JFK golfer qualifies for national tourney

With all of the success that the John F. Kennedy boys golf program has had over the years, followers don’t throw out comparisons to Jason Kokrak and Boo Timko lightly.

Coach Jim St. George isn’t afraid to compare sophomore Ryan Fowler to both former Kennedy greats, however, and based on this summer’s results for the 15-year-old Eagle, it’s not too hard to see why.

Last Thursday, Fowler won a three-man, six-hole playoff at the United States Golf Association Junior qualifier at Hudson Country Club to qualify for the USGA Junior Amateur Championship later this month.

This added to an already stellar summer, including his third-place finish against a field of 194 at the Ohio Junior Golf Championship at Oasis Golf Club in the Cincinnati-suburb of Loveland. Fowler also qualified for the Ohio Amateur Championship, which occurs next Monday through Friday at Brookside Country Club in Canton.

“Being that he was a sophomore last year, he’s got a lot of good experience, and he’s on as good a pace as Boo Timko was and (Jason) Kokrak was at Kennedy,” St. George said. “His dad puts him on a heck of a schedule, more than anybody by far, but he’s delivering. He’s breaking through and doing real well.”

In terms of qualifying for the national tournament, Fowler went up against 49 other players and shot a 3-under par to force the playoff before taking control. It gave him a top-two finish.

“I was happy that I got to go because only the top two people out of the whole field got to go,” Fowler said.

Finishing under par is a big theme for Fowler this summer. Not only did he finish 3-under at the USGA qualifier but also at the Ohio Junior Championship, which lasted only one round due to the weather.

Last season for the Eagles, Fowler averaged around 74, and according to St. George, Fowler has averaged a 72 over the summer and has posted multiple scores under par. He said that once a player breaks through the par barrier the first time, it occurs more and more often.

“He’s seemed to broken through and broken par, which he needed to do,” St. George said. “Once you break par, it’s just that much easier to break it a lot more. That’s what he needs to do to get to nationals.”

While his drives have increased in distance, one of the biggest reasons for Fowler’s success and improvement this summer has come in his short game.

He has worked on chipping and putting during the offseason, according to both St. George and Fowler, and Fowler said he’s put more of an emphasis on his chipping because he doesn’t want to take a chance on putting.

One outcome of his practice at chipping came in the Ohio Junior Championship. Fowler chipped in two balls to keep himself from needing to putt on the greens.

“In Cincinnati, I chipped in on holes 1 and 18 – No. 1 I chipped in for par and No. 18 for birdie,” Fowler said. “Chipping more in means less putts. I’d rather not putt. You just never know if you’ll make or miss. You have to have that confidence to make it.”

The big tournament for him will be the USGA Junior Amateur Championship on July 22-27 at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif. Fowler said he didn’t know anything about this course, nor does he know anyone who does.

That, coupled with the fact that this is his first time qualifying for the tournament, should make him nervous, but Fowler said that he’s not anxious about playing against the best in the nation.

“Nah. I mean, it’s just like any other golf tournament,” Fowler said. “I’ve played in them since I was 6 years old.”