Golfing in New Hampshire

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, July 15, 2012

When Brookhaven’s Jacob Ross tees off Monday in the U.S. Junior Amateur, he will find himself in elite company. Ross will be competing against the top junior golfers from across America at Golf Club of New England at Statham, N.H.

     There will be two rounds of medal play, followed by four rounds of match play. Ross qualified for the Junior Am by winning a qualifier tournament at the Fallen Oak Golf Club in Saucier. He had a 2-round total of 71-73-144 to earn medalist honors.

     Fallen Oak is a demanding course. Like the Golf Club of New England course, it is long and requires pin-point accuracy.

     Ross, standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 195 pounds, has a fluid swing and a strong work ethic. His mother, Elizabeth, and father, PGA Professional Ronny Ross, have provided plenty of encouragement and instruction.

     He has made a verbal commitment to sign a golf scholarship with Ole Miss this fall.

     Ross, a rising senior at Brookhaven Academy, led the Cougars to the MAIS Class AA State Tournament championship this spring. Classmate Jake Shelby served as his caddy during the Junior Am qualifier.

     In early June, Ross made a strong showing at the Mississippi State Amateur at The Reunion Golf Club. He finished 12th. He shot an opening round 71 and was among the leaders.

     “My dream is to play pro golf some day,” said Ross. He relies on Titleist woods and irons. He used a mallet-head RIFE putter.

     Asked about his game, Ross said, “My ball striking has come a long way. I am starting to put it in the right place on the course.”

     He acknowledged the mental side of golf. “The mental part has helped me a lot. I stay positive and focused.”

     Jacob’s father, Ronny Ross is his main instructor. Occasionally, they seek additional instruction from Rob Noel, who runs a golf academy at the Money Hill Golf Club in Abita Springs, La.

     “I take Jacob down there a couple of times in the year to get filmed and look at all his swing angles and do some tweaks,” said Ross. “He needs to hear from other people.”

     Asked to describe his son’s skills, Ronny said, “Jacob’s game is solid. His wedge play from 100 to 140 yards is really, really strong.”

     He was a member of BA’s varsity golf team in elementary school and steadily improved his skills.

     “When we started going over the mental part of the game, Jacob’s average scores became 74s and 75s and his good scores became 65s and 66s,” Ronny noted. “The mental part of the game is a huge part of it.”

     Ross wasn’t born with a putter in his hand but his father kept him close to the sport at an early age.      “Jacob went to work with me when he was three or four years old,” said Ronny. “He really didn’t start playing until he was about 8 years old.

     “Jacob is even better kid than he is a golfer,” his dad noted. “That makes me proud.”

     Jacob’s 13-year-old sister, Olivia, dabbles in golf. Their mother doesn’t play the game.

     The Brookhaven Golf Association, hosted a scramble tournament Thursday at the Brookhaven Country Club to serve as a fundraiser for Jacob’s journey, plus his week-long lodging in the Granite State. A BFA silent auction also helped raise support.

     “I want to thank all of the Brookhaven Golf Association members, especially Jeff Henning, for showing their support for Jacob,” said Ronny. “The money is nice but it’s more important to have that support and encouragement.”

     Notable participants in previous Junior Amateur Championships include Tiger Woods, Ben Crenshaw, David Duval, Jim Furyk, Lee Janzen, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Davis Love and Billy Mayfair.

     Among this week’s entrants is 17-year old Californian Beau Hossler who briefly led the U.S. Open last month at the Olympic Club near San Francisco. He also competed on a sponsor’s exemption at the PGA Tour’s AT&T National at  Congressional Country Club in Washington, D.C.

     Also competing at the U.S. Junior Am is 14-year-old Andy Zhang, the youngest ever to compete in the national championship. Both Hossler and Zhang got major television exposure on the NBC broadcasts of the U.S. Open.

     The Golf Club of New England is a throwback to the golf games of yore. It is an Arnold Palmer designed course situated on 450 acres of beautiful farm land. Nature is embraced, not conquered. Old stone  walls, fields with giant oak trees and tranquil flowing streams.

     The course is more than 7,500 yards long. It is a blend of lush fairways, greens and natural waterways. This course will challenge but not discourage golfers. They can test their distance and accuracy from the intimidating back tees to tight landing areas.