Jack Kennedy had a sophomore season to savor on the golf course — medalist at the Mississippi Athletic Conference tournament and a top-20 finish at the Class 4A state meet.

His junior season was one he'd like to erase.

Kennedy barely cracked the top 20 at the MAC meet, had a season scoring average just over 80 and failed to break 85 in two rounds at the state meet.

"Golf is a humbling sport," the Pleasant Valley senior said. "You can be on all sorts of highs and lows, and last year was certainly one of the lowest points at the end of the state meet.

"I was so disappointed in myself."

Kennedy is eager to prove last year was an aberration, starting with today's season-opening Muscatine Invitational at Geneva Golf & Country Club.

He spent considerable time this winter with instructor Bryan Haas, the director of golf at Blue Top Ridge Golf Course in Riverside, Iowa. 

It led to a successful spring and summer season, finishing inside the top five in six junior and amateur events.

Kennedy won the Davenport Country Club men's club championship and was among the top 20 in a AJGA event in St. Louis in June, one that attracts the top juniors in the country.

More than where he finished on the leaderboard, Kennedy established confidence and consistency in his game. He had only one competitive round in the 80s and had a string of 10 consecutive sub-75 rounds.

"I've always been a decent player, but I wanted to get to that next level where Division I coaches would want me," Kennedy said.

That has happened.

Kennedy committed to Drake University earlier this summer for the 2015 season.

"I felt like I was wanted at Drake," Kennedy said. "With just eight guys on the team, I feel I can come in as a freshman and have a pretty good chance to make an impact.

"Plus, the Zach Johnson name (PGA Tour player's alma mater), the Wakonda Club, the new indoor facility they're building and being close to home was a big draw."

Kennedy has been playing golf for about 10 years since his family moved from Washington, D.C.

Influenced by his grandfather and Davenport Country Club professionals John Panek and Josh Carter, Kennedy became involved in the junior program.

"They really sparked my interest," Kennedy said. 

By his freshman year, where he was on PV's varsity squad, it became a passion and something he wanted to continue beyond high school.

Kennedy gave up basketball to focus on golf and the family even added a 10- to 15-foot putting green in its basement.

"Jack is a kid that really works hard at it and really believes in himself," PV coach Ron VenHorst said. "He plays more than about anybody I know."

And after last year's results, Kennedy is motivated for redemption.

"He feels the sting after last year," VenHorst said. "He didn't play as well as he'd like and he was overshadowed by some of our other guys (Erron Vandemore and Marshal Lamb)."

Kennedy attributes his struggles last year to burnout and having the wrong mental approach on the course. He played more than 15 summer tournaments between his sophomore and junior season.

"I was worn out and sick of it by the end of the season," he said.

He also felt added pressure of producing low rounds after the Spartans graduated three starters from a fifth-place state squad his sophomore year.

"We had so many leaders on the team and I was just the young guy," he said. "Last year, I tried to force things and didn't play my own game."

Kennedy's game is plotting his way around the course and making pars. He said his wedge game has vastly improved since last fall.

"He's very deliberate on the golf course, thinks his way through and doesn't make any irrational decisions," VenHorst said. "He does his homework and is prepared for every course that we play."

With Vandemore and Lamb playing golf at Dayton and Northern Iowa, respectively, Kennedy is expected to anchor the Spartans.

"Coming off a real disappointing high school season, it was like, 'Wow, I've got to really show up this year and show I'm one of the better players in the state,'" Kennedy said. "It is a big motivator.

"I want to prove last year was a fluke."

(1) comment

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