For most people, golf is played once a week, with a group of friends and minimal warmups. Saturdays or Sundays in the summer are reserved for tee times, wayward drives, and a few laughs. For WGACSF Alumnus Ryan Rodriguez, golf is far more than a weekend hobby. In fact, quite literally, golf is his life.
Related: Ryan’s Instagram
At the age of two, Rodriguez, who was born in the Bronx, moved to the Hudson Valley. His dad, a former baseball player, set up shop next to Central Valley Golf Course, now Falkirk Golf Club. It’s there that Rodriguez first remembers learning about the game. As time went on, Ryan went from casual observer to cautious participant, to asking his dad about golfing in tournaments. Shortly after the turned 10-years old, that’s exactly what Rodriguez was doing.
“I remember driving all over for golf tournaments and my dad was so supportive,” said Rodriguez. “He was the one driving me and he would try to caddie for me as much as possible too.”
Rodriguez’s competitive nature led him to compete in many tournaments and he wasn’t just another name on the tee sheet, he was usually towards the top of the leaderboard. In 2013, he won the MGA/MetLife Boy’s Championship at Bedford Golf and Tennis Club. In 2014, he represented the MGA in the Williamson Cup as the team finished second in the annual junior competition. While competitive nature fueled Rodriguez in tournaments, what attracted him to golf was the creativity and nuance of the game.
“I would consider myself a creative person by nature,” said Rodriguez. “I love to edit videos and take pictures and just be an artist. Golf is the perfect blend of athletics and art. I was never going to be big or fast enough to play basketball or football at a high level, but in golf you still have to be athletic, you just also have to be very creative.”
Recently, Rodriguez has started to blend his love for art and golf. He regularly takes pictures and videos and maintains an Instagram page where he can showcase his work. He will often document his day and time on the golf course through short videos and pictures.
His focus, however, still lies primarily on golf. During the winters, he is based in Jupiter, Florida, where he practices, works and plays in minor league golf tournaments. Back in the Met Area, once the weather is warm, you can find Rodriguez at Glen Arbor.
“This past season I was working outside on the grounds crew,” said Rodriguez. “Glen Arbor is so amazing because when I’m not working, I’m just treated like a member and I can practice whenever I want, which is a huge benefit for me.”
Not only can Rodriguez take advantage of practicing his game at Glen Arbor, but he can also practice under his mentor and coach, Rob Labritz. Labritz, who recently secured his card for the Champions Tour, is one of the better-known PGA Professionals in the Met Area. He is also a friend and mentor to Rodriguez.
“In college I wanted to take my game to the next level,” said Rodriguez. “So my friend, Christian Cavaliere, told me to reach out to Rob. He was immediately willing to help and it was a great fit from the beginning. He’s much more of a friend than a coach to me, I can always call or text him for advice.”
With the mentorship of Labritz, Rodriguez was able to take his game to the next level. He said his college career wasn’t what he expected it to be results wise, but strong self-belief led him to continue the path to becoming a professional golfer. Still, that goal is a tough one to realize and takes a certain level of dedication, determination, and structure that not everyone possesses. Rodriguez says that isn’t the case for him.
“I really love golf, so spending the time to get better was never an issue,” said Rodriguez. “What is difficult is learning to manage that time and breaking down your day into sections so you can focus on every aspect of the game and keep it sharp. You have to do that at the professional level.”
Rodriguez explained his current routine starts by writing out what he wants to achieve at the beginning of every week.
“Right now my focus is on chipping and putting, but I’m also focused on putting on some weight and gaining some strength. I construct my week around a few things and really try to stick to that schedule.”
While his focus remains on improving his game in every aspect, Rodriguez talked about reflecting on how he got his opportunity and being grateful to be on the journey he is on. A big part of that, he says, was the support of the WGACSF.
“When you’re saving for college, any amount is critical,” he explained. “I was very grateful for the opportunity and I’m really happy to be a part of the alumni network because it’s a really great group.”
For Rodriguez, the journey has just begun. He continues to grind every day and his organized approach to improvement will certainly serve him well over the coming years. While his major goal in the next few years is to get on a pro tour, Rodriguez also doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.
“In my experience the future can change so quickly, it’s so malleable. So for me, I break it down on a week to week basis. If I’m getting better every week, putting my best foot forward and staying in the moment, then I know good things will happen.”
For Rodriguez, the journey is about becoming the best golfer he can be. However, maybe more importantly, it’s about character development and becoming the best person he can be.