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The Right Choice

No regrets for Weaver in going DIII route


ne of the hardest choices a young golfer has to face toward the end of their high school career is where to go next, especially if they are not heavily recruited but have their heart set on playing at the Division I level. Do they try to walk-on at a school that showed a little interest? Or do they lower their expectations and attend a Division III school where they can play immediately and continue to play in a competitive environment. Hunter Weaver, who finished up his collegiate career recently,was faced with that very question four years ago as a high school sen- ior at Orange County High. He had pieced together a successful high school career, qualifying for regionals all four years and playing in states his senior season when he was named First-Team All-District. But the lifelong Orange resident didn’t start playing competitively until he was 15, which put him be- hind other junior players in terms of tournament experience. Weaver received luke-warm responses from DI coaches who were interested but unwilling to commit to a scholarship. If he was going to play at the top level he would have to walk-on, a tall order that not all coaches even allow. “It was definitely a goal of mine,” said Weaver about playing in college. “I wasn’t concerned so

27 Virginia Golf Report • Spring 2013

much where it was, I just wanted the opportunity to play.” At about that time a family friend named Dick Clore, who knew Hunter’s love for playing golf, made a call to Ed Turnage, the head golf coach at Randolph- Macon College in Ashland. Clore played golf at Randolph-Macon in the 60’s and knew the small liberal arts college would give Hunter a great education and the chance to continue his competitive golf career.

“I was able to step right in and play immediately,” said Weaver, who earned Honorable-Mention All-ODAC honors as a freshman. “Even if I had walked-on to a Division I school I probably would have had to redshirt. I didn’t want to do that.”

Randolph-Macon is a member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference(ODAC) and plays a fairly competitive schedule against other DIII programs. Guilford, a team that consistently is ranked in the top 20 nationally in NCAA DIII, is an ODAC member. The region that RMC plays most of its tournaments in is highly regarded as one of the strongest in the coun- try with DIII powerhouses Meth- odist University and Greensboro College. What’s the biggest difference be- tween a DI and DIII golf program? The short answer is resources.

Most DI programs have pretty healthy budgets which allows them to have perks that the DIII programs can’t afford. Some of the really big programs, like Okla- homa State, even have the luxury of traveling to tournaments on a private plane. That’s not going to happen at the DIII level. Division III also does not allow athletic scholarships, although grants are given based on need.

Perhaps the biggest disparity in the two divisions is found in the coaching department. Most Divi- sion I programs have a full-time coach and in many instances an assistant. Those head coaches are often times ex-professional players or PGA professionals, an incred- ible resource for helping players improve. Most Division III head coaches are part-time coaches who have other responsibilities at the school such as teaching. Randolph- Macon’s Turnage is a sales rep in the golf industry.

Division I coaches tend to be very structured with practice and work-out schedules geared to each players’ weaknesses. They can then monitor and closely watch those things that are being worked on. Very few DIII programs have that ability. “That’s probably one of the biggest things,” said Weaver, who has worked with UVA’s women’s golf coach Kim Lewellen on his swing and seen up close just how much individual instruction is given at the DI level. “At our level, the players really have to be self motivated and step up and create the structure themselves. We didn’t have the luxury of a teaching pro- fessional telling us what to work on each day. I think it really made me be more disciplined.” Tournament play and travel to those tournaments is another area that is vastly different. Many DI teams have a schedule that in- cludes tournaments in exotic loca- tions like Hawaii or Puerto Rico. The University of Richmond’s golf team played a tournament in Ire- land in 2013. Most DIII programs play a regional schedule that elimi- nates high travel costs. Packing a van for optimal space becomes a skill-set for a DIII golfer. For Weaver, the schedule at

Randolph-Macon was more than acceptable. The team played a full fall and spring schedule, just like DI teams. “We got to play at some great places,” said Weaver. “We played at Pine Needles Resort all four years and stayed right there at the resort. We went to Jeckyll Island in Georgia yearly and we traveled to Florida as well.” Jim Weaver, who introduced his son Hunter to the game of golf, thinks the decision Hunter made to attend Randolph-Macon was perfect. “I don’t think he could have found a better fit,” said Jim Weaver. “In terms of academics and continueing his golf career it really worked out well. He’s had a great experience and has formed so many friendships.” Jim Weaver watched Hunter turn in an impressive performance at the ODAC Championship where his son finished third in his final collegiate tournament, after rounds of 77-79-74. The score placed Hunter on the ODAC All-Tourna- ment team and helped him land a spot on the All-ODAC third team. “I really felt like his game had gone to the next level,” said the proud father. Hunter Weaver’s goal entering Randolph-Macon as a freshman was to be named a Division III All-American. He fell short of that lofty ambition but still turned in an impressive career, being named to an All-ODAC team in each of his four years. Coach Turnage called Weaver “a hard worker who fits the mold” of the kind of young men he looks for to be a part of RMC’s golf pro- gram. “It was a great four year run and I know I am a better person after knowing Hunter and his whole family.”

“I’ve really enjoyed it here,” said

Weaver. “All I asked for was an opportunity to play and Randolph- Macon gave me that opportunity. I wouldn’t have done a thing dif- ferent. It was the right choice for me.”

Photo Courtesy of: C. Kilcoyne/RMC Athletics

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