By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Anyone who has ever swung a club will tell you there isn’t a more difficult sport to master than golf.
Ben Ramsey knows those feelings all too well.
“A lot of people don’t realize it and it doesn’t get enough credit for it than it does,” Ramsey said. “It is extremely fun when you are playing good, but when you are playing bad, it can be an ugly feeling in your body.”
Ramsey has experienced both as a member of the Graham golf team.
Two years ago, Ramsey and Zach Toohey were sophomores on the G-Men golf team that advanced to the Group A state tournament, finishing in third after falling in a playoff for second place.
One year ago, Ramsey shot an 83 in the Region C tournament, and the G-Men — which didn’t lose a match all season in the Mountain Empire District — finished sixth and stayed home.
There are times when that popular golf adage — a bad day of golf is better than a good day at work — really isn’t true. Not even close.
“I feel a lot better prepared. I am really emphasizing last year at regions was a really big letdown for me personally, and I just let that make me strive to get better every single day that I practice,” Ramsey said. “I try and practice a ton and it has helped out a lot.”
That drive to succeed paid off for Ramsey, who won the Region 2A-West individual medalist title by defeating Virginia Tech-bound Amanda Hollandsworth of Floyd County in a playoff on Oct. 3.
More importantly, improving from an 83 to a 72 helped Graham qualify for the Group 2A state golf tournament slated to be played on Monday and Tuesday at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club in Front Royal, Va.
Ramsey has been focused on this particular goal since last October, and he has proven the doubters wrong.
“It tells me you don’t really have to be the most athletic, you don’t have the best,” Ramsey said. “If you work at it and have a lot of dedication, you can succeed.”
How far has Ramsey come? Just ask fellow senior Jacob Britton, who is also on the Graham golf team, but no longer gets the best of his friend.
“When we used to play back in the day, we used to beat him around a little bit,” said Britton, with a smile. “Then he puts all the work in and he came out on top in the end.”
Now Ramsey wants to help the G -Men come out on top in the revamped format that will include four teams and 36 total players, compared to eight teams and 72 participants that were included before this year’s VHSL realignment.
“We have a lot better chance to win and compete, which is a lot better ego-friendly,” Ramsey said. “You are really just wanting to have fun, you go out there and it is like a shootout. You go and play two rounds and it is over.”
Those other teams include Floyd County, and 2-A West qualifiers Buffalo Gap and Stonewall Jackson. Twelve individuals not on those teams will also be striving for the individual title, including the Richlands duo of Zach Luttrell and Dylan Sawyers.
“If we play well we can compete and we will just see how it falls,” Ramsey said. “I looked at it the other day, there are 35 individuals between someone like myself and a state championship so 35 people will get you in the top rather than 72 in the field a couple of years ago so it far better.”
While Ramsey was thrilled to improve his own game, watching his fellow G-Men — Toohey, Britton, William McGuire, Austin Boyce, Travis Simms and Dakota Jones — do what it took to move on, he is more excited about having an chance to compete for the team title.
“It is a great feeling going as a team because we all go and I am not up here by myself trying to practice,” said Ramsey, before a practice round after school on Wednesday. “We are all up here having fun.”
The Graham golf team — which didn’t lose an MED match this year either — left Saturday for Front Royal, which is about a 45-minute drive from Washington, D.C. They will get in a practice round today, work around the greens and get ready for two days to a championship.
“You don’t really want to over-think things, if you over-think it you are just not going to be able to play well,” Ramsey said. “You have so much on your mind, you just want to get a general feel for what the course is like, how the fairways react, the greens react, really just an overlook of the course and just try not to get too caught up in everything...
“We are going to play a practice round. I have done this a lot playing junior tournaments, you go and play one practice round and get a feel for the course.”
Ramsey, who shot 78 and 83 in the 2011 state tourney, expects better results this season. Toohey was there in Harrisonsburg that year as well, and he earned all-state honors, firing a 73 and 74 in Harrisonsburg.
Ramsey feels like the G-Men will have as much of a chance for success as anyone else.
“It was a lot harder to get there, but we have so much of a better shot to get close to a state championship and compete,” Ramsey said. “I haven’t really kept up with the other teams’ scores from the East, but I feel like we can really compete with Floyd County.”
Don’t look for Ramsey to feel the pressure of the moment. The team is important, but all he can do is shoot the best he can, and have confidence that his teammates will do the same.
“When I go out there I just try and worry about myself because that is the only thing I can affect,” Ramsey said. “You just have to worry about yourself, if you get too caught up in the team you not going to play good.
“You just worry about yourself. The team is more important to me, but as an individual you are more worried about yourself and your own game when you are out here playing.”
Up next after what Ramsey hopes is a state championship to preparing for a future on a college golf team. Big dreams for a guy who used to get ‘beat around a little bit’ by his friends.
Those days are over.
“I want to play college golf,” he said. “I don’t really know where I want to go, I just want to find a good place where I feel at home. Before in the past I haven’t really shown a lot of talent I guess you could say, but this summer I peaked, I guess you could say I was a late bloomer.
“Where colleges have not really contacted me, I feel like I am at a skill level where I can compete at a lot higher level than what I thought. I feel like I can get into a good school and play golf too.”
Note: A feature on the Graham golf team will appear in Monday’s Daily Telegraph.
Brian Woodson is sports editor of the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at bwoodson@ bdtonline.com.