A Santa Rosa Junior College golf team member shows perfect form during a match in 2012. The men’s golf team was discontinued in spring of 2019 because of budget reductions in athletics.
A Santa Rosa Junior College golf team member shows perfect form during a match in 2012. The men’s golf team was discontinued in spring of 2019 because of budget reductions in athletics.
Mischa Lopiano

Opinion: SRJC should bring back Golf program

Santa Rosa Junior College has re- vamped sporting fields and added an Olympic-sized swimming pool, but the athletics program is missing out on an increasingly popular sport: golf.

Golf has surged in popularity in recent years, both at the national and local level, especially since the pandemic. With its serene landscapes, the sport has become an ideal way to unwind and get some exercise, a reason why more and more people are taking up the sport.

At the national level, golf has seen a resurgence in popularity due to the success of players like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jon Rahm who have attracted a new generation of fans. With the birth of new and exciting ways to watch golf, such as “The Match” and “TGL,” the sport has become more accessible to people of all ages.

According to the National Golf Foundation, 2020 saw an increase of 500,000 new golfers, a 2% uptick from 2019. Golfers played an estimated 502 million rounds in 2020, compared to 441 million rounds in 2019.

The increases have continued post pandemic. Sales of golf clubs, golf balls and apparel have also seen a dramatic increase since the beginning of the pandemic. The PGA Tour Superstore, for example, saw a 70% increase in business during 2020 and 2021.

In Sonoma County, golf has similarly risen in popularity, especially among high school students. Many high schools have golf teams, so students can learn the sport and compete against other schools. This has helped create a new generation of young golfers who are passionate about the sport and want to continue playing beyond high school.

SRJC discontinued its golf program in 2019. This decision has left a gap in the local golf community. Students who wish to continue playing the sport at the collegiate level must bypass SRJC and go to Sonoma State or another four-year college.

“I played golf in high school and was pretty bummed I couldn’t continue playing competitively at SRJC,” said Colin Roth, a third year SRJC student.

In the spring of 2019, budget reductions forced the athletic department to cut three teams from its program, according to Matt Markovich, dean of kinesiology, athletics and dance. 

“We reduced it with men’s and women’s water polo and the men’s golf team because they were our smallest teams. In fact, everybody was doing some reductions across the district, and that was kind of what we had to do,” he said. 

COVID and the resulting decline in enrollment further challenged the budget. “But I firmly believe that athletics is a student success program, and I firmly believe that creating space for more teams is something that I want to do,” Markovich said. “It’s just going to have to wait until we have the ability to grow our budget a little bit, and hopefully with us getting out of the COVID situation, we will see more students coming back to campus.”

According to the District’s Strategic Enrollment Management report, projected enrollment for 2022/23 is approximately 13,100 full-time equivalent students, a 5% increase over 2021/22. This is a positive sign that enrollment is trending in the right direction.

“Yes, we want golf. Yes, we want to add more teams back,” Markovich said. “But at this point in time, we’re waiting to see how our enrollment goes and see what our budget looks like.”

Considering golf ’s rising popularity, the college should prioritize bringing back its golf program because it would allow student athletes to develop their skills and compete against other colleges. The golf program could promote a sense of healthy competition and camaraderie.

An SRJC golf team would attract high school golfers who want to continue playing competitively at the community college level.

SRJC would also provide a valuable resource to the local golf community and help support the growth of this increasingly popular sport.

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About the Contributor
Trevor Lee
Trevor Lee, Reporter
Trevor Lee is in his first semester with The Oak Leaf. He aspires to be a sports journalist. He enjoys covering sports and going to the gym with friends.

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