By Jeff Nations
It's been several years since Ryan Rettberg and Zack Henry teamed up as a formidable duo for Skyline High School's golf team.
They may not be teammates anymore, but that doesn't mean Rettberg and Henry have stopped working together to improve their golf games.
Case in point -- heading into today's first round of the State Open of Virginia at Independence Golf Club in Midlothian, the former high school teammates were working out together daily as they prepared to enter competition.
"We're in the gym now," Rettberg said during a phone interview on Tuesday night. "We've been working out to go down and play in all these tournaments together. I think it's good for both of us to have each other to push."
They won't be playing together; Rettberg has the early 7:30 a.m. tee time from the No. 1 hole at Independence, and Henry is slated to start at the No. 10 hole at 7:39 a.m.
"We'll meet up afterward and go get some lunch," Rettberg said of today's plans.
Neither Rettberg nor Henry is unfamiliar with the State Open. Rettberg will be playing in the tournament for the fifth time, and Henry will be teeing off for the fourth time. And since the State Open is being played at Independence for the seventh straight year, both are quite familiar with the course layout.
"It's really pretty straightforward," said Rettberg, who will be entering his senior season as a collegiate golf player at Radford University in the fall. "If you drive the ball well and get it on the green, it's really just a putting contest."
Henry, a student at James Madison who is hoping a strong summer might lead to a tryout with his school's golf team, thinks Rettberg might have oversimplified a bit with his assessment of the 18-hole, Tom Fazio-designed championship course.
"There's a little bit more to it," Henry said. "You've got to really control the ball position on the green. The greens are pretty fast, and you have to position it to make a putt. You have to find a game plan that works for you."
Henry has been working on just that -- finding a workable game plan -- this summer. Since switching to a new coach, Raspberry Falls Golf & Hunt Club teaching professional Patrick McGuire, and seeing a sports psychologist to sharpen his mental game, Henry has been feeling more and more confident on the course.
There have been setbacks -- during the Virginia State Amateur at The Homestead (Cascades) in Hot Springs two weeks ago, Henry had a miserable opening round. He fired an 18-over-par 88, in his estimation the worst round he's ever had. Henry suspected he had failed to trust his routine, and called his sports psychologist to talk about it.
"I called him and he asked what I shot, and I told him 88," Henry said. "And he said, 'That's great. Now you'll know to trust yourself and you won't do that again.'"
On the second day of play, Henry rebounded with a 2-under-68, one of the best single rounds of the tournament.
"The second day, I trusted that routine," Henry said. "Once I committed to it, it was just effortless. I think it was an important lesson."
Rettberg also played in the Virginia State Amateur, missing the cut by three strokes with a two-round total of 152.
"I felt like I definitely had the game to make match play (the final three days)," Rettberg said. "I just made some silly decisions down the stretch and it cost me."
Both Rettberg and Henry qualified for both the State Amateur and the State Open with solid performances at a May 29 qualifier at Raspberry Falls. Rettberg, who has two years of college eligibility remaining, tied for low-medalist honors with a 70. Henry, a rising junior at JMU, fired a 74 to qualify.
As for the bright-and-early tee times, Rettberg said he'll be up and ready to play.
"I like that a lot, actually," Rettberg said. "Being in the first group going off is good. The greens usually get spiked up a little bit as the day goes on, so it should be an advantage."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>