SANDESTIN, Fla. – A little confidence goes a long way. In fact, for Noah Ratner, it’s still going.
After a victory last week at the Gordin Division III NCAA Preview – his first collegiate win – Ratner picked up where he left off Sunday, putting his Guilford Quakers on top of the Golfweek Fall Invitational after a 66 in Round 1.
“I was hitting it a little wayward to start,” Ratner said, “but the putter was working, and so when I did start hitting some greens it turned out to be a pretty good day.”
Working on the putting stroke was a focus this summer for Ratner, whom one player in the field called the best player in Division III golf. So far this year, he’s given no reason to argue.
“I’ve been playing really great all summer, but I still didn’t have any wins,” said Ratner, who grew up in Asheville, N.C., about three hours from Guilford College. “It’s just been the putter. It’s been a matter of getting that going, and once I do, I can shoot some pretty good scores.”
According to coach Corey Maggard, Ratner’s early success this year is no accident.
“The ultimate factor in confidence is your preparation, and his preparation is just awesome,” Maggard said. “Even if we just finished a workout or something, he immediately wants to go to the wedge range and get some work in before we get to our actual practice. He’s putting in that extra effort right now, so it doesn’t surprise me that he’s coming out here and hitting it exactly how he wants to hit it. He’s doing all of that in combination with putting a good stroke on it and making a good read. That’s the combination for him: getting a few putts to fall.”
Ratner was named a Division III first-team All-American last year as a sophomore, posting a 73.1 stroke average in 28 rounds, which ranked first in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and seventh in school history for single-season stroke average.
Ratner made only one bogey in Sunday’s opening round, making birdies at Nos. 1, 3, 8, 10, 11 and 14 on the windy Raven Golf Club at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort. After strong showings by Andrew Thompson (73) and J.T. Thomas (74), the Quakers (6-over 290) took a one-shot lead over UT-Tyler.
Rhodes College (12 over), St. John Fisher College (13 over) and Illinois Wesleyan (14 over) round out the top five.
Maggard described Ratner as a player who used to rack up a good deal of top 5s, but after the win at the Preview, Ratner and Maggard can’t help but smile when talking about what the future might hold.
“I honestly didn’t feel like I played that well at the (Preview) but it was good enough,” Ratner said. “But my worst days have become even par, rather than 74 or 75 and that’s what makes all the difference.”
Maggard agrees and is eager to see even more results of Ratner’s hard work.
“I think that there’s definitely some pressure taken off him now that he’s got that monkey off his back,” he said. “It gave him the shot in the arm that maybe he is the best player in the country.”
Texas at Tyler coach King Campbell on his team’s start
Christopher Newport’s Jon Howard on starting birdie-eagle-birdie
Howard was 4 under through his first three holes, but finished at even-par 71.