Over the course of the last couple of weeks, Kyle Richardson has taken his share of swings at Fox Meadow and Weymouth Country Clubs.
Not only has the Medina resident been preparing for what will be his professional debut when he steps up to the No. 10 tee box today at the 98th Ohio Open Championship at Weymouth, he’s also just excited to finally be healthy.
Richardson spent most of the winter caddying at Bay Hill and rehabbing an injured left shoulder, instead of making the most of the Florida sun.
“I’m feeling pretty healthy right now, so I should be good to go,” said Richardson, whose only other tournament was the U.S. Open Qualifier in May at the Catawba Island Club. “There will be some nerves, for sure, there always are. It usually takes me 2-3 holes to get settled and then I calm down and start throwing some darts and making some birdies.”
That’s what he did a year ago at the event recording an opening round 4-under-par 68 and was 6-under before finishing the tournament tied for 13th overall. His three-round total of 5-under 211 tied for second among amateurs.
Now, Richardson, 27, will take his first swings as a pro on one of his two home courses. The Columbus-area native lives near the fifth hole at Fox Meadow.
Despite facing a loaded field which includes reigning champ Chase Wilson of Zanesville who went 14-under a year ago to win by two strokes — Richardson is confident he will make a run at the title.
“It’s fun that I will be turning pro here, but it’s still nerve-wracking,” he said. “If I don’t score what I want (today), I’m not going to panic. I’ve shot 64 at Fox before, so I can shoot 64-68 and I can get right back in it and go 65-68 on the last day, if I shoot even the first day.
“I’m looking to win this tournament and go forward from there, that’s the plan. I’m not trying to get second or anywhere below. I’m going out there to win.”
Richardson was one of five locals to make the cut last summer. Medina’s Pete Skirpstas, who had the area’s best finish tying for seventh, is not registered for this year’s tourney, but Medina resident Patrick Luth and Westfield Center’s Ben Smith will be playing.
Luth tied for 30th in 2017 with a 215, while Smith placed 56th after carding a 221.
A 2013 Medina graduate and former Cleveland State standout, Luth was inconsistent a year ago with a six-birdie final round and ended 1-over for the day to finish in a seven-way tie for 30th.
“I was fighting my swing really, really bad,” Luth said. “It was just a roller-coaster ride and that’s how the whole tournament went for me. I couldn’t get any momentum going. If I made a birdie, I would bogey the next hole.
“It was tough. It was very frustrating, but there was a lot of stuff to build off of.”
Since then, Luth has been working with a new swing coach, Mike Emory of Canton Brookside, and will be heading off to Q-school at the end of August in pursuit of his dream of turning pro.
“It’s definitely coming along,” he said. “I’ve been really consistent the last couple of weeks with it, hitting it really well, scoring the ball pretty well, so I’m feeling pretty good going into (today).”
Luth is no stranger to being in the hunt at the Ohio Open as he finished in a tie for sixth overall in 2016 when the event was played at Westfield Group Country Club.
That experience, combined with the numerous rounds he’s played at Weymouth and Fox Meadow, have him thinking he could end near the top of the leaderboard once again.
“With how I’ve been playing, I’m making a lot of birdies right now and I feel like my game is good enough that I can go out and win this golf tournament,” Luth said. “It’s just going to come down to where my misses end up being ... I mean, golf is a game of misses. You’re going to miss golf shots and you just have to manage those misses.”
Smith, a former standout at Carrollton High and Malone University, has advanced to the finals in each of the last five years — including a top-five finish in the 2015 event at Westfield.
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