California leads the nation in stocking NCAA Division I programs with players.
It hardly came as a surprise during my canvassing of every NCAA Division I roster – that’s 563 men’s and women’s teams – to find that California produces more college golfers than any other state.
Afterall, the Golden State features yearround golf weather and the largest state population, estimated at 38 million.
With 466 male and female D1 golfers, Californians make up 12 percent of the 3,862 players from the 50 states and District of Columbia at the highest level of college golf. That deep pool of talent bodes well for the 41 Division I men’s and women’s teams in California.
Chris Zambri, who is in his ninth year as head men’s coach at USC, has come to realize that he doesn’t have to cast his recruiting net too far from the Trojans’ Los Angeles campus to field a nationally-competitive team.
“When I first got to USC, I considered us a team that needed to recruit all over the world,” said Zambri, 44, an L.A. native and USC alumnus. “With my focus on that, I was missing guys in this state. I can focus on just a few kids rather than the whole field. I know who all the kids are in California, and it’s not a bad pool to choose from.”
Rico Hoey, a sophomore from Rancho Cucamonga, emerged from that pool to rise to No. 32 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings in little more than three semesters at USC. Of the Trojans’ 11-man roster, all reside in California.
Hoey calls USC his “dream school,” adding: “No need to look elsewhere, with the weather, the schools being great.”
Texas and Florida rank 2-3, respectively, in producing D1 golfers. Those states also rank 2-3 in population and are blessed with long golf seasons. Yet, how to explain Ohio (sixth in men and fourth in women) and Illinois (seventh in men, fifth in women)? Strong golf traditions and numerous D1 schools in those states certainly play key roles.
Twenty-two percent of the nearly 5,000 D1 golfers are foreign nationals. That trend has accelerated in recent decades.
Yet for many schools, recruiting is a local effort.