With great grades and strong golf, J.J. Cooney pursues next step after the University of Sioux Falls

J.J. Cooney finishes an accomplished college golf career and has been honored extensively for his academic achievements.

University of Sioux Falls' J.J. Cooney competes at the Missouri Southern State Fall Invite last season. (Courtesy of University of Sioux Falls)

Former University of Sioux Falls golfer J.J. Cooney has reached rarified air in his career. Most of that is attributed to what he's done in the classroom.

In addition to being a three-time all-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference golfer on the course, he completed two degrees, including an MBA in one calendar year. He's USF golf's first winner of the conference's Myles Brand All-Academic with Distinction Award, which goes to seniors in the NSIC with a grade-point average of 3.75 or better as they close their career.

In May, Cooney, a native of Pickstown, earned his master’s in Business Administration and became the first USF men’s golfer selected as a first-team Division II academic All-American, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Cooney finished the two-year MBA program in just one calendar school year, while also juggling an entire golf season and working two separate jobs.

“It’s been kind of exciting and stressful at the same time,” Cooney said.

Originally, Cooney had no plans on obtaining a master’s degree after having another stellar golf season and completing his undergraduate degree in business administration and entrepreneurial studies with minors in marketing and management in May 2020.


But like most 2020 graduates in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cooney didn’t know where to turn next.

“You know there are really no jobs, what do I do?” Cooney asked himself before the NCAA granted spring sport collegiate athletes an extra year of eligibility. Cooney said after hearing that news, it was a no-brainer to return to the golf course and pursue a master’s degree.

“It all worked out, but it became a real stressful time,” Cooney said. “Being on the road for golf, having to travel and still hold a full-time job, and balance a master’s program as well.”

Cooney even said it was a “strain” to compete to the best of his abilities on the golf course, but his teammates were the support system he needed.

“Luckily, I had a good team that was able to back me up,” Cooney said. “I wasn’t able to fulfill all my athletic duties having the priority of getting through school and my work balance outside of school. I just committed to keep my grades up, working through that MBA and keeping that top priority over even golf.”

After overcoming all the college stress and completing the rigorous golf season, Cooney became a manager at Duluth Trading Company and is still a professional assistant at the Country Club of Sioux Falls, where he assists with junior golf camps.

Cooney, 23, said he can’t see himself not being involved in the golf industry, but he isn’t sure if he will be pursuing a professional career.

“I haven’t quite fully figured it all out just like any other young person,” Cooney said. “I’m fortunate enough right now to be able to help the golf team in some capacity this fall and still be connected with the university.”


Cooney will be a volunteer assistant to the USF golf team during the 2021-2022 season. Even though he is unsure of his future golf career, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of coaching golf long term.

“It’s definitely something in the realm of possibilities,” he said.

J.J. Cooney
University of Sioux Falls' J.J. Cooney headshot photo. (Courtesy of University of Sioux Falls)

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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