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I Demand These Two Awful, Heroic Golfers Be Given A Hefty NIL Deal

THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS - APRIL 30: A general view of a golf ball on the green of the first hole during the final round of the Insperity Invitational at The Woodlands Golf Club on April 30, 2023 in The Woodlands, Texas.
Tim Heitman/Getty Images

By now everyone who has wanted to bore their colleagues with an opinion on the new name image and likeness rules in college sports—which in sum are essentially none—has done so. It doesn't matter what the opinion is, because the only thing NIL has done for college athletics is end the alumni handshake and replace it with direct deposit. The adults still get paid more than the athletes because they get to talk directly with the money, but you know the first rule of sports gravity, which is that everything runs uphill and only returns down the hill when all the hands at the top can't hold any more. The best thing (as in only good thing) about NIL is that it is better than the old system, in which NIL actually meant "nil."

All of which brings us to Maycee Kay Aycock and Sarah Marshall, who did something no football or basketball or baseball player ever has done, and that is to save their sport at their school at the minimal cost of a few days' embarrassment and 2,092 strokes over 12 rounds. As told by Shane Ryan of Golf Digest, Aycock and Marshall took up golf in an emergency (and let us linger in wonder upon the phrase "golf emergency" for a moment) to save the Meredith University women's golf team from being decommissioned, and in doing so saved the women's golf programs in the USA South Conference, which needed six schools to qualify for the Division III tournament.

Without robbing you of the joy of Ryan's full story, we will summarize: Meredith is a Division III school that needed a minimum of four athletes to complete its golf team, and through a series of accidents was reduced to two when coach Jimmy Hamilton sent out an email to the school's undergraduates to see if anyone wanted to save the program, experience definitely not required. Aycock and Marshall responded despite having almost no experience ever with the damned game, scrambled to clear their physicals and get clubs, shoes and other equipment to satisfy the NCAA and the other niceties of the sport, went out to the first tournament and toured the grounds in a cool 434. Marshall, for her part, whirled about the course in 276 glorious strokes, an average of 15 per hole, fueled by an indomitable desire to become the next Rose Zhang and her own mantra, "You're here, you committed, you can't drive yourself home, so play."

That they did, the next day and four other times, with a low score of 131 by Aycock in a round with a 10-stroke maximum per hole. Marshall's second round score of 199 inspired the school's web site to announce with PR-worthy phrasing, "Sarah Marshall improved her score by 77 shots."

The reason why you need to know this is because Aycock and Marshall are the best reason for NIL to exist. Most NIL money goes to athletes who make money for the school, while it seems likely that neither Meredith nor the other USA South schools are making bank on their women's golf teams. In short, Aycock and Marshall did all this for snicks and giggles, plus Meredith Golf shirts and a lifelong friendship. You can say all you like about that being payment enough, but the fact is someone needs to pay them for being the illusion of why college sports exist. I'm thinking Callaway can afford $1,000 a stroke apiece just for the ad campaign of the century. "It Ain't LIV, It's Love" seems like too easy a slogan, and "I Shot 276 So That Others Might Be Free" might be a bit overwrought, but Maycee Kay Aycock and Sarah Marshall have something coming to them, other than clubs that might never escape the garage again, and a hilarious set of memories they can bore their friends with for the next 75 years.

Memories alone don't get the butcher to come across with pork chops, however, and golf profited more from them than they ever will on their own. If that's not worth a payday to get them to a photo op standing in front of a clubhouse laughing uproariously at the delightful absurdity of playing bad golf for the benefit of other golfers, nothing is.

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