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Elizabethtown coach Andy Games always knew Ryan Harris had the potential to be a special player. But Games had to wait for the mental part of the game to catch up with Harris’ physical abilities.
Harris emerged last season for the Panthers, helping them to the 5th Region championship by firing a 78 at Lindsey Golf Course. He turned in two solid rounds, carding an 82 and 83 during the state tournament to finish tied for 61st as Elizabethtown placed sixth.
As good as Harris was down the stretch, Games is expecting even more from him this season. The Panthers graduated Ian Black and Ben Banks, so Harris and junior Kyle Jury are the unquestioned leaders of this year’s team.
While Harris spent plenty of time during the offseason working on his game and playing on different tours, Games said the biggest gains Harris made was with the mental side of the game.
“Ryan really has a better mentality this season,” Games said. “He’s more confident and you can tell in the way he plays. That’s what I’m seeing from him.
“He’s always been a talented player,” he added. “You can never tell how Kyle is playing by just looking at him. He just finds a way to grind it out and get the ball in the hole. Ryan has that type of mentality now.”
It’s showing with what Harris has done this season. In Harris’ seven 18-hole rounds, he has fired a 79 or better. His best round was a 76 to finish 21st in the Kearney Hill Classic. He had back-to-back 77s in the Franklin County Flyer Classic to place 19th.
Harris had a 77 in the Boyle County Rebel Challenge and 79s in the Bowling Green Invitational Tournament, Bullitt East Charge Open and the Kentucky Invitational Tournament. He also leads in the Hardin County Cup with a 73 after rounds of 37 and 36.
Prior to the high school season, Harris won the boys’ open division of the Pepsi Junior Golf Tour’s Tournament of Champions. It was a convincing 18-shot victory as he had 3-under 69 on the final day.
“I feel like I’m hitting the top of my performance right now,” Harris said. “That 69 was a big confidence builder and it showed me what I was capable of. I feel like I’m starting to peak at the right moment.”
Games said he’s been impressed with Harris’ consistent play this season.
“We’ve joked with him about being Mr. 77,” Games said. “The consistency he’s shown this season has been great. That’s great to have.”
Harris has come so far during his four years, according to Games. As a freshman, he had a 97 in the region tournament at Lincoln Trail Country Club. Games said there’s a reason Harris has improved so much.
“He has worked so hard,” Games said. “To think where he was three years ago, it shows that hard work pays off. He has worked really hard, getting lessons and just playing. He’s proof that if you work hard it will eventually pay off.”
While Games credits the mental part of his game for the big jump, Harris said he spent time during the offseason adjusting aspects of his game.
“I’ve been working on my swing,” Harris said. “I’ve been working on my short game. I’ve been hitting the ball well off the tee. But I’ve really worked on my irons and putter. That’s brought my score down a lot.”
Although Harris has been the model of consistency this season, Games believes Harris is going to take the next step during the final weeks of the season.
“I feel like Ryan’s ready to walk through that door,” Games said. “He’s capable of firing a 72 or lower. He’s right there on the doorstep. He’s really matured a lot this season. He’s playing good, but I feel he’s capable of going even lower. He’s ready to go through that door.”
Chuck Jones can be reached at 270-505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.