NORTH CANTON -- The limitation of practicing primarily only putting and chipping shots in practice, for lack of time to play complete rounds, apparently has helped Jon Lenton of the Walsh University golf team to shave about two strokes from his average.
"I might have played only two rounds of practice this semester. I spent about 90 percent of my time chipping and putting," said Lenton, a senior and a Cardinal Mooney High graduate from Boardman. "I have 18 hours [of academic work] this semester, so I don't have a lot of time to practice. Plus, I work part-time here."
Lenton enjoys the top average on the team with 74.3, after averaging 76 last season and 77 his first two years, and led the Cavaliers to a 26-8 record entering the American Mideast Conference/NAIA Region IX Championships last week.
"I'm having my best season," said Lenton, who was All-AMC First Team last year. "I believe that over time I became a smarter player and I am getting a lot more short-game practice."
Will graduate in December
Lenton, who plans to graduate in December, said he attends classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and also works Tuesday and Thursday at Ohio Discount Golf in sales about 15-20 hours a week. And of course he has the intercollegiate competition and the travel time involved.
That busy schedule has reduced his practice time to "basically just a combination of putting and chipping, spending an equal amount of time [on both]."
Lenton's game has been sharp of late and appears to be peaking. He fired 72-70--142 for medalist honors to lead Walsh past Malone (600 to 604) to win the Walsh Invitational.
He came through with a team-best 74-74--148 to lead the Cavaliers to third place at the Mt. Vernon Nazarene Invitational.
Squaw Creek experience
"I believe that I can improve a lot more," said Lenton, who plans to continue honing his skills during the summer months at Squaw Creek Country Club, where he will be working for the fifth straight summer.
He will work from 40-50 hours a week mainly in the pro shop in sales under pro Gregg Matthus, and hopes to practice golf before and after work. His first four summers, he worked as a "bagger" and also in the pro shop.
But this will be only the third summer when he will have full access to playing the golf course.
"They just started allowing college golfers full course and range privileges two years ago. So up until then, I was only able to play on Mondays," said Lenton.
He credits his Squaw Creek experiences for improving his game by "just by being out there and being with better players. They taught me a lot, the mental part of the game, like you can hit the ball but it's more than just hitting the ball. You have to be able to think your way around the course."
He is especially grateful to Matthus for his support and direction.
"He has helped me out. He was my only teacher I've [had] the last two years," said Lenton, who also receives advice and tips from assistant pro Scott Karabin, and fellow employee Shawn Wire, a member of the Youngstown State golf team.
"They are always eager to help us out. They never look at it as a burden. It's something that they enjoy doing."
But there is another reason that Lenton values Squaw Creek.
"I want to be a head golf pro. I'm not interested in being a professional player, but more like a teacher, like something that Matthus is doing," explained Lenton.
"This summer, I will try to pass my Playability Test. It's the first step to be considered a professional. You lose all your amateur status. It's two years under apprenticeship under a class A pro like Matthus, to become a class A pro."
A marketing major with a 2.7 grade-point average (3.3 in business), Lenton is planning to relocate to Phoenix after graduation to launch his career as a golf course professional.
Lenton is the son of Mary Ellen and John Lenton, and has a sister, Chris. Jon's golf coach at Mooney was Bob Banks.
Rounding out the Walsh team, coached by Jeff Young in his seventh season, are sophomore Chris Saltmarsh (75.3 average), freshman Trent Patton (77.6), Mike Helm (78.0), Jeff Hershey (81.5) and Jeremy Bowling (82.0).
The winner of the AMC/NAIA Region IX Championships will qualify for the NAIA national tourney. Last year, Walsh placed second in the AMC, four shots behind Malone; and ranked No. 25 in the nation. Malone won the national title in 2000.