Editor’s note: This is the latest in a weekly series of stories from 49ers Cal-Hi Sports that will highlight high school student-athletes across Northern California.
Golf is a solitary sport. You spend hours all alone practicing your game so when it’s tournament time you are ready.
For Matthew Kress the onset of the coronavirus meant that alone time would be spent in his backyard putting and chipping instead of actual time on the course. When golf courses opened back up in June, the Bellarmine College Prep senior was ready. His first round back he had a hole in one. Kress played the best golf of his life, capturing three tournament titles in June.
All of this success brought new attention to Kress, and he thought his improved play would translate into achieving his dream of landing a Division I college scholarship.
That didn’t happen.
With the COVID-19 shutdown, the NCAA has prevented coaches from viewing and talking to players during periods where they would normally be allowed to actively recruit. The restrictions on coaches have been extended as the virus has continued to spread, and the economic impact of the coronavirus shutdown has been felt across the college landscape. The situation has put athletes like Kress — namely class of 2021 athletes who had not yet landed a college scholarship — in a difficult situation.
“Especially for college golf,” Kress said. “A max roster size on a typical NCAA team is 12 kids and that gets expanded to 15 kids. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’ve gotten a lot of messages back from coaches I was in contact with and on good terms with and they just said, ‘we hate sending this email but we’re just not going to be able to recruit from your class anymore because the money isn’t there and the spots aren’t there.'”
The same story is being heard in many sports.
Jesse Juinio is a senior this year on the Carondelet softball team. A four-year starter, Juinio thought she had a scholarship locked up before the virus, but that offer fell through when the virus hit.
“With quarantine a lot of coaches aren’t allowed to come out to our games,” Juinio explained. “And there was a really long dead period and they kept extending it and extending it. Right now we’re able to talk to coaches, but a lot of them are still trying to figure out their financial situation and a lot of them have moved on to the 2022 class because they don’t have the money for the 2021 class.”
Kress has a 4.2 GPA and will now choose his school based on academics, with the hope of walking on to the golf team. He’s looking forward to his senior season at Bellarmine which is scheduled to be played in the spring.
Juinio continues to play travel ball and will be a team leader her senior season at Carondelet. She’s deciding if she will play in junior college to keep her dreams of playing Division I college softball alive.