, who cares what the golf team does? Well, you know, what’s actually kind of a big deal now.”

Thurmond said the appeal of college golf has grown thanks to the national championship, and several other tournaments throughout the year, being shown on Golf Channel.

But obviously, the biggest change is that players can now be paid. When then-Alabama sophomore Nick Dunlap won the U.S. Amateur last summer, he did so clad in logos from Adidas, TaylorMade and True Temper. When he became the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour since 1991 in January at the American Express, he already had deals for his gear that would later turn into professional endorsement contracts when he ultimately turned pro.

But Thurmond said all this money going to players can make recruiting easier. While schools aren’t organizing multi-million dollar deals for golfers like they are star quarterbacks, there’s still competition to offer golfers competitive NIL packages.

However, Thurmond said players shouldn’t always base their decision of where to play their college golf simply based on money.

“You know, the real money to be made still is after,” he said. “If you can get the money right and if everybody’s giving it, great. But to me, it screams a little insecure. Like if you really are confident that you’re going to make it as a pro, you need to do everything you can in your selection to give yourself the very best opportunity to be successful.”

For more from Thurmond, listen to the full episode here and check out Subpar’s full tour of ASU’s practice facility below.

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