If you look at the IU men’s golf roster, the depth of the roster is evident. There’s two freshmen and two sophomores. There’s three juniors and two seniors. And then there’s Jack Sparrow. His listed year? Graduate.
Sparrow joined the IU golf team out of Floyds Knobs, Indiana in the 2014-15 season. He’s returning this season for his sixth year.
He went into last season with Jake Brown ready to help lead the team in what was both of their senior seasons.
“We redshirted together freshman year and we were excited about playing our fifth year together,” Sparrow said.
Brown finished the season strong, ending his career with the seventh best average score in IU history. Sparrow played for a week before his season ended.
During the second tournament of the season last year, Sparrow was hitting out of the thick rough when he tore the triangular fibrocartilage complex in his wrist. The injury ended his season and threw doubt on the future of his already extended golf career. Since Sparrow had redshirted his freshman year, his senior year was the final year of his five-year clock.
According to the NCAA rules, an athlete has five years to play four seasons of his sport. These five years begin as soon as the athlete enrolls in school and do not stop. When these five years are up, the athlete’s eligibility is up.
However, there are exceptions, including one that Sparrow and his coaches thought would grant Sparrow an additional year on his five-year clock. Sparrow talked to his doctors, then wrote the NCAA, applying for a clock extension. It was granted, allowing Sparrow to return for a sixth year of eligibility.
Sparrow knew he wasn’t ready to stop playing, so he made the decision to come back knowing the level of talent and skill this IU team has.
“Having that injury is obviously unexpected, but I’m gonna make the most out of another year and do what I can with it,” Sparrow said.
Another year at IU does include taking more classes. Sparrow graduated last year, but in order to continue playing for the school, he has to be enrolled in the school. He said he’s not working toward a graduate degree right now, and is taking classes for the time being.
Besides the obvious of being able to play, the clock extension provides Sparrow with the opportunity to step up as the leader of the team for another year. Sparrow is in his second year as team captain.
“It’s a great situation to have Jack back for a sixth year,” IU men’s golf coach Mike Mayer said. “We need that kind of leadership and he brings a lot to the table.”
Sparrow is tasked with leading a group with various levels of experience. Mayer said Sparrow and senior Brock Ochsenreiter are both going to play pivotal roles on the team, and sophomore Mitch Davis is challenging for the number one spot. That depth creates strong competition up and down the roster.
“You wanna play against the best players you can,” Mayer said. “The better your team is the better your players are going to be.”
Sparrow notes that being around for this long allows him to use what he has learned over the last five years to guide the team and make them better.
The last individual berth came in 2018, when Brown narrowly missed making it to the finals.
A postseason berth for IU would bring the first team berth since 2008.
“Our first goal is to make postseason,” Sparrow said. “It’s the obvious goal, but with this team I think we can do more.”