When I was 10 years old, all I knew of golf was that it was the reason I wasn’t allowed to watch cartoons on Sunday afternoons.
Apparently, Josh Ryan, a 10-year-old from Norristown, doesn’t have the same problem. That’s because, weather permitting, Josh spends his weekends on the course honing his skills.
This Sunday, cartoons will be the last thing on his mind when he steps on to the lush green grass of Augusta National to compete in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championships.
Competing in the 10 and 11-year-old bracket, Josh is one of 88 players that qualified out of a group that originally numbered in the hundreds of thousands. He finished in the top-13 recently at the U.S. Kids Golf World Championships at Pinehurst and recently joined the Phildelphia Junior PGA Tour.
How did he get so good? Practice, and some help from his older brother, Caleb, 13, who first introduced Josh to the game at the age of … two.
“My older brother, Caleb, played golf and I wanted to play with him,” Josh says. “I liked going to his tournaments and playing with him at Woody’s Chip and Putt.”
If you think he was too young, consider this: One of his first words was “Tiger.”
“We thought he was talking about the animal, maybe he was referring to Tigger,” his mom, Michelle Ryan explains. “Nope, he was talking about Tiger Woods.”
Woods, who recently withdrew from the Masters, is one of the youth’s favorite players, but he also likes a pair of lefties, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.
None of those names are surprising for a young golfer, but he is also a fan of the game’s history, adding that Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are among his favorite players.
“If I could play golf with someone, it would be Jack Nicklaus,” Josh says. “I think he is the greatest player who ever played.”
Playing from the junior tees, Josh hits the ball about 190 yards with his driver, which he says is his strongest individual skill. But to be so young, and already have shot low scores of 36 (nine holes) and 74 (18 holes), the rest of his game has to be pretty good as well.
He says his approach shots are his greatest weakness, but thinks putting is the most important aspect when it comes to scoring well. Both those skills will be crucial if he hopes to achieve his dream of being a pro golfer.
“I want to be a professional golfer [when I grow up],” he says. “I hope to play on the Web.com Tour and then get my PGA Tour card.”
It appears Josh well on his way, and he’ll get his first chance to shine on national television, when the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship airs on Golf Channel on Sunday morning.
To help get him comfortable with being on camera, and to give the area a preview of what they can expect on Sunday, we decided to put Josh to the test.
Earlier this week, out at Linfield National Golf Club, we had him take part in a friendly competition against our own Pat Gallen, a self-proclaimed “hacker” that usually shoots somewhere in the 90s. We had them compete in a long-drive, chipping, and putting contest, and then sent them out to the course for a three-hole match.
The results, well, shouldn’t be surprising at this point. He is, after all, playing at Augusta on Sunday, while Pat and the rest of us are watching cartoons in our pajamas.
The Drive, Chip and Putt Championship will air on the Golf Channel starting at 8 a.m. Sunday morning.