Lehigh sophomore golfer Ryan Kelly poses in Taylor Gym on March 5. Last year, Kelly was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Year, received all-league honors and tied for fifth at the Patriot League Championship. (Alexis McGowan/ B&W Staff)

Sophomore golfer Ryan Kelly looks to improve upon successful rookie season

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Sophomore Ryan Kelly hasn’t let lack of experience keep him from becoming a top contributor to the Lehigh men’s golf team.

In his freshman season, he was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Year, earned a spot on the first team all-league and tied for fifth at the Patriot League Championship.

Kelly was recruited from Archbishop Spalding High School in Annapolis, Maryland, where he was crowned the 2015 Washington Metropolitan Golf Association junior player of the year and the 2016 Maryland junior amateur champion. He was captain of his high school golf team and hails as the all-time lowest scorer in Archbishop Spalding history.

Kelly’s early accomplishments have helped him grow into a successful member and leader of the Lehigh men’s golf team.

While he was able to rake in several accolades last season, he wasn’t fully satisfied with his performance and said he didn’t go into the Patriot League Championship with enough momentum.

This season, Kelly is focusing on his approach to the game by perfecting his swing, strengthening his mentality and improving his consistency to reach new heights in the championship.

“Our No. 1 priority as a team is the Patriot League Championship at Saucon Valley (Country Club),” Kelly said. “So, that’s also my focus individually. I want to play well this spring, contend in a few tournaments — both individually and as a team — and build toward the Patriot League Championship.”

Kelly is well on his way to a league title. He has already built a reputation for himself on the team, and his teammates applaud him for the competitive spirit that sets him apart from the rest of the Mountain Hawks.

“He’s an absolute competitor, always a grinder,” sophomore Owen Quinn said. “You can’t teach his mentality. He really brings a spark that helps us out as a team.”

Assistant coach Joe Zelechoski also praised Kelly’s putting ability and said he’s a “natural on the green.”

Zelechoski said the key to Kelly’s success is that he doesn’t focus too much on the mechanics of his game, which can mess up golfers of his age.

“It really separates him from the competition,” Zelechoski said. “He never thinks he is going to miss a put.”

Zelechoski said it’s a joy to coach Kelly, especially because of his personality, character and sense of humor.

Kelly’s coaches and teammates have high expectations for his second year at Lehigh.

Quinn and Zelechoski agreed Kelly will have the chance to build off of his impressive rookie season and win a tournament individually.

“It’s just a matter of time before Ryan is a medalist at the tournament, which means he’s the lowest man of the entire field,” Zelechoski said. “In the spring, I expect him to finish in the top five in at least a few tournaments. If he plays as well as he can play, it’s going to be hard to beat him.”

Kelly will have a few more chances this season to improve his game before competing for a league title at the Patriot League Championship hosted by Lehigh at Saucon Valley Country Club on April 28-29.

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