SJ Sports: In Full Swing

by SJ Sports Club-Marc Narducci | Aug 5, 2002
SJ Sports: In Full Swing Ryan Jordan has been a dominant force this spring in high school golf. It turns out that the Shawnee junior hasn't been too bad against much older competition as well.

In addition to starring for the Renegades' golf team, Jordan has more than held his own while competing in match play against some of the top golfers in the area. Jordan was invited to play for Tavistock Country Club during the Philadelphia Golf Association Inter-club matches. He certainly wasn't overwhelmed at the prospect of playing against some golfers who were more than twice his age. Tavistock finished second in its four-team pool. Jordan fared even better. He won each of his three matches. There were a total of 12 players from each golf club, six who played at home matches and six to compete at away matches. Points are awarded for such accomplishments as winning the front nine, winning the back nine, and capturing various holes, along with the top 18-hole score.

In his first inter-club match at home against Merion, Jordan beat his opponent by 5.5 points, a high total. He shot a 2-over-par 73. The next match, which was played in Philadelphia, Jordan shot a 74 and was 3.5 points ahead of his opponent. Then in his final match play back at Tavistock against Yardley, he shot 78, won the back nine and the 18 hole total and came out 1.5 points ahead. "I like match play a lot," Jordan said. "It's not something you get to play every day, but it favors somebody who has a mental edge."

He wasn't exactly new to the golf course at Tavistock, although it had been quite some time since he had played there. Jordan used to be a member when he was 12-years-old. In fact when he was younger, he won the five-hole and nine-hole Junior Open at Tavistock. "I really like the course and the reason I didn't remain a member was because it was about 35 minutes from my home while the Medford Lakes Golf Course is a half mile down the road," he said. "It felt great to get back to Tavistock and play." Before the tournaments began, Jordan went to shoot a practice round at Tavistock, which he said was highly beneficial. Then when the competition began, it didn't take Jordan long to impress his teammates at Tavistock.

"I can't say there are a whole lot of high school kids with the ability to play on a top tier golf association team," said Len Fox Jr., a member of the Tavistock team. "Ryan is a great ball striker and a fine young player. He seems to have all the ingredients to play this game well." Fox should know a good young golfer when he sees one. He began playing inter-club golf at the age of 14 when he was a scratch golfer. A 1978 graduate of Cherry Hill East, Fox later golfed in college for East Carolina and then Rutgers. "I know from playing in these inter-club matches that it's a great confidence booster," said Fox, who is now a senior vice president financial advisor for Morgan Stanley. "Something like this is really going to help Ryan."

Jordan, who says he has a one handicap, has been amazingly consistent this high school season. The highlight of his junior season came when he won the Meet of Champions by winning a sudden death playoff after shooting a one over par 72 at the Rumson Country Club. "It was an awesome experience," Jordan said. "You never know if you will get this opportunity again, so I felt I had to take advantage of it." Jordan, who shot an 83 at the Meet of Champions as a freshman and didn't qualify last year, has put hours of practice into making himself, at least for one day, the best player in the state.

"He's really made himself into a player," said Shawnee coach Bob Thorpe. "Ryan has worked so hard to get where he is and has improved so much over the past year." Jordan admits that his confidence got an extra jolt this summer when he won the club championship at Galloway National. He overcame a huge obstacle in the semifinals, beating two-time defending champion Tony LePre. The previous year, LePre had beaten Jordan on the last hole in the championship. "Winning this summer convinced me I could compete with these guys and that I wasn't a little kid anymore," Jordan said. "It was such a great thrill winning that championship."

Jordan has been used to competing against older golfers for almost as long as he has been playing. "I've always been brought up playing with adults, many of my dad's friends," he said. "I think I've benefited from that." Even though he has one year of high school remaining, Jordan has begun shaping up his college plans. He would like to play golf in college and attend a school that has a strong Pro Golf Management Program. "I love the sport and would love to work in the field," he said. "Plus I'm really looking forward to playing in college."

Thorpe said that college coaches should be advised to take a close look at Jordan. Most of college recruiting is done at high profile summer tournaments. Golfers, like all young athletes tend to improve, which is what Thorpe is trying to emphasize about Jordan. "At the beginning of last summer he wasn't where he is now," Thorpe said. "Ryan has become a very special individual and I'm sure that colleges would be impressed at how much his game has improved."

Jordan refuses to get complacent. He realizes that winning the Meet of Champions, the club title at Galloway and competing well in the inter-club matches are good steppingstones, but there is much more to accomplish in a sport that is as mentally draining as any out there. "The key is to keep working hard," Jordan said. "I love the game and love practicing and I welcome the chance to keep improving."

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Author: SJ Sports Club-Marc Narducci


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