Thursday, 24 September 2020 15:06

Rich gets up and down, continues training ahead of senior season

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Richmond's Jonathan Rich plays in a tournament earlier this year. Richmond's Jonathan Rich plays in a tournament earlier this year. Contributed photo by Jonathan Rich,

ROCKINGHAM — Finding the good within the bad, Jonathan Rich said he’s been happy to see his maturity and patience as a golfer improve during the coronavirus pandemic.


A senior at Richmond Senior High School, Rich hasn’t let the loss of his junior season last spring slow down his activity on the golf course. In fact, he’s taken advantage of his open schedule to fine-tune his game, hoping it will lead to future success.

During the 2020 spring sports season, the Richmond boys’ golf team was the only one of the school’s seven spring programs not to play a competitive match. The mandatory dead period went into effect on March 13, three days before the scheduled season opener.

“There’s no way around it, last year sucked because we couldn’t play,” Rich said. “Junior year is big for recruiting and I was in a really good spot with my game right when the season was supposed to begin. It’s one year of high school golf I can’t get back.

“But I’ve had a really good spring and summer,” he added. “I’ve been putting in a lot of work personally, and playing golf with some of the guys from the team.”

Just prior to the COVID-19 quarantine, Rich started taking private lessons with Eric Alpenfels at Pinehurst Golf Academy. Alpenfels, who has been with Pinehurst since 1985, is the director of golf instruction and has been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Teachers in America” by Golf Magazine.

Working on his swing mechanics, Rich said the starting point with Alpenfels was to keep his swing upright.

“I struggled for a while off the tee,” Rich explained. “At impact, I was low to the ground with my body. We narrowed my base and I’m keeping my feet closer together. That’s helped keep my swing plane the same with every club in my bag.”

Working with Alpenfels has produced a stronger, more consistent tee shot for Rich, noting he can “hit the ball a lot farther.” The duo has also improved shaping Rich’s shots the way he wants, allowing him to “work the ball both ways whether it’s a draw or a fade.”

Golf courses were one of the few public entities to remain open during the progression of Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 phases, and Rich used that to his benefit over the summer. While he played several rounds of golf on his own, and got a membership to Piney Point Golf Club, he returned to competitive action in early July.

Competing in the Concurrent Dogwood Junior Boys’ Qualifier at Cabarrus Country Club, Rich shot a 77 (+5) and missed the cut by just two strokes. He said that performance pushed him to get better and practice every day. 

Rich followed that with an appearance in the Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship at Pinehurst No. 1 in early August.. He finished tied for 25th in the sectional qualifier, posting round scores of 78 (+6) and 74 (+2).

“We played 6,900 yards in that tournament. In my Sunday round (+6), I actually played better than I did on Monday (+2),” Rich noted. “On Sunday I was even through 12 holes and was hitting the ball really well, but I had five bogies on the last six holes.”

In the coming weeks, Rich will also compete in several more tournaments, which he said is a big help for college recruitment. He plans on playing at Southern Pines Golf Club, as well as the Archdale-Trinity Chamber Junior Open Event (Oct. 3-4) and the Bill Harvey Memorial Junior Tournament.

“The main thing I've noticed these last couple of tournaments is that my short game has improved tremendously,” Rich said. “When you get to a certain point in golf, you need to be able to get up and down when you get in trouble. Around and on the greens I’ve been saving a lot of strokes by having better course management and attacking the pins and making good putts.

“I’ve also matured with my game,” he continued. “I’ve learned to control my temper and stay focused. I know it’s okay to have a bad shot or a bad hole and that I can restart on the next one.”

Calling the game of golf “crazy,” Rich said he’s been pleased with his progress. After making the adjustments with Alpenfels, he’s seen his stroke average drop roughly six shots and is playing scratch golf more consistently.

The fall season, as well as his high school spring season, both carry a lot of weight for the college hopeful. Having been the face of the Raiders’ program since his freshman year, Rich has already started to collect interest from several schools around the state.

Over the summer, Greensboro College, Mars Hill University and Methodist University all reached out to him. He’s also visited Belmont Abbey College and made the trip to Coker University last Friday. He expects to get an offer from Belmont Abbey this week and plans to play a round for Coker in the coming weeks.

Rich is banking on strong performances in the upcoming tournaments to hopefully lure the interest of some bigger programs. He hasn’t decided where he wants to go, but is glad to have several options. He plans to announce his commitment sometime in the spring.

“Right now I’m focused on getting my mind right for school golf. I want to be prepared mentally and physically to play with the guys in the spring,” Rich said.

“I want our team to play well because we have a lot of guys who could play really good golf this year,” he closed. “I want us to finish in the top three in the conference. As a leader, I try to encourage the guys to make good decisions on course, but most of all I want us all to have fun.”

 

A personal goal for Rich is to make the All-Conference team in 2021, as well as return to the 4A regional round for the third time in his career. He made regionals as a freshman and sophomore, but he said the ultimate goal is to qualify for his first 4A state championship.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

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